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Thread: Serengeti

  1. #1
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    Default Serengeti

    Morning all,I know there is a lot of trip reports on this, but can you advise what are the best months to go. This is both for the migration or just the best time.Much appreciatedKind regards

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    Default Re: Serengeti

    James I think perhaps for the most helpful advice it might help to specify whether you are planning a self-drive trip or a fly-in lodge type trip.

    It also depends on whether witnessing the Mara River crossings of the wildebeest migration, the massed herds on the plains, or the massed calving on the southern plains are the priority. These obviously take place during different months of the year depending on the rainfall patterns.

    For instance, if self-driving, visiting during the long rains can be quite frustrating due to limited access to the more remote and satisfying seasonal roads which can be inaccessible in the wet.
    Landcruiser 76SW.

    “Great journeys are memorable not so much for what you saw, but for where you camped”.

    At least "Once a year go someplace you have never been before" Delai Lama.

    Trans East Africa 2015/2016 Trip report http://www.4x4community.co.za/forum/...e16?highlight= from post 315.

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    Default Re: Serengeti

    Hi Stan,Sorry should have mentioned it will be self drive with 2 or 3 vehicles.Thanks for the info, this is what I am looking for - what are the different "happening" in the area and what is the best time for these. Agree, we will not try in the rainy season - I do realise that the wet season can change.Do you have the appropriate months for the items you mentioned and is there a best time for birding?By the way, read Slow Donkey, which started the idea of this trip. Very well written and quite an experience.kind regardsJames

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    Default Re: Serengeti

    OK James, I have relented. This information from my personal research might also be of help for others considering a Serengeti visit. Just be aware that if visiting a lodge located at that time close to the migration, you will pay premium high season rates. The central area of the park is good all year round as not all the herbivores move seasonally and the predators are resident. However this central area of the park around the park HQ, Seronera, can be quite crowded with game viewing vehicles. Below should be enough detail to satisfy most needs.

    When people express the wish to view the great Serengeti migration they can often mean different things. Many are referring only to the dramatic river crossings by the herds and do not realize that seeing the huge numbers of animals out on the plains, stretching from horizon to horizon, is also part of the great migration experience and is almost as dramatic. When the herds are on the move they tend to be of greater density than in the months when they are static and slightly more dispersed. It is impressive to see long lines of wildebeest making their way purposefully, but when static and dispersed on the plains they also are an amazing spectacle, especially during the calving or rutting seasons.
    In fact it is preferable that the migration be considered in its entirety in order to have some understanding of where best to see the herds at specific times of the year. The migration pattern is the mainly clockwise movement of the great herds of wildebeest and some zebra, topi and other animals, as they continually search for the best grazing and drinking water. What many may not realize is that these movements take place almost all year round, dictated by seasonal and regional rainfall patterns. These can vary from season to season and although one can find reasonable guides as to where to expect the herds, the rainfall can vary as to timing and amount, which affects the migration. In fact in some years the animals have even failed to cross into the Maasai Mara area in any numbers. The migration pattern is thus almost never exactly the same. Sometimes the migration will be 50 kilometers from where the animals are expected to be and this is a long way to motor on those roads and the herds may be difficult for the inexperienced to find. At times of extreme rainfall variation the herds have been even as far as 200 kilometers away from their usual areas. There are always some stragglers and often some of the wildebeest and zebra do not migrate at all. These migration patterns have been studied over many years.


    The migration takes place over the greater Serengeti eco-system and extends beyond the boundaries of the un-fenced Serengeti National Park. In the south it includes the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, extending far beyond the Crater into neighboring conservancies and tribal land. Around the Serengeti National Park there are likewise conservancies, private concessions and tribal trust land. This vast eco-system is un-fenced and the animals move freely. The separation of the Maasai Mara of Kenya from the Serengeti National Park is purely artificial due to the colonial boundary between Tanzania and Kenya.

    In order to understand the migration one needs to have insight into the usual timing of the rains. Note that there are long and short rains. During the long rains large parts of Serengeti can become impassable, especially the minor roads in the south.

    Dry season, June to October
    Short rains. Late October, November and December. An unpredictable period of about a month of rains occurs sometime between October and December. It is rare for it to rain throughout the day. Afternoon showers are more likely.
    January & February - There tends to be a dry spell between the short and long rains. The exact timing is unpredictable.
    Long rains. March, April & May. These are the wettest months. It tends to rain most days and could well limit the areas accessible by vehicle.

