Looking to explore Serengeti National Park, Tanzania?
I’ve been to Tanzania twice, and visiting Serengeti was one of my favorite activities. It’s the only place in Africa where land animal migrations take place.
The untouched scenery and habitat in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania, are incredible. Seeing it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Tanzania has numerous national parks, but Serengeti is home to the “big five.” This includes lions, leopards, African elephants, the Cape buffalo, and hippos. While some other national parks have all five, you are most likely to spot all of them in Serengeti.
If you only have time to see one national park in Tanzania, definitely choose Serengeti! In this guide, you’ll learn what makes Serengeti so special and the best things to do in the park!
There are also some amazing lodging options inside the park. Once you’re done in Serengeti, head to Arusha to complete your time in Tanzania! I’ve included some information for you in this guide.
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Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
Serengeti is one of the most visited places in Tanzania, and thousands of tourists visit every year. In 1981, it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As a wildlife refuge, Serengeti National Park is home to 4,000 lions, 550 cheetahs, and 2 million ungulates (hooved animals).
It’s also home to the Great Migration, which earned its UNESCO status. This is when two million wildebeests, as well as gazelles and zebras with their predators, travel over 800 kilometers (about 500 miles) every year. They start in southern Serengeti and then travel with all the newborn calves north towards the Kenyan border.
To visit Serengeti National Park, I recommend booking a tour with a safari company. While you can explore the park by yourself, it’s much easier to let the tour company do all the work for you.
They drive you to all the best wildlife viewing spots, prepare all of your meals, and book your accommodation. The price you pay also includes airport pickups and drop-offs. So, basically, all you have to do is show up.
If you want to do additional activities in the park, like hot air balloon rides or having a bush meal, they also arrange them for you at fair prices. I have found that booking these extra activities at a hotel rather than a tour company is much more expensive.
Top Things to do in Serengeti National Park
Safaris and game viewing are among the top things to do in Serengeti. There are a few other things to see and do as well!
1. Go on Game Drives
Game drives are when your safari company drives you around in an open-roof car. You can sit or stand while they are driving to see the animals. Feel free to ask them to stop whenever you see a good photo opportunity!
Game drives are the best way to see the “big five” and the other animals in Serengeti. It’s also an amazing way to see the landscape.
Make sure you book with a company that does at least one sunrise drive and one evening drive as well as daytime drives. Lions, cheetahs, and leopards are usually only seen at dawn and dusk, and you don’t want to miss out on spotting a few!
2. Get Close to the Action on Safari Walks
Along with game drives, you can also go on safari walks. They have to be guided, so someone from the tour company and a park ranger will go with you.
While you will see some of the larger animals while walking, safari walks are a better way to see some of the park’s reptiles, plants, and insects.
Don’t worry; the park ranger is armed in case you happen to stumble upon huge animals while out walking!
3. Enjoy Some Bush Meals
Your tour package will include three meals a day at your hotel or brought along on the game drive. Booking a bush meal is also fun, though, and adds an extra way to see the park.
The tour company will arrange a table for you and your guests under the stars in a remote area of the park. They will have waiters to serve you and will usually build a nice bonfire to sit around to enjoy more wine and dessert.
4. Go Camping
Most of your hotels and luxury campsites are pretty far from where the animals usually are. If you’re feeling brave, you can arrange to camp for a night or two right in the middle of the animals.
I was a bit scared to do this, but our hotel arranged for armed guards to go with us. If you book camping with a hotel or tour company, they will also supply you with all the camping gear you need.
Keep in mind this is literally right in the middle of the wilderness! Monkeys were jumping all over our tents the whole night!
You can hear animals walking very close to the tents. Also, don’t be surprised if you find a monkey or two inside the tent when you return from going to the bathroom in the middle of the night.
5. Enjoy Your Hotel
Almost all luxury campsites and hotels have swimming pools. They also have fun bars with terraces overlooking the plains and animals. I definitely recommend spending one day just relaxing and refueling at the hotel.
Remember, all the amenities are included in the price you paid, so take some time to enjoy them!
