The most straight forward answer is, Yes and no.
It depends on what you are looking for, it depends if you have been on safari before or not, and if yes, how often and where. It also depends on your physical fitness, and it depends on when you are planning to go, and what you want to see.
In short, it really depends on you, but I will try to explain why you should, or shouldn’t, pick the Serengeti NP for your first or your next safari.
For the first time safari goer
If you have never been on safari before, and are keen to see the Big 5, then the Serengeti NP is one of the best options out there. And please note, I am saying it is one of the best. Other national parks can equally give you a fantastic experience for your first safari, but the Serengeti NP does provide you with a high chance of seeing the Big 5.
The Serengeti Seronera area, the central area of the national park, is an excellent location to spot the Big 5. And many first safari-goers end up in this area and rave about it. Yes, there are many other vehicles in this area, but there are also many animals around. You can still find solitude here, but when a cat has been spotted, especially ones with young or a kill, then it can resemble a bit of a chaotic parking lot with many other 4wd vans and land cruisers potentially blocking your view. The rest of the time you still see amazing wildlife and scenery, and as this is a popular area, it is also possible to find budget safari options here. My first safari in Tanzania was in the Serengeti National Park, and I loved it.
Image courtesy: www.globalwidesafaris.com
For those who want to feel isolated in the wilderness
If you are looking for a wilderness experience, and don’t want a large sprinkling of other cars around you once you have found that lazy pride of lions, then the central area of the Serengeti NP (Seronera) might not be your best choice. But you could still visit the Serengeti NP and go to another area. Remember the Serengeti NP is huge and it is easily possible to find areas with not another human being around.
However, some of those remote areas that are quiet and empty of people during certain parts of the year can be busy during the migration season. The Western Corridor, for example, is most active in June / July when thousands of wildebeest migrate through, on their way up north. But at other times of the year, you will hardly see another soul off the main road through, and this could be a perfect place to find the solitude, and of course the animals, you are after.
For the not so physically fit
How does being fit have anything to do with making a decision if you should visit the Serengeti on your safari or not? Many of the safaris in the Serengeti NP, especially the budget ones, use closed vehicles for their game drives. Often a safari vehicle is a 4wd van with a pop-up top.
This is a matter of cost, as well as practicality, as most tours include several national parks or wildlife areas in the north of Tanzania (also known as the Northern Circuit). The cheapest way to get from one to the other is by car. Driving on public roads, often in bumpy and dusty condition is more comfortable in a closed vehicle. A safari company also has to pay more to use an open vehicle in the Tanzanian national parks. Crazy, but true. So most tour operators and camps will only have closed vehicles for their game drives.
Now imagine that you are not physically fit and you are doing all your game drives in a closed vehicle. The best view in these cars is standing up, often while driving. If you are not comfortable standing up in a moving vehicle on bumpy and dusty roads or are not able to quickly get up and have your camera ready once the vehicle stops, then the Serengeti NP might not be the best choice for you. There are a few camps that use open vehicles in the Serengeti, but they are hard to find. Usually, you will need to be on a flying safari to visit the camps that have open vehicles.
For those who love photography and animals
Another reason to prefer open vehicles would be if you are into photography and are planning to bring more than just a tablet or smartphone with an inbuilt camera on your safari.
It is a lot easier to take photos in an open vehicle than in a closed one. You would either have to stand up or be lucky enough that the animal you want to take a photo of is on your side of the vehicle and visible from your window. You’d be surprised how easy it is to miss that rare sighting of a leopard crossing the road or the several disappearing behind tall grass if you are in a closed vehicle.
If you want the comfort and ease of an open vehicle, make sure the camp of your choice uses them before you book. As most tour operators, camps, and lodges in the Serengeti NP don’t use open vehicles, it might be harder to find what you are looking for, but it is certainly possible.
I want to see the migration
Now, that’s an easy one. If you want to see the migration, there is only one real option, the Serengeti area. Unless of course, you want to witness it in Kenya’s Masai Mara, but we’re talking about Tanzania here.
The migration takes place inside the Serengeti area, but not entirely inside the Serengeti NP. The Serengeti area is larger than the Serengeti NP, and most people use the term Serengeti to describe the general area.
For example, the Ndutu Plains where the calving takes place is partly in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, and on their way up to the north, they pass through the Grumeti Game Reserve. Both areas are considered part of the Serengeti (area) but are not inside the Serengeti NP. The Grumeti Game Reserve, for example, allows night drives and they can also drive off-road to get closer to animals.
But simply put, if you want to see the migration, you need to be in the Serengeti area, which includes the Serengeti NP.
Once you know in which month you are going, you can focus on finding a lodge or camp in that particular area.
For the seasoned safaris goer
If you have been on many safaris before, maybe even in other countries, you will most likely have specific wishes. You might be focused on seeing certain birds, have a keen interest in photography, are looking for a unique experience (for example a horse riding safari or a walking safari), want a chance of spotting a rare animal, want to go on night drives, or only want to spend time in the African wilderness and admire the wild animals again.
Whatever your reason to go on yet another safari, I would advise you to look at areas around Seronera, as the Centre gets very busy with other vehicles and people. If you have been on many safaris, but have never been to the Serengeti NP, by all means, spend a day or two in the Seronera area as it is so incredibly popular for good reasons. But when planning your safari, also look at private conservancies, the lesser-visited areas in the Serengeti area, and even other national parks. And if you want to go on a night drive you will definitely have to go outside of the Serengeti NP as they are not allowed inside.
To Serengeti, or not to Serengeti…?
In short, the Serengeti has something for everybody, in every available season, and there is always a piece of paradise somewhere in the Serengeti that will be perfect for your first or next safari.
But (there is always a but…), don’t dismiss the other national parks, game reserves, and private conservancies without at least researching them to see if they might better suit your wishes and dreams… you never know what you might find…
Just make sure you know what it is you are looking for, and make sure that what you are booking is what you want… in the Serengeti or out!
Image courtesy: www.ukarimu-tz.blogspot.com
So if your answer is still yes, what are you waiting for?
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