    The migration roughly takes place in a clockwise direction as mentioned, beginning in the south in January, mainly in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area moving north to the Ndutu Plains and Naabi Hills. Calving takes place en mass mainly in January and February on these short-grass plains in the south-east. Moving northwards there are often 2 arms of the migration, the first more westerly towards the Western Corridor of Serengeti and the Grumeti River, the other more easterly towards Lobo Hills and the Klein’s Gate area in the north towards the Mara River. These are the areas where the herds were when we arrived in Serengeti in mid-July 2015. This did not mean that there was little to see further south. In the central areas around Seronera there were vast herds of gazelles and other animals and the predators they attract. The short grass plains further south had very little plains game at that time.
    The crossings of the Mara and Grumeti Rivers in the northward migration, typically take place in July (some years the Grumeti is crossed in June). The herds arrive in Kenya in the greater Maasai Mara area in late July and August, where they stay for the remainder of the dry season. The dramatic crossings of the Mara River from east to west (and the reverse direction later) between the Game Reserve and the Mara Triangle begin in about mid-August into September. We were in the Mara Triangle in mid-September and although we witnessed plenty of crossings the majority had crossed during the end of August of that year. In early November, with the start of the short rains the migration starts moving to the south again, to the nutritious short grass plains of the southeast, usually arriving in December in plenty of time for calving in February.
    Counts of the animals taking part in this great migration are as follows. There are nearly 2 million wildebeest, 250,000 zebra and they are loosely accompanied by about 500,000 Thomson’s and Grant’s gazelles. Other less numerous animals such as topi also migrate with the herds to some extent.

    A month by month summary should look something like this:-

    January. The animals are in the south-eastern Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area on the short-grass plains, after the short rains which have nurtured the fresh grass. January and especially February are the peak months for zebra births.
    February. This is usually the main month for wildebeest births. The herds begin to migrate off the plains northwards towards the Ndutu Woodlands.
    March. This is usually when the long rains begin. The Great Herd moves towards the south-west even outside Serengeti. During the months of December, January, February, and early March, the best areas to be located to see the migration are in the Seronera Valley, Moru Kopjes, Nasera Rock and Ndutu Woodlands areas.
    April. Wildebeest are widely scattered on the short-grass plains in the south, both east and west. The herds are thus at their most widely dispersed. It can be very difficult to drive around in Serengeti during the long rains due to the very wet black cotton soil.
    May. Water begins to be a limiting factor for the herds in the south. The herds begin to coalesce with columns containing hundreds of thousands stretched over many kilometers, as they head north and west across the central woodland zones into the Western Corridor where new food and water has been generated by the rains around this area. Many split to take a route more to the east past Seronera and later the Lobo area.
    It is not recommend that you follow the Migration during the month of April or early May. During these two months the Serengeti is very wet and much of the Great Herd is outside Serengeti to the west. The best time usually to catch the Migration is in the months of June and July when the herds are the Western Corridor and north of Lobo. I recommend that you camp in the Western Corridor—Kira Wira campsite and also around Lobo Public campsite towards the center and north. Please note the migration pattern changes from year to year.
    June. The herds leave the plains crossing the Grumeti River in the Western Corridor. In a normal year some of the herd will be in and around the Seronera Valley and heading towards Lobo in the north.
    July. The herds now move northwest, briefly leaving the park as they enter the Grumeti Game Controlled Area and with a variable portion of the herd heading towards the Lobo area and crossings of the Mara River commence.
    August. The migration in a normal year should now be in the northern Serengeti or already entering the Maasai Mara. It has been predicted that July and August are the best times to see the river crossing on the Mara River (where it runs from east to west), from the Serengeti side.
    September. The herds now continue northwards to enter Kenya's Maasai Mara Game Reserve This month and August are the best times to visit Maasai Mara as one can witness the re-crossings of the Mara River where it now runs north to south.
    October. This is the driest month in the Serengeti with the bulk of the wildebeest and zebra briefly absent from Serengeti and are now to be found in the Maasai Mara Game Reserve where there is almost always plentiful water and better grazing for the plains animals at that time of year.
    November. Depending on the timing of the short rains the great herds start to move from Maasai Mara Game Reserve to Serengeti, south all the way to the short grass plains in the South of Serengeti– Ngorongoro ecosystem in search of better pasture.
    December. The migration increases its pace as it heads towards Serengeti's southern plains where the short rains are generating the grass and the grass is rich in nutrients.

