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The weather in September is dry and sunny. The landscape is parched as the dry season has completely taken hold. The long grasses have died back, which makes game viewing easier and many of the animals congregate in the woodlands and around the remaining sources of water.

Temperatures are pleasant with an average high of 81 degrees and an average low of 55 degrees. However, the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater can get quite cold at night and in the early morning. Visitor numbers increase dramatically over July and they peak in August. Visitor numbers are at their highest in August but drop off dramatically in mid to late September. The good news is that the vast majority of people are on package tours staying at the main lodges and zipping around the main roads in only a few popular areas. With careful planning we can customize your safari so you will encounter more lions than people in even the busiest months.

Seasonal Wildlife Highlights

Serengeti National Park

Northern Serengeti (Woodlands)
September Recommended Duration of Game Drives: 1 - 2 Days
September Wildlife Highlights: Wildebeest Migration, Zebra Migration, Lion, Hyena, Elephant, Giraffe, Impala, Buffalo, Hippo

As the plains dried out sometime in May or early June, the wildebeest and zebra migration moved north and west off the plains into the Western and Central Serengeti. During June many wildebeest occupied their transitional zone in the Western Serengeti. Other herds of wildebeest and zebra began to move directly north through the Central Serengeti. As the dry season progressed in July, the great herds continued to shift northward towards the Northern Serengeti and the Masai Mara in Kenya. Zebra tend to reach the Northern Serengeti sometime in early July while the wildebeest herds usually begin to appear in the Northern Serengeti towards mid July and do not usually reach the Masai Mara until early August.

By September, the main herds of both migratory wildebeest and zebra will likely be located in the watershed area of the Masai Mara in Kenya. Typically, the main wildebeest and zebra herds will be located in the Masai Mara from early August to early October. During the beginning of October, they reverse course as they come flooding down the northern corridor to the Serengeti plains.

Though a significant portion of the herds will be located across the border in August and September, there will still be plenty of wildebeest and zebra dispersed throughout the Northern Serengeti. In addition, significant portions of the migration can usually be accessed with game drives to the extreme north of the Serengeti up to the Bologonja Gate. It is possible to game drive to within a few miles of Kenya where you will likely encounter large herds. This makes Kleins Camp, Migration Camp or the northern campsites in a prime position from mid July through early November.

A good alternative to the Northern Serengeti in August and September is to incorporate a 3-night extension to the Masai Mara if seeing the migration is a priority. Please see the Masai Mara extension for further information. The Mara extension can be used as a replacement for the Northern Serengeti or as a compliment.

The northern region of the Serengeti is a vast pristine area of wooded rolling hills interspersed with open grassy patches and large granite outcrops. This region extends north about 55 miles from Seronera in the Central Serengeti to the Masai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya. Most visitors to the Serengeti never see the northern region. It is only rarely visited and remains an unexplored and untouched wilderness packed with stunning landscapes and large concentrations of wildlife during the dry season.

The Northern Serengeti supports a good number of resident herbivores including giraffe, hippo, topi, impala and Thomson’s gazelle. This area is home to the largest remaining concentrations of elephants and buffalo in the Serengeti. All four large carnivores (lion, leopard, cheetah and hyena) are also resident in the Northern Serengeti.

Mid July through early November is the absolute best time to visit the Northern Serengeti. The Northern Serengeti is a must see during these months. Hundreds of thousands of wildebeest and zebra may even be passing through the immediate area as they make their way southward or northward depending on the exact time of your visit and current rainfall patterns. If you are unable to locate the large herds, wildlife viewing will still be excellent as the northern corridor supports large amounts of resident herbivores and carnivores. The resident animal action is especially good during the dry season months.

Western Serengeti (Woodlands)
September Recommended Duration of Game Drives: 0 - 1 Day
September Wildlife Highlights: Giraffe, Impala, Hippo, Resident Wildebeest and Zebra

The Western Serengeti is home to significant numbers of resident wildlife. There are large populations of resident wildebeest and zebra that do not join their migratory cousins as they pass through every year on their journey northwards. Other resident animals include giraffe, buffalo, eland, topi, impala, waterbuck and Thomson’s gazelle. These resident animals support good concentrations of predators including lion, leopard, cheetah and hyena. The big cats are frequently sighted but not to the extent as seen in the Central Serengeti. The Western Serengeti is at its best from late May to Mid July.