6. Visit the Maasai People
The Maasai people are an important part of Tanzanian culture. There are still many traditional Maasai villages near Serengeti.
Don’t miss a day tour to one of the villages to meet the local people. You can also share a meal with them and see how their culture is different from that of other tribes in Tanzania.
When I visited a Maasai village, they also did a traditional dance ceremony. They will probably offer you food that’s different than what you’re used to.
If you’re really lucky (and feeling daring), they might even serve you a glass of cow blood mixed with warm milk. This is considered a traditional drink for the Maasai people.
Luckily, it’s not considered rude to turn down food or drink! If you’re not comfortable trying something, just politely decline. All the people I met had a great sense of humor, so you’ll enjoy your visit!
7. Take a Hot Air Balloon Ride
If you’re not afraid of heights, taking a hot air balloon ride over the wilderness is a great way to see the plains and the animals from a different viewpoint! Most tour companies will arrange for an early morning hot air balloon ride. Then, they will serve you breakfast.
Most hot air balloon rides fit about 12 people, so you might join other guests. If you want a private ride for just you and your friends, ask the tour company as it can be arranged. You’ll likely have to pay a bit extra, though.
How to Get to Serengeti National Park
If you’re not yet in Tanzania, I recommend flying to Kilimanjaro National Airport (JRO). It’s the closest airport to Serengeti. If you’re in another part of Tanzania or an East African country, you can also fly into Arusha Regional Airport (ARK) as it’s close to the park as well.
From the airport, your safari tour operator will pick you up and drive you to Serengeti National Park. Serengeti also has a few airstrips where small local planes land. Depending on the company you have booked with, you might fly or drive to Serengeti.
How to Get Around Serengeti National Park
It’s a great idea to book with a tour company to see the best of Serengeti. The company will drive you everywhere, including all the best places to see the game animals.
They will also drive you to your hotel and restaurants the entire time you’re in the park.
If you do choose not to book with a tour company, you will need to rent a four-wheel-drive car to get around the park.
When to Visit Serengeti National Park
The dry season is the best time to visit the park. Trying to do a safari in the rain makes driving difficult, and it also makes it harder to get good photos.
The dry season is from late June to August. This is also close to migration season and a great time to visit!
Sometimes, the migration season lasts through September. Your tour company will be able to tell you the exact time of migration if you ask.
Migration usually happens between May and July. The starting date is usually late April through early June, but it fluctuates every year.
The tour company will be able to tell you the predicted start date as well as when they expect the peak of the migration to happen. It will always be between these months, though.
There is also another dry time from January to March, but there is no migration during this time. Keep in mind the dry months and the migration are the most popular times to visit, so you will encounter crowds and likely higher prices.
How Much Time to Spend in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
Tour companies offer many packages with different amounts of time you can spend in the park. They vary from about 2 to 9 days.
I personally recommend a tour between 4 to 7 days. Four days give you enough time to spot the “big five.” Adding a few extra days gives you enough time to experience more of the park and do some other activities besides spotting game.
If you go to other parks in Tanzania, you will have more opportunities to see animals there. Consider spreading your time among the parks for a bit more diversity, allowing for at least 4 to 7 days in Serengeti.
Where to Stay in Serengeti National Park
Your tour company will book all your hotels and lodging for you. Most tour companies allow you to book luxury tours or basic tours. Luxury tours will include lodgings like hotels with spas and pools.
Basic package lodging will include glamping (not camping) or small basic hotels. You will have a tent made out of canvas. The thick walls keep out mosquitoes and other bugs. The tents also have electricity and lights in them. Some even have running water and small bathrooms.
Keep in mind that even glamping and basic hotels inside the park are expensive. If you plan to stay a few extra nights after your tour, here are my top choices for accommodation!
Budget—Siringit Serengeti Camp: This campsite has luxurious tents covered with canvas, and they do have electricity. Enjoy the en-suite bathrooms and heaters if you’re there on colder nights. All meals are fresh and included in your price. They also have an on-site bar and Wi-Fi.
