Covering almost 5,000 sq mi/12,950 sq km, the Serengeti National Park is Tanzania's second largest game reserve after the Selous and it has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1978. The word Serengeti comes from the Maasai word siringet, which literally means "an extended area."
The Serengeti's far-reaching plains of endless grass, broken by rock outcroppings and tinged with twisted acacia trees, are home to an estimated three million large animals, including the big five (lion, leopard, rhino, buffalo and elephant) and more than 500 species of birds. It protects the largest single movement of wildlife on earth—the annual wildebeest migration, which is a highlight for most visitors and a phenomenal sight. The wildebeest move first, then the zebra, and lion, hyena and scavenger birds follow in their wake and feast on the sick, young, old or weary. The migration usually moves south from mid-November to January, then north again from the end of May to June—though there is some variation in the dates, depending on the level of rainfall during a given year. (Avoid late June-October, when most of the animals will probably already be out of the Serengeti and into the adjacent Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya.) If you have the opportunity to watch the wildebeest crossing Lake Legaga (near Ndutu) from the air (by balloon or plane), spend the money and do so—it's quite impressive.
By road, the Serengeti is usually approached from the east via the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. From the top of the crater, the spectacularly scenic road winds down the crater walls on to the grasslands below. Shortly before the Serengeti's boundary there is the turnoff to Olduvai Gorge, where most safari companies stop. Then entry is through Naabi Hill Gate—from there it is 46 mi/75 km to Seronera, the administrative centre of the park. Because of these great distances, some companies offer tours by plane, flying from one park lodge to another. (The lodges and tented camps can be quite comfortable; the older and larger ones are a little dated and have an institutional feel about them, but the newer ones are luxurious and more intimate.)
Serengeti National Park is 146 mi/235 km west of Arusha.
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