During August through October, we recommend to focus your safari on the Northern Serengeti instead of the Western Serengeti. Game viewing will be better in the Northern Serengeti during these months. Additionally, the Central Serengeti and Tarangire are a must see in September. Given that better quality and more abundant game viewing is available in so many other areas during August through October, the Western Serengeti is only recommended on longer safari itineraries. A good option on longer September safari itineraries is to incorporate a day drive into the western corridor while staying in the Central Serengeti. This will enable you to quickly see the West while still focusing on the better game viewing areas in the Central and Northern Serengeti.

Central Serengeti (Plains/Woodlands Border)
September Recommended Duration of Game Drives: 2 - 3 Days
September Wildlife Highlights: Thomson’s Gazelle Migration, Cheetah, Leopard, Lion, Giraffe, Impala, Buffalo, Hippo

The Central Serengeti offers superb game viewing year round due to its abundance of resident animals. Specifically, the Seronera River Valley in the Central Serengeti is a ‘must see’ on every safari regardless of the specific month of travel. Many of the non-migratory or resident animals will be concentrated in the Central Serengeti, which provides a dry season refuge, as it forms the main plains/woodlands boundary. Resident lions will be abundant here as they take advantage of the animal concentrations around the permanent sources of water. Cheetahs will also be in abundance as they have followed the migratory gazelles from the plains into the woodland/plains border of the Central Serengeti.

Game viewing in Central Serengeti is at its best during the dry season (June - November) as resident animals are more concentrated in the immediate area due to the lack of water on the plains. Resident herbivores include impala, buffalo, hippo, warthog, topi, hartebeest and giraffe. Resident carnivores include lion and leopard.

In addition to the resident wildlife, significant concentrations of migratory animals are found in the Central Serengeti during the dry season including cheetah, Thomson’s gazelle and hyena. The Thomson’s gazelles migrate to the eastern short grass plains during the wet season and then back to the Central Serengeti during the dry season. The majority of the cheetahs in the Serengeti are also migratory in that many of them follow the Thomson’s Gazelle migration. Additionally, hyenas are semi-nomadic and many of them can be found in the Central Serengeti during the dry season, where the majority of their den sites are located. During the wet season, they ‘commute’ to the Eastern Plains to take advantage of the abundance of animals found on the plains during this time. Accordingly, you will likely encounter an array of resident animals plus migratory gazelles, cheetahs and hyenas from about June to November in the Central Serengeti.

There are 12 documented resident lion prides just within a one-hour game drive radius from Seronera. During the dry season, the resident prides begin to shift west and north in their territories and concentrate in the central region of the park. The dry season is a particularly good time for lion viewing in the Central Serengeti.

The Seronera Valley in the Central Serengeti is also one of the best areas in Africa to spot the elusive leopard. You will likely encounter this majestic cat in the branches of the sausage trees that dot the banks of the Seronera River.

Eastern Serengeti (Plains)
Not recommended during September.

Southern Serengeti (Plains)
September Recommended Duration of Game Drives: 0 - 1 Day
September Highlights: Walking Safari and Cultural Interactions

The Southern Plains of the Serengeti are extremely seasonal. During the dry season, you will likely encounter only a few hearty Grant’s gazelle and the occasional giraffe. However, the southern plains come to life in the wet season (November - mid June) and offer unparalleled game viewing.

By September, water has usually become scarce out on the southern plains and the vast grasslands have been reduced to stubbles forcing the great herds to the woodlands. The southern plains dry out quickly due to the shallow soil base and the migratory animals tend to depart quickly.

During the dry season (including September) when the migratory animals have moved off the southern plains and into the woodlands, we recommend a one-night stopover (as time permits) on your way from the Central Serengeti to the Ngorongoro Crater. A night in the southern plains will provide for excellent walking and hiking options, cultural interactions with the Maasai and a chance to explore this beautiful part of the Serengeti ecosystem. The southern plains of the ecosystem in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) offer the best walking safari options and cultural opportunities. Olduvai Camp, located on the southern plains of the NCA, is the ideal place to spend a night if you are interested in the aforementioned activities. More Serengeti National Park Information.

