The Serengeti in Tanzania is home to one of the world's greatest concentrations of wildlife and it's the stage on which the annual Great Wildebeest Migration largely plays out. If you want to steer clear of the crowds who pour into the Serengeti each year in favour of a quieter, more intimate safari experience, take a look at our tips on how to avoid the masses.
Don't let the rains put you off
The onset of the short rains sees tourism dwindle in Tanzania, making November to March one of the most rewarding times to go on safari in the Serengeti. If you're wondering about the game viewing experience, it's just as good during the short rains as it is during peak season. The Serengeti's rolling grasslands and endless plains are still dotted with countless grazing wildebeest and zebra who remain in the area long after the mega herds have moved on. Along with buffalo, elephant, giraffe, various gazelle and antelope species, there is plenty of other resident game to sustain healthy populations of lion, cheetah, leopard, African wild dog and hyena and the chances of seeing some heart-stopping predator action are extremely good.
What's more, safari-goers can enjoy these fantastic game viewing opportunities in the peaceful stillness of the wilderness without having to compete with dozens of other safari jeeps and the incredible photographic opportunities presented by brooding storm clouds against the vast acacia studded plains and distant horizons more than makes up for the occasional downpour.
Another benefit of going on safari in the Serengeti in the rainy season is that the drop in visitor numbers sees the price of accommodation follow suit. This makes tacking on a few extra days to your safari or staying in a luxury safari lodge that might normally be out of your budget range more affordable.
Look for eco-friendly safari lodges
The eco-friendly label goes far beyond solar power, recycled wastewater and low environmental impact safari tents. Eco-lodges translate into exclusive locations and limited capacity which means more wildlife and less crowding. An environmental commitment to responsible land management means an absence of permanent structures such as fences which allows gigantic herds to roam the savannas freely, sometimes even passing through your campgrounds!
One such eco-friendly, tented safari camp, Ehlane Plains Camp, is tucked away in the remote, untouched eastern plains of the Serengeti in the big cat region of Soit le Motonyi. Closed to all but a small group of big cat researchers for 20 years, Soit Le Motonyi recently reopened to a limited number of visitors.
Safari-goers can expect some of the best and least crowded cheetah sightings in this little-known part of the Serengeti that (thanks to a 20-year hiatus from jeep-led safaris) is teeming with lion, leopard, serval, caracal, African wildcat, hyena, African wild dog, wildebeest, buffalo, zebra, elephant, giraffe and black rhino. With no other safari camp for miles and only eight eco-friendly safari tents, game drives are a relaxed and intimate affair.
Pick accommodation in private game reserves or conservancies
One of the best ways to experience the Serengeti while avoiding the crowds is to pick accommodation inside one of the privately managed game reserves or conservancies that share unfenced borders with the Serengeti National Park.
Private game reserves and conservancies allow safari-goers to experience the best of both worlds. Not only do they offer activities like off-road game viewing with a limit to the number of vehicles permitted at animal sightings, guided bush walks and spotlit night drives which are unavailable to national park visitors but they are also often well situated for quick and easy access to Great Migration hotspots inside the Serengeti National Park.
Staying at a large, exclusive-use private game reserve or conservancy provides for a more authentic safari experience where you'll get to enjoy the Serengeti's iconic wildlife up close and in private without being surrounded by a fleet of safari vehicles filled with camera-toting tourists.
Ask an expert
Arriving at your final destination in the Serengeti can often mean more than one connecting flight on small airlines or charters which reduces the amount of time you actually spend on safari in the wild. Besides having to factor in the time it takes to simply get to your safari lodge or tented camp, there are a number of light aircraft restrictions you need to think about when it comes to how much and what type of luggage you're permitted to board the plane with. You can avoid the stress of researching and planning your Serengeti safari by finding experts with an established track record as specialist safari operators.
Look for a company that has a trusted voice in the industry, consistently good client reviews, first-hand regional experience, reliable financial protection and extensive public liability and passenger liability insurance for peace of mind. Be sure to let them know of your specific wish for a Serengeti safari far from the crowds. Letting an expert plan your itinerary for you will save you time, money and a lot of hassle, especially at a time when government policy on lockdowns could lead to last-minute changes in travel plans. Knowing you can count on a reliable partner who will step in and handle any unforeseen snags will take the burden off you so that all you need to wonder about is what wildlife you're going to encounter on your next game drive in the Serengeti.
Are you a first-time safari-goer who wants to go on safari in the Serengeti but would prefer to avoid the crowds? Please contact us with any questions or concerns you might have.
Are you a safari enthusiast who's been to the Serengeti and has some advice on how you avoid the masses? Feel free to share it with us in the comments section below!
About the author
Dianne Kokkonidis was born in Johannesburg, grew up in the Transkei and spent years exploring Europe. She returned to South Africa to live on a farm in the Outeniqua Mountains when the call of Africa got too loud to ignore. She comes from a family of storytellers, so it’s no surprise she’s now found her way into writing about one the oldest stories known to mankind - the lure of Africa.