    Broadly speaking when choosing which sections of the park to concentrate on, it makes sense to attempt to follow the migration! From late December to March/April, you should be based in the southern Serengeti, from late April to early July, the central and western sectors of the park, and from mid-July to early November the north of the park and into the Maasai Mara. From mid-November to mid-December, perhaps the least predictable part of the migration, the central Serengeti makes most sense. However from September to early November I would rather be in the Maasai Mara. A good source of information with up to date reports of the progress of the migration can be found at https://www.discoverafrica.com/herdtracker/
    Landcruiser 76SW.

    “Great journeys are memorable not so much for what you saw, but for where you camped”.

    At least "Once a year go someplace you have never been before" Delai Lama.

    Trans East Africa 2015/2016 Trip report http://www.4x4community.co.za/forum/...e16?highlight= from post 315.

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    Default Re: Serengeti

    Quote Originally Posted by JamesV View Post
    Hi Stan,Sorry should have mentioned it will be self drive with 2 or 3 vehicles.Thanks for the info, this is what I am looking for - what are the different "happening" in the area and what is the best time for these. Agree, we will not try in the rainy season - I do realise that the wet season can change.Do you have the appropriate months for the items you mentioned and is there a best time for birding?By the way, read Slow Donkey, which started the idea of this trip. Very well written and quite an experience.kind regardsJames
    Crossed in the ethernet!

    Birding is good all year round but probably best during or around the long rains which for many birds is peak breeding season. The birding in Serengeti we found to be relatively disappointing, I think possibly because of lack of environmental diversity. The birding was better in Lake Manyara and Tarangira National Parks.

    If your budget can stretch a little further seriously consider staying in the Special Campsites rather than the public campsites (other than perhaps Lobo), see https://www.4x4community.co.za/forum...s-in-Serengeti
    Landcruiser 76SW.

    “Great journeys are memorable not so much for what you saw, but for where you camped”.

    At least "Once a year go someplace you have never been before" Delai Lama.

    Trans East Africa 2015/2016 Trip report http://www.4x4community.co.za/forum/...e16?highlight= from post 315.

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    Default Re: Serengeti

    Wow Stan, awesome and comprehensive information, thank you so much. This gives me what I need to discuss with the group for the appropriate time for our trip. Much appreciated. Kind regards, James

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    Default Re: Serengeti

    Please do not regard as what I posted as the last word. There are others on the forum more expert than I, that should and will probably add or correct.
    Landcruiser 76SW.

    “Great journeys are memorable not so much for what you saw, but for where you camped”.

    At least "Once a year go someplace you have never been before" Delai Lama.

    Trans East Africa 2015/2016 Trip report http://www.4x4community.co.za/forum/...e16?highlight= from post 315.

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    Default Re: Serengeti

    Stan has, kindly, posted his internet research for you.

    As he said, there is so much more to the famous wildebeest migration than river crossings. The great herds have to be constantly on the move in search of grazing.

    There is also much more to the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem than the wildebeest (although they are the key species) and the predators and other herbivores do not migrate.

    The main seasons to avoid are the long rains (March/April/May) when even the lodges and luxury tented camps close down and their staff go on leave. I would also not advise visiting in the short rains (October/November possibly into December depending on the rains that year). The black cotton soil is fearsome. I would not advise taking a trailer or off-road caravan as it will severely limit you even during the dry season.

    Here is an excellent migration map of predicted locations of the great herd. There are tabs for each month.

    https://www.discoverafrica.com/migration/map/

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Serengeti

    Hi James you now have inputs from two of top forumites when it comess to the Serengeti. The migration, as Stan says, does vary depending on the rainfall seasons. When we were there in begining March to end March 2013 we had very little rain (very hot 35-40 degrees C) including a 5 day stay at Lake Victoria before returning back through the Serengeti. We found the tail end of the migration around the Ndutu/Naabi Hill area with the majority of the Great herds dispersed in the almost inaccessable south western area moving towards the western corridor.

    Expanding on what WW says about there being much more to the Serengti than the Great Migration I must add that in the same vain there is more to Tanzania than just the Serengeti and should also be considered into the big picture of your Great Migration trip plan.

    The reason being that some of the other great parks of Tanzania might be on your radar and their localised weather cycles should also be included in your planning considerations. Ie: Ruaha and the Selous. During our 2013 trip we were in the Selous mid April for 5 days just towards the end of the rains, the Rufiji was overflowing its backs and most camps along the river were closed. We had planned to camp inside the park and were thus required to take an armed scout with us and we were warned that we would encounter some water crossings and lots of mud. Needless to say we got our planning wrong, we managed to get 18kms into the park (8 hours of hard work and getting unstuck etc) and after calling the gate on our sat phoine it was agreed that we could find a decent area anywhere we liked and that we could camp there. We did exactly that, our selected spot was on a shady knoll some 150m from a slow flowing stream and
    but little beknown to us
    100 metres from a huge Crocuta den. But thats another story and just to say that we were very very happy with being stuck in a wetttttt Selous for 5 nights.

