Safari in the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater

Nature
The wow factor for nature - does it show nature at its best? Doesn't need to be the wilder-beast migration or diving with hundreds of hammerheads. Rather make you pause as you realise just how awesome the natural world can be
10
Culture
How much does this experience showcase some of the better and finer things that us humans can offer? Sure, it can be ancient ruins and renaissance churches, but it can also be festivals or soaking up some of the great modern cities of the world
1
Fun factor/activity
Very simple - was it fun? This is usually linked in with doing some kind of activity - i mean, walking along some cliffs is nice, but paragliding from them, now that is fun. Its a vastly underrated factor in a truly great experience
7
Avoid the crowds
Big tour groups and being surrounded by loud fellow tourists can sap the life out of even the greatest of travel experiences. This score is to reflect just how much you can avoid this. But. . . The score also takes into account if the crowds actually add to the experience, such as with a party town or a bustling food market
7
World famous
How world famous is the experience?
9
unique
How hard is it to have a similar experience in other places round the world?
7
Overall Score
The highest score of nature or culture, + fun factor, + avoid the crowds, + the highest score of world famous or unique. Then turned into a score out of 100. More details at the bottom of the page
82 *What the scores mean and where do they come from
continent
Africa
country
Tanzania
Length of time
3-4 days
Rough cost
Obviously people have different tastes, so this will depend on those tastes, but this is a rough idea of price of the whole experience based on 2 people able to split the accommodation costs and excluding travel there and back
$ 600
Time of year visited
January
Primary Tags
Click on any of the tags to see all travel experiences with the same tag
RANKING
How this travel experience ranks compared to all the other experiences on this site
22nd/334 This travel experience's ranking compared to all the other experiences on this site
Top 10% SUMMARY RATING: Unmissable

Summary

Serengeti National Park is one of the world’s premier wildlife destinations, hosting some of the largest terrestrial animals in the world across a vast 15,000 square km / 6,000 square mile area.  The name alone conjures up memories of being a kid watching your first wildlife documentary on TV, and the reality actually doesn’t disappoint.  The “Big 5” of lions, leopards, elephant, rhinos and buffalo are in abundance, along with thousands and thousands of wildebeest, gazelle and impala that form part of the world famous “Great Migration”; and, to top it all, the Ngorongoro Crater offers the world’s largest unbroken crater for sensational views.  All combined, its one of the best travel experiences out there

highlights

#1 Seeing the thousands and thousands of Wildebeest stretching out into the distance

#2 You'll see hundreds of elephants

#3 Plenty of Giraffe

#4 Lions walking along with you on the road, with no idea of right of way

#5 The chance to see leopards in the trees . . . sometimes with their cubs

#6 The views over the huge Ngorongoro Crater, the world's largest unbroken crater

#7 Just generally heading out on the adventure in the open top 4x4s, looking for the best spot to see the animals

#8 Hippos and crocodiles chilling in the rivers

#9 Seeing some of the beautiful birds, such as this Africa Fish Eagle, that get less attention than the giant mammals

Finding just the right time of year to see the world-famous Wildebeest Migration

Travel Tips

I visited the Serengeti as part of an overland tour from Victoria Falls to Nairobi, so my tips for this experience will be very short as, well, everything was organised for us.  But a few high level points:

