Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, deservingly designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the most iconic protected natural areas in Africa and in the whole world. Countless wildlife documentaries and movies have been filmed on the vast unspoiled lands of this national park. So when you are imagining Africa, it’s likely you’re imagining the Serengeti. Fortunately, it is possible to visit this great natural reserve and even spend some time living on its territory, surrounded by magnificent African wildlife. What is the Serengeti known for and what can you see on a safari there? Can you live within its bounds and what are the accommodation options? What to pack with you? – you will find answers to these questions in our article.
Planning Your Vacation in the Serengeti National Park
The Serengeti is a popular safari destination – many travelers come to Tanzania to experience the “endless plains” (this is the meaning of the word “Serengeti”) teeming with rich flora and fauna. You can go on a safari in the Serengeti National Park and return to your hotel in the evening, or you can choose to stay on the park’s premises for several days. The second option is a fantastic choice because it allows you to have a deeper experience of Tanzania’s most spectacular national park. Staying in one of the camps within the Serengeti, you will be as close to the animals as it is safely possible, which means you will be the first to see them in the early morning – when the animals are most active and safari vehicles from the outside haven’t arrived yet.
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Planning your Tanzanian adventure well and choosing a reliable tour operator in advance are important to ensure the best experience. The same goes for choosing the right type of accommodation for you which ranges from public camps where you need to bring your own tent to luxurious 5* lodges. Below we will look at some facts about the Serengeti which might help you prepare to camp in the park.
Some Facts About Serengeti and Its Wildlife
The Serengeti National Park is located in the north of Tanzania. It covers 14,750 km2 (5,700 mi2) of virgin savannahs, woodlands, grassland plains, and riparian forests. It is known for the largest annual migration of animals on the planet when over 1.5 million wildebeest and 250 thousand zebras, as well as smaller herds of other antelopes, travel hundreds of miles in pursuit of rain and fresh pastures. The Serengeti is also home to a great number of different animal species – from majestic elephants and rhinos to the smallest birds and butterflies.
So which animals should you look out for when camping in or visiting the Serengeti National Park? You’re sure to see elephants, buffalos, giraffes, zebras, and various species of antelope such as dik-dik, eland, impala, and kudu, among many others. The Serengeti is home to the largest population of lions in Africa, and there are other wild felines here as well. For example, the leopard, serval, caracal, and cheetah. Rivers and lakes are often populated by hippos and crocodiles. With some luck, you might spot a mighty black rhino or one of the other rare species such as the African wild dog. The Grumeti river forests are populated by monkeys and apes. And, of course, the Serengeti is a paradise for any bird lover – there are over 500 recorded species of bird living in the park!
What to Do in the Serengeti?
Going on safari in an equipped off-road safari vehicle is the most popular thing to do in Serengeti. This way you will get to see the magnificence of African wildlife from the safety of your vehicle, while experienced driver-guides will bring you to the most interesting animal sighting spots and tell you many amazing facts about the wildlife you encounter.
Other things you do in the park include a hot air balloon safari, birdwatching, a Great Migration safari, guided nature walks, and staying overnight in the park in a simple tent under the stars or in a more fancy-tented lodge.
What are the Accommodation Options in the Serengeti?
Now let’s look at the two main accommodation options in the park: camping on a public campsite, and staying in one of the private lodges or camps that offer a more comfortable experience.
Public Camping Sites
There is a number of public campsites in the Serengeti. Typically they have the most basic facilities like areas for meal preparation and toilets. However, don’t expect any brick walls, fences, or guards – you will be right there in the wilderness without much protection. While it is not as dangerous as it might sound (animals are unlikely to enter the camp due to all the noise and smells left by the humans), leaving your tent at night is not recommended – which might be an issue if you suddenly need the bathroom. While camping on a public campsite might be a thrilling experience, it is not for those looking for a more comfortable stay. Some tour operators can help you to organize your stay in one of those camps, but don’t expect it to be very cheap: – just the camping fee can be as high as $71 per night, not counting all the other expenses.
Private Camps and Lodges
The other accommodation option that is widely available in the Serengeti National Park is a stay in one of the lodges or private camps. National parks of Tanzania can boast a wide range of tented lodges that are fitted with all comfort facilities and yet create an authentic safari experience. There are two main options in this category: tented eco-lodges designed to create the ambiance of the classic camping experience, fitted with all comfort facilities but running in resource economy mode; and all kinds of classic lodge accommodations where you can enjoy all the comforts of civilization. Either way, you can expect much higher levels of comfort and safety compared to camping in a public camp.
What to Pack for Camping in the Serengeti?
If you’re feeling adventurous and would like to camp at one of the public camping sites, you can either pay a tour operator to organize everything for you or do it yourself. The first option is the standard – this way you don’t have to bring your own tent, sleeping bag, and other bulky camping equipment. Meals will be taken care of as well. Here are some things you might consider packing for such an adventure: good boots, a light jacket and pants, sunscreen, toilet paper, wet wipes, hand sanitizer (plus some antidiarrheal drugs like Imodium), personal medications, earplugs if your sleep is easily disturbed, insect repellents, a headlamp, and a sleep sack.
If you choose to stay in one of the lodges, you don’t need more things than you’d bring on a regular safari. Appropriate clothing is a must, same as personal medications and hygiene items (including sunscreen and insect repellant). Here’s a detailed list of all things you might need, but make sure to ask your tour operator for specific advice which might depend on your itinerary and the time of the visit.