Serengeti Migration Area
The Serengeti is vast and beautiful; it’s one of Africa’s most captivating safari areas. The sheer amount of game here is amazing: estimates suggest up to about two million wildebeest, plus perhaps half a million zebra, hundreds of thousands of Thompson’s gazelle, and tens of thousands of impala, Grant’s gazelle, topi (tsessebe), hartebeest, eland and other antelope – all hunted by the predators for which these plains are famous.
Some of this game resides permanently in ‘home’ areas, which are great for safaris all year round. But many of the wildebeest and zebra take part in the migration – an amazing spectacle that’s one of the greatest wildlife shows on earth.
The Greater Serengeti ecosystem
The Serengeti National Park itself covers about 15,000km² of mostly flat or gently rolling grasslands, interspersed with the occasional rock outcrops, or kopjes. But this is just the centre of a whole ecosystem which covers more than double that area, and includes Grumeti Reserve, Ikorongo Game Reserve, Loliondo Controlled Area, Maswa Game Reserve, part of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and also Kenya’s relatively Maasai Mara Game Reserve. This combined area is often referred to as the Greater Serengeti area, or the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem.
Vast short-grass plains cover the south of Serengeti National Park, stretching into the north of Ngorongoro Conservation Area, the south-west Loliondo and Maswa Game Reserve. Occasionally there are small kopjes which, like the forests around Lake Ndutu, harbour good populations of resident game. However, around these oases of permanent wildlife, the majority of this area is flat and open. It’s alive with grazing wildebeest from around late-November to April, but can be very empty for the rest of the year. Places to stay here include:
Ndutu Safari Lodge
Set on the boundary of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and the Serengeti National Park, the owner-run Ndutu Safrai Lodge has 34 comfortable stone cottages, built in a down-to-earth style
On the southern edge of the Serengeti, Olduvai Camp stands at the base of a kopje, and has 16 very simple walk-in tents. Run by Maasai, it’s an ideal place to experience their culture.
Standing atop a kopje, Kusini is a high-quality permanent camp, with 12 luxurious en-suite tents on polished wooden decks, lots of comfort and excellent food. (Read more about Kusini Camp…)
The smart Olakira Camp has six large, light-coloured walk-in tents, and typically moves between two different areas: Ndutu (December-March) and Kogatende in northern Serengeti (June-November).
The Seronera area
In the heart of the national park, just to the north of the short-grass plains, Seronera has all the best features of the Serengeti . Scenically, it’s a lovely area – with open plains, occasional kopjes and lines of hills to add interest. The resident game here is phenomenal, with high densities of relaxed leopards, cheetah and lion. These live off the resident herbivores, as well as the migrating game. The migration passes through here in April/May, but Seronera is within reach of both the Southern Plains and the Western Corridor – so from about November to June, it can be used as a base to see the migration. Seronera’s big drawback is that it is always busy; places to stay include:
Serengeti Serena Safari Lodge
Northeast of Seronera, at the end of a winding road into the Kyabatero Hills, the Serengeti Serena enjoys panoramic vistas from many of its 66 en-suite rooms.
Seronera Wildlife Lodge
If you’re looking for a budget option in this area, then the simple Seronera Wildlife Lodge is probably your best value. It is built around an enormous rock outcrop, and has 75 spacious and comfortable bedrooms.
Dunia Camp is a lovely luxury tented camp located in the Moru Kopjes area of the southern Serengeti, and has five large, airy tents, each with an en-suite bathroom.
Serengeti Sopa Lodge
Is a large international-style hotel, which is good value for money and very friendly. The decor is a bit dated but the atmosphere is relaxed and the rooms are really spacious, with modern ensuite bathrooms
Four Seasons Lodge Serengeti
Set in the heart of Serengeti National Park, Four Seasons Lodge Serengeti has 74 spacious rooms, decorated with east African artworks, and equipped with a private telescope for game viewing.
Stretching to the west, almost to Lake Victoria, the Serengeti narrows into what’s known as the Western Corridor. The key feature of this area is the two rivers, the Grumeti and the Mbalageti, which run almost parallel, each supporting a band of most, evergreen riparian forest. This area sustains a very good permanent game population, including plenty of zebra and wildebeest, all the predators and forest ‘specialists’ like colobus monkeys. The birdife is particularly varied. The migration passes through between about May and July – pausing to gather momentum before crossing the crocodile-rich waters of the Grumeti River, into the Grumeti Reserve. Camps in the Serengeti’s Western Corridor include:
Grumeti River Camp
Grumeti River Camp is funky rather than cutting edge, with playful interiors using psychedelic colours. It has 10 large tents with open-air showers and an outdoor swimming pool.