    With some proper planning on our side we could have made life much easier by scheduling and shuffling the trip around. We then visited the Ruaha mid to end April and it was great weatherwise and the ruaha river was just more than a stream.

    So in your planning you should consider the weather patterns across he whole of Tanzania as there are differences from the so-called normal patterns, depending on where you are: in the North, South, East or West. This said, I don't believe that there is any wrong time to visit the Serengeti other than maybe mid Oct to mid Nov short rains and the Great herds are in the Masaai area (maybe/maybe not) and although we had a great March month in the Serengeti (purely with luck and not through good planning) the rains could wreck havoc on any well planned holiday during the long rains.

    Crocuta = hyena the den excluding pups were just over 30 strong and kept us on our toes.
    Last edited by TRON; 2018/12/04 at 03:35 PM.

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    Default Re: Serengeti

    Oh my goodness, TRON! The Selous during the long rains... Eeek!

    James: As TRON says so clearly, there is much more to the wonderful country of Tanzania than the Serengeti or the Ngorongoro. In fact, Tarangire National Park is one of the lesser known gems of the northern Tanzania safari circuit. As is Lake Manyara National Park.

    Northern Tanzania is subject to the twice yearly East African monsoon pattern of rainfall. Southern Tanzania is part of the once yearly, more southern African, pattern of rainfall. Please see this excellent portal http://sdwebx.worldbank.org/climatep...&ThisCCode=TZA. Click on the map the area where you want to know about the historical average temperature and rainfall and the charts come up on the right hand side.

    I could not recommend Ruaha National Park more highly. It is seldom visited and really beautiful. It is in the southern section of Tanzania near Iringa. It is the southernmost range of some of the East African species (such as Grant’s gazelle), and where the East African species meet the southern African species. This applies to the birds too.

    Another lovely, and very different place, is Udzungwa National Park. This is an Eastern Arc mountain range with rainforest, endemic primates and birds. It is a unique and very rewarding place to visit, but it involves walking and trekking through the beautiful forest.

    On the subject of Eastern Arc mountain ranges (Udzungwa, Uluguru, East Usambaras, West Usambaras, South Pares, North Pares, and the Kenyan Taita Hills), the Usambaras in NE Tanzania are wonderful mountains to visit. Particularly the East Usambaras. Again, all these mountain ranges have endemic birds and flora.

    And then there is the beautiful Lake Tanganyika. The list could go on and on...

    On a recent trip from Kenya to Angola and back, we traversed through Tanzania twice (of course). We met too many South Africans who were racing through Tanzania solely to get to the Serengeti. They saw nothing else apart from the main roads on their convoy missions to get there. What a shame. Many of them were also seriously underestimating the distances and timings. If you get it right, you will have a wonderful time.

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    Default Re: Serengeti

    WW great feedback for anyone planning a trip to Tanzania.

    We spent 3 months there and did not rush and only managed to see maybe 30% of your list. MIkumi (a little gem for a stopover enroute), Tarangire (you're spot on about this park- just loved it, we missed the zebra migration but still had a great time ellies galore), Manyara, Ngorongoro, Southern Serengeti (I loved the special campsite near Grumeti lodge), Lake Victoria, Serengeti, Ndutu, North-western side of Kili (lucky to see it in all its glory), Peponi Beach, little reserve (I forget the name but right on the beach) close to Bagamoya, Dar, Kisiju, Selous, Rauha and the back home via Zambia nad Zim..

    Thanx for the weather link it will help for future plans. And, yes us Saffies tend too only concentrate on the big name parks and miss stcks.

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    Default Re: Serengeti

    James, as if your Tanzanian cup is not already full to overflowing with possibilities let me add a few wonderful destinations for consideration. For what its worth I endorse all the preceding advice.

    Either on your way north or on your return, consider deviating to the west of Tanz.
    The highlights here are:
    • Lake Tanganyika, in particular Lakeshore Lodge near Kipili. This in my opinion is by far the most pristine and beautiful of the Rift Valley Lakes. Chris and Louise Horsfall are the most hospitable hosts imaginable. They now have a powerboat that does camping tours along the lake including to visit the chimps at Mahale NP, but that won't be cheap.
    • Also on the lake, Jacobsen's Camp near Kigoma, where a boat trip to see the chimps in Gombe Streams NP is easily organized and is not too expensive.
    • Between the two is Katavi NP. This quiet but beautiful park with plenty of birds and game is a well-kept secret and in my mind compares favorably with Selous and Ruaha.

