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Tanzania's oldest and most popular national park, also a world heritage site and recently proclaimed a 7th world wide wonder, the Serengeti is famed for its annual migration, when some six million hooves pound the open plains, as more than 200,000 zebra and 300,000 Thomson's gazelle join the wildebeest’s trek for fresh grazing.
It is the migration for which Serengeti is perhaps most famous. Over a million wildebeest and about 200,000 zebras flow south from the northern hills to the southern plains for the short rains every October and November, and then swirl west and north after the long rains in April, May and June. So strong is the ancient instinct to move that no drought, gorge or crocodile infested river can hold them back.
Yet even when the migration is quiet, the Serengeti offers arguably the most scintillating game-viewing in Africa: great herds of buffalo, smaller groups of elephant and giraffe, and thousands upon thousands of eland, topi, kongoni, impala and Grant’s gazelle.
The Serengeti is well known for its abundant resident wildlife, with lion, leopard, elephant and buffalo all present. They share the park with cheetah, Thomson's and Grant's gazelle, topi, eland, waterbuck, hyena, baboon, impala, African wild dog and giraffe to name a few. The park also boasts about 500 bird species, including ostrich, secretary bird, Kori bustard, crowned crane, marabou stork, martial eagle, lovebirds and many species of vultures making it a perfect destination for bird lovers.
The expansiveness of the Serengeti is interrupted by Ol Doinyo Lengai, the only active volcano in the area and the only volcano that still ejects carbonatite lavas that turn white when exposed to air. When it rains, the ash turns into a calcium-rich material that is as hard as cement.
The landscape is dotted with a number of granite and gneiss outcroppings known as kopjes, which are large rocky formations that are the result of volcanic activity. The Simba Kopje (Lion Kopje) is a popular tourist stop.
The best times to visit Serengeti National Park are from December to March or from June to October, although you should plan your trip around the movement of the Migration.
Best time to go: January-February for the wildebeest calving; June-September for general wildlife viewing with a chance of seeing the wildebeest crossing of the Grumeti River June-July.
High Season: Most of the year - July to March (The Serengeti will be crowded around the Seronera area)
Low Season: April and May
Best Weather: June to October (Little to no rainfall)
Worst Weather: March and April (Peak of wet season)
Most safaris to the Serengeti start from the town of Arusha. The best option to get there is to fly into Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO) which is situated about 46km/29mi from Arusha. It is also possible to fly into Julius Nyerere International Airport (DAR), just outside of Dar es Salaam, and use a domestic flight to get to Arusha Airport (ARK).