Standing on Mwanyeni Hill, Mbalageti Lodge is a large, high-quality and quite quirky camp, with a total of 40 rooms, and commanding views from its outdoor terrace.
Kirawira Camp has an imposing hilltop position – on a clear day you can see for miles across the plains of the Western Corridor. Its 25 tents are raised on wooden platforms, each with a private veranda.
Stretching from Seronera for about 100km north, to the Kenyan border, the northern Serengeti is gently rolling country, broken by small rivers and occasional hills and kopjes. There are good permanent populations of wildlife in several areas here, including the very beautiful Lobo Kopje. It’s interesting, varied country that’s far from the park’s main entry point in the south – and hence it receives delightfully few visitors.
The further you go north, the fewer vehicles you see. Even when the migration is here, between about August and October, you can still enjoy spectacular crossings of the Mara River. A particularly stunning are is the wild Lamai Wedge – the area of land between the Mara River and the Kenya Border – which includes the picturesque Wogakuria Kopjie, and a beautiful series of game-rich valleys and plains. This is the only area of the national park where off-road driving is acceptable. Here, we suggest you stay at:
In the centre of the northern part of the Serengeti, Migration Camp makes the most of its high position on a kopje. It has 20 high-quality canvas, standing on individual polished-wooden decks.
Lobo Wildlife Lodge
Perched on a superb position between the huge boulders of the lovely Lobo Kopje, the formerly government-run Lobo Wildlife Lodge has 75 good value rooms.
Sayari Mara Camp
Close to the Mara River, Sayari Mara is the only permanent camp this far north. Its 15 spacious tents have been built with quality, without losing the air of a remote bushcamp.
Mbuzi Mawe Tented Camp
Set amidst the rocky outcrops of central Serengeti, Mbuzi Mawe Tented Camp makes a comfortable stop between Seronera and the far north.
Singita Grumeti Reserves covers almost 1,500km² of private reserves which run along the north side of the Western Corridor. Within this are three, very different luxury lodges. All offer unrivalled exclusivity for watching the migration as it journeys north, and recycle all of their profits into local conservation and community development initiatives.
Set atop Sasakwa Hill, with stupendous panoramic views of the plains below, Sasakwa Lodge is the grandest of the reserves’ three properties. It has seven stylish cottages, each with a private plunge pool and decorated with objects d’art.
Faru Faru River Lodge
Faru Faru is the newest place to stay in Grumeti. Its six river-stone, canvas and glass suites overlook a permantent waterhole, whilst Grumeti River passes very close by.
Sabora Plains Tented Camp
Sabora Plains is a beautiful tented camp, with six air-conditioned tents. When the migration passes through, it’s surrounded by wildebeest and zebra – both a marvellous wildlife sight and phenomenally noisy affair
Between the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and the Kenyan border, lies Loliondo game Controlled Area – an area belonging to the Maasai tribes that live there. The western side of this, beside the park, is very much part of the Serengeti’s ecosystem; it has much resident game and the migration passes through here as well.
There are a few camps here which have the flexibility to offer night drives and walks, often using Maasai guides – and visits to local Maasai villages. Around about October and November, there’s a good chance to see part of the migration here, as it returns south.
Overlooking the national park from a perch on the rocky Kuka Hills, Klein’s Camp is a permanent luxury lodge, with 10 high-quality rock and thatch cottages, each with a private veranda.
Nduara Loliondo Camp
Nduara Loliondo Camp moves within the Loliondo Game Controlled Area. Its six tents were redesigned in 2007 to incorporate elements of a traditional Maasai boma and Mongolian ‘yurt’.
Mobile Tented Camps
There are several semi-permanent mobile tented camps in the Serengeti. Most move seasonally, trying to anticipate the great migration’s movements; they spend several months in one place before moving on with the game. Their creature comforts vary from basic tents with adequate food, to very comfortable camps that feel almost permanent. Such tented camps can be included as part of private guided safaris.
Nomad Serengeti Safari Camp
Following the wildebeest migration, Nomad Serengeti Safari Camp changes its position every 10-14 days. As a result, it’s quite simple, but good quality, with six spacious and comfortable tents.
Serengeti under Canvas
Serengeti under Canvas, an operation run by CC Africa, consists of several semi-permanent safari camps, aiming to provide a traditional safari experience – a night under canvas, without waiving luxuries.
As mentioned earlier, Olakira Camp is a smart and contemporary tented camp with six large, light-coloured walk-in tents. It moves between two different areas: Ndutu (December-March) and Kogatende in northern Serengeti (June-November).