  • Terminology – the Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Conservation Area and Masai Mara are all distinct national parks, but they all sit within the broader Serengeti ecosystem.  The first two are in Tanzania, whereas the Masai Mara is in Kenya
  • Masai Mara or Serengeti – firstly, they are both fantastic experiences.  I know that sounds like a bit of a cop out but they really are – do both if you can!  That being said, I think your choice comes down to:
    • Time of year – the chances of seeing animals in the Serengeti is more dependent on the seasonal rains, with the best times to visit being January to March (calving season) and June to August (seeing the Great Migration of animals cross the Mara River).  In comparison, the Masai Mara and Ngorongoro Crater have more resident game, so are less seasonal.  If visiting August – October, the choice is simple, go to the Masai Mara as this is when the Wildebeest Migration is happening
    • Culture vs nature – the Masai Mara offers the opportunity for staying with and learning from the Masai, which you will not find as an option in the the Serengeti.  In comparison, the Ngorongoro Crater, which you will naturally want to visit as part of your Serengeti National Park trip, is the world’s largest broken caldera and offers stunning views that outclass anything in the Masai Mara
    • Kenya or Tanzania – with the Serengeti being in Tanzania and Masai Mara in Kenya, it’s worth thinking which more appeals to you.  I’d probably lean more towards Tanzania because, when looking outside of safari-style options, the trip to Zanzibar is something Kenya can’t offer (and you can see Zanzibar’s 5 highlights in this travel entry).  Of course, its better just to visit both
    • For tips on a the Masai Mara, see this travel entry – Hanging out with the Masai in the Masai Mara
  • Go with a tour – unless you’re Bear Grills, doing a DIY trip is not feasible and would probably be significantly more expensive, especially for things like insurance.  Do a bit of research on independent sites to go with a well rated tour company.  It’s worth it
  • Make sure your tour includes The Ngorongoro Crater – a friend once described the Ngorongoro Crater as the world’s largest zoo based on the sheer number of animals ,but also the number of tourists.  Looking back, I think this is a little harsh because, whilst it is of course more busy with tourists than the vast Serengeti National Park, the crater is still huge and I don’t think you’ll feel overly crowded.  In addition, the crater itself is stunning and worth a visit for the views from the top alone
  • Make sure you tour includes camping – there is something just so awesome about camping in the Serengeti.  Lying in your sleeping bag thinking “could a lion just come in and grab me . . .”
  • When to visit – as I mention above, the best times to visit are January to March (calving season) and June to August (seeing the Great Migration of animals cross the Mara River).  April to early June the herds will be in the west of the park, but it will be wet.  September to October, the herds will be in the Masai Mara
  • The Wildebeest Migration – known as “The Greatest Show on Earth”, this is the highlight of one of the highlights of all of Africa and so naturally gets huge attention.  But bear in mind that the migration is happening all year round, it just gets greater attention around August to October because that is when the wildebeest enter the Masai Mara and cross the Mara River, and because there are certain times of the year when it is not raining and you can enjoy it more.  I’ve included a map to give you an idea of the timings
  • You probably want at least 2 nights in the park, ideally more.  Main reasons are that its a bit of a trip to get there, the park itself is huge and, put simply, it increases your chances of seeing the animals you want to see.  For the “Big 5” – Elephants, Lions and Buffalo you will see easily.  Leopards and Rhinos are a bit harder

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Score Detail

Background - how many times have you asked someone what a travel experience was like and the response was "amazing" or "awesome"?  That response is nice to know, but it makes it hard to differentiate that experience compared to others.  That is exactly what these scores are trying to do - differentiate the experience by giving a score out of 10 based on 6 categories and then giving an overall experience score

This overall experience score is calculated by:  take the highest of the "Culture" or "Nature" score (1-10) + "Fun factor" (1-10) + "Avoiding the crowds" (1-10) + highest of the "Unique" or "World Famous score" (1-10).  Then convert into a score out of 100

Extra detail - the logic being that I find all of the 6 individual scores important, but I don't want to mark an experience down just because it doesn't cover both "Culture" and "Nature", or because it isn't both "World Famous" and "Unique".  Take the examples of Safari in The Serengeti and walking through Rome - they both appeal at opposite ends of the nature / culture spectrum, and you can have a fantastic time without needing to appeal to both sides.  So, their overall scores aren't penalized for their lack of one or the other, and I've done the same for "World Famous" vs "Unique".  But . . . I do think that the "Fun factor" of an experience is important, irrelevant of other factors, and so is "Avoiding the Crowds" (or where there are crowds that add to the experience).  So, both of these scores are standalone