    Enjoy your planning and I truly hope your trip comes to fruition. Please remember to give feed back as updates are interesting and important for others.
    Landcruiser 76SW.

    “Great journeys are memorable not so much for what you saw, but for where you camped”.

    At least "Once a year go someplace you have never been before" Delai Lama.

    Trans East Africa 2015/2016 Trip report http://www.4x4community.co.za/forum/...e16?highlight= from post 315.

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    Default Re: Serengeti

    WOW, what a mindful of information, thanks guys, really appreciated. Yes I am aware that there must be more in the area, and on the way there and back, and you have all provided some very useful stuff. This is going to take a while to work through and plan and I am sure that there will still be loads or questions, so this thread will not be going stagnant for a long time.Thanks again and keep it coming.Kind regardsJames

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    Default Re: Serengeti

    Hi,
    Allow me to make some comment about the weather,
    In the Serengeti the period between the long and the short rain is by no mean a dry period.
    The wheater can be similar to the short rains period, meaning no rain at some part of the day and a shower in the afternoon or evening, and some of these shower can be serious...
    When visiting in the end of December in 2009 it rains (showers) for four days successly before it stops for a few days.
    A few years later (I don t remember wich year) a lot of rains falled in early February causing flooding, roads damages, etc.
    Some specials campsites where not accessible anymore and people had to be relocated...
    In Ruaha the weather patterns is more similar to the one in Malawi or Zambia where the main raining period is Desember, January, Februar, Mars.
    Anyway in this time of the year there is generally still enought roads opens to make it worth a visit altought some roads like the one towards Mpululu are closed.
    Philippe
    Last edited by Phili; 2018/12/10 at 07:57 PM.

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    Default Re: Serengeti

    I will actually recommend to visit Ruaha in early January (not to early so that the Christmas/Newyear visitor have left).
    You will most of the time be alone in the Public campsite and the game viewing is in general still excellent, better then in June for ex (in my own experience) when the grass is much higher and the game in general is more widespread (with maybee the exception of the elephants that are a lot around the Ruaha river at this time).
    Last edited by Phili; 2018/12/10 at 08:13 PM.

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    Default Re: Serengeti

    What I am saying is that the weather in nothern Tanzania especially has a degree of impredictability, all taught what other have described is the correct general pattern (short rains- a dryer period- long rains),
    I am planning to be there in January and I am looking to see what type of weather it will be this year.
    Last edited by Phili; 2018/12/10 at 08:55 PM.

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    Default Re: Serengeti

    Dear all,
    thanks a lot for all your posts. I am based in Dar es Salaam and we are planning to start with a 4-6 weeks camping trip with our own Hilux beginning of January. Although we have substantial overloading experience in Southern Africa, we have only ventured into the Selous Game Reserve in September 2018 and Sadaani NP.
    We are now planning to visit Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Tarangire, Lake Manyra, Lake Natron and Ruaha. We are used to go with our flow, normally do not book in advance and enjoy campsites, which have no other visitors and no facilities at all. We enjoy being off the beaten track if that is possible.

    The problem is, that I do not have latest maps, campsite coordinates and recommendations, which campsite (or area) is the best to visit. I have some info and recommended campsites in Ruaha but nothing about the rest.

    Is there anyone, who could help me with:
    A) recommendations, which areas/campsites (the names and coordinates) should be a stop over
    B) pictures/scans of park maps (I do only have T4A)
    C) recommendations on which areas to avoid

    Thanks for your valuable input.

    Our website: www.boteti.de

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    Default Re: Serengeti

    If you check thread 15 down from your thread you will see a lot of info on Serengeti CS that Stan Weakly and others have put together.
    Good luck.
    If life is a journey, be sure to take the scenic route!

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    Default Re: Serengeti

    PcAfrica, I've sent you a private message....
    24 hours in a day.... 24 beer in a case.... Coincidence?
    -------------------------------------------------------------
    My blog: Our African Ramblings (https://safaribug.wordpress.com/)

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    Default Re: Serengeti

    @ortelius. I’m wondering if you and your wife are traveling in TZ over Christmas?
    Wherever you are, happy new year to you both. If you are on safari then I’m looking forward to your TR.
    Best wishes, Katrin
    If life is a journey, be sure to take the scenic route!

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