Mid-range—Nasikia Ehlane Plains Camp: This camp also has canvas tents with everything you need. If you want to splurge, book one of the stargazing tents. The rooftop is open and gives you a beautiful view of the sky while you’re sleeping. They have a campfire and music every night and an on-site restaurant and lounge.
Luxury—Serengeti Bushtops Camp: This camp is on top of a hill, so you get much better views of the park than the campsites in the grasslands. They have an amazing infinity pool with even more amazing views. The campsites are also on the migration path, so it’s a perfect place to see the wildebeests. It also has a restaurant, lounge, and library.
Where to Eat in Serengeti National Park
Your tour company will prepare all meals for you. They will be included in your safari price. Most hotels in the park include the meals with your nightly price as well so they are not open to outside diners.
Boma Restaurant is the only exception that I know of. It’s located in the Four Seasons Safari Lodge. My friend and I had a meal here without being guests of the hotel. They serve traditional Maasai and Tanzanian food around a large bonfire. They also have an extensive wine list and nightly dancing and entertainment.
Top Things to Do Near Serengeti National Park
Serengeti is not extremely close to any major town or city. The closest tourist town is Arusha, and it’s about a 7-hour drive from the park. Most safaris will start or end in Arusha, though, whether by car or plane.
I love Arusha and definitely recommend staying there for a few days and exploring! Here’s a small sample of what you can do there.
Climb Mount Meru
Arusha is home to Mount Meru, a giant mountain that towers over the city. It’s the fifth-highest mountain in Africa.
Unlike Mount Kilimanjaro, it only takes three or four days to climb and go back down. Many people climb Mount Meru without training as long as they are in moderately good shape.
You have to go with a tour guide booked in advance. You will also need special gear like a warm insulated jacket, a large duffel bag, and climbing poles. Most climbing companies rent these at a fair price if you don’t want to travel with them!
Soak Up the Views at Gran Melia
Gran Melia is a luxury hotel in Arusha with an amazing rooftop bar. It offers the best views of Mount Meru. They also have a great restaurant that serves Western food if you are missing home a bit.
Reservations are not required, so head to the rooftop on a night you have free. Drink a glass of wine or a handcrafted cocktail while enjoying the views of the mountain and hotel gardens.
Buy Some Tanzanite
Tanzanite is a stunning blue jewel that is only found in Tanzania. It’s mined from a special area in the country called Mererani Hills. It’s similar in appearance to blue sapphire.
The gem is extremely rare, and depending on the color and the quality, the price goes higher. Darker blue and violet-colored gems tend to be more expensive than the lighter blue varieties.
Tanzanite makes a great souvenir either for yourself or others! It doesn’t have to be expensive, either. For example, I bought a small pair of stud earrings for $50 and an African continent-shaped pendant necklace with a small stone inside for $100.
I bought mine at Isle of Jewels. All the workers were extremely friendly, and I didn’t feel pressured to buy anything. They also give authentication certificates (very important!) for all the things you buy.
Visit Arusha National Park
If you haven’t had enough game spotting and safaris, Arusha is home to Arusha National Park. It’s much smaller than Serengeti but still has tons of animals to see. It’s also one of the only national parks to offer horseback riding!
If you want to also see Arusha National Park, I recommend booking a tour that covers Serengeti and Arusha as it’s much cheaper than booking each one separately.
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Support the Maasai Women Fair Trade Center
There are many places to buy Maasai crafts and handmade goods in Tanzania. You can ask your guide or hotel reception to direct you to one of the markets. Or you can go to the Maasai Women Fair Trade Center.
The center is a nonprofit organization that was opened in 2007 to help local Maasai women sell their goods to make money for education. The money also helps them access better healthcare, so it’s a worthy cause to support.
The center also has an amazing coffee shop worth checking out!
Serengeti National Park is Waiting For You!
Ready to explore Serengeti National Park, Tanzania? Make sure to put game drives and safari walks on your itinerary! You’ll be able to see amazing wildlife and witness Africa’s vast and diverse landscape.
Arusha is also a fun town to explore with a large ex-pat community and plenty of things to see and do before or after your safari.
Have you been to Serengeti National Park? What was your experience?
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