“There’s more to see than can ever be seen, more to do than can ever be done.” When musicians Elton John and Tim Rice wrote the opening tune to Disney’s The Lion King, they were describing the “Circle of Life.” But this lyric serves as a fitting description for world-renowned Serengeti National Park. This magnificent game park sprawls across 5,700-plus square miles of northern Tanzania in eastern Africa. When American hunter-turned-conservationist Stewart Edward White first set foot in Serengeti in 1913, he described the journey: “We walked for miles over burnt out country… Then I saw the green trees of the river, walked two miles more and found myself in paradise.”
Within the boundaries of Serengeti, you’ll hear thousands of animals: Hyenas cackle as elephants trample well-worn safari roads and hippos splash in watering holes. And at any given time, more than 2,000 lions are poised to pounce on unsuspecting prey, preparing to chase their unlucky target through the seemingly endless waves of golden grass. The scenery rustles with the swift steps of loping giraffes, and tree branches shake with every monkey’s movement. But the most magical site you’ll behold is The Migration, during which White’s paradise is drowned by a sea of stripes as more than one million wildebeest, zebras, and gazelle traverse Serengeti in search of greener pastures.
How To Save Money in Serengeti National Park
- Safari your way through Serengeti You are welcome to drive yourself through Serengeti, but opting for a safari will save you from car rental fees and gas prices. And most safaris also include lodging, food, and transport to and from the air strip.
- Rough it There are four centrally located lodges in Serengeti that offer all the amenities of a luxury hotel and great views of the park. But you’ll end up paying around $500 USD a night for a room. You’ll find a better value at one of the many camping areas.
- Be prepared Remember to pack or buy anything you could need—from extra camera batteries to Band-Aids—before entering the park. Once you’re in Serengeti, resources are scarce, meaning prices on basics run high.
Serengeti National Park Culture & Customs
We may see Serengeti as a natural playground, but members of the Maasai tribe see it as home. The Maasai are a semi-nomadic people found in Kenya and northern regions of Tanzania such as Serengeti. Their brightly colored clothing and distinctive customs—such as their unique music and dance and their intricate jewelry-production—make the Maasai one of the best-known African ethnic groups.
You’re sure to come across tribe members during your visit. Although their official language is Maa (a Nilo-Saharan language), most members of the Maasai tribe also speak Swahili and English. Some Swahili phrases that may come in handy are “Jambo” (“Hello”), “Asante sana” (“Thank you”), “Bei gani?” (“How much?”), and “Sielewi” (“I don’t understand”). Your interaction with the Maasai people will most likely be a lucrative one for them, as they are very willing to sell you their jewelry and crafts. The official currency here is the Tanzania Shilling (TZS). One shilling is equal to less than one American penny. Both the shilling and the U.S. dollar are generally accepted throughout the park, but you’ll get a better deal if you pay with shillings. You can take out money before your safari at the Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO).
Your safari guide will also speak English, and it’s imperative that you follow your guide’s instructions at all times. Serengeti houses many animals, and your guide will know how to best handle (or better avoid) dangerous situations. You should also stay in your vehicle at all times and never try to feed the animals. Aside from the animals, health issues pose a threat to visitors. While in Serengeti, carry bottled water with you at all times and take preventative measures (such as habitual application of bug spray) to avoid insect bites.
Before your trip, you will need to be vaccinated against Hepatitis A and B, Yellow Fever, Typhoid, Polio, and Rabies. Malaria is also common in many regions of the park, so make sure you don’t leave home without your medication. You will have to start your Malaria medication before your trip and continue to take it for several days after you get home. AIDS is also prevalent in this region, so if you have a health condition that requires regular injections, be sure you’ve brought enough of your own equipment to last you.