Ngorongoro Crater
September Recommended Duration of Game Drives: 1 - 2 Days
September Wildlife Highlights: Black Rhino, Elephant, Buffalo, Lion, Cheetah

The Ngorongoro Crater, described as one of the wonders of the world, is an amazing natural sanctuary not to be missed. Game viewing here is among the very best Africa has to offer and is excellent at any time of year. The crater is very small at only about 10 miles across. With just one game drive in the Crater, it is possible to circumnavigate the crater several times and see all the main highlights. However, every safari we offer includes two separate game drives in the Crater over a course of two days including one early morning 6AM drive. The goal on the early morning game drive is to be the first person in the Crater that day. Animals are generally more active in the morning, which makes the early morning game drive option an excellent choice.

The crater is not a self-contained ecosystem and some animals do migrate in and out of the surrounding NCA but not in any significant numbers to warrant tailoring your itinerary. The main factors for planning are weather and visitor numbers. The weather will be pleasant in September and visitor numbers will be moderate. More Ngorongoro Crater Information.

Tarangire National Park
September Recommended Duration of Game Drives: 2 - 4 Days
September Wildlife Highlights: Elephant, Wildebeest, Zebra, Lion, Giraffe, Impala, Raptors

At 1,600 square miles, Tarangire National Park is much smaller and lesser known than its famous neighbors to the north. However, during the dry season wildlife concentrations rival that of the Serengeti. The wildlife rhythms of Tarangire are almost directly opposite to those of the Serengeti. Tarangire comes into its own during the dry season (July - November) when enormous populations of elephants and other animals are drawn to the Tarangire River and other sources of permanent water within the park. During the wet season, many of the animals disperse into the surrounding areas of the greater ecosystem.

During June, the surrounding areas are beginning to dry out and many of the animals will begin to migrate back into Tarangire from the greater ecosystem. The large herds of wildebeest, zebra and elephants start to appear usually sometime in June. During July, the surrounding areas have almost completely dried out and many of the animals have migrated back into Tarangire from the greater ecosystem.

By September, the outlying areas are parched and thousands of animals will be concentrating in and around the Tarangire River. August, September and October are the very best months to visit to Tarangire. Game viewing will be phenomenal.

Massive herds of buffalo, wildebeest and zebra will be congregating around the remaining rivers and swamps from August through October. Elephant viewing will be outstanding and it is likely that you will see over 200 of them on a single game drive. Elephant concentrations at this time rival that of any park in Africa.

The massive concentrations of animals combined with the spectacular scenery will surely make for a memorable visit during September. Expect to also see giraffe, impala, warthog, dik-dik and several species of large raptors. With a little luck you will also encounter a leopard and some of the rarer antelopes including elands, kudus and oryx. This is the favorite time of year for the lions of Tarangire as their main quarry, wildebeest and zebra are in abundance. Lion prides are much more stationary during the dry season and can readily be found by the remaining rivers, springs and swamps. Tarangire is a must see on every safari from mid July to late November. More Tarangire Information.

Lake Manyara National Park
September Recommended Duration of Game Drives: 0 - 1 Day
September Wildlife Highlights: Elephant, Baboons, Giraffe, Impala, Birding

Game viewing is generally fair to good in Lake Manyara at any time of year. However, Lake Manyara does not offer the abundance of wildlife nor quality of wildlife viewing experiences found in the other parks of Northern Tanzania. Similar to Ngorongoro Crater, seasonal wildlife patterns are not significant enough to warrant tailoring your itinerary.

Lake Manyara is a beautiful little park and is famous for its tree-climbing lions, elephants and large troops of baboons. The park is home to an amazing variety of birds and animals considering its small size. A short visit to this serene park will greatly diversify your safari experience as the lush green jungle habitat is of stark contrast to the other parks you will visit during your safari.

We find that a quick day visit to Lake Manyara before either heading back towards Kilimanjaro or on the way from the Crater to Tarangire is sufficient and ideal for most travelers. The park gate is just a few feet from the main road and this combined with the fact that the park is small allows for quick and rewarding forays into the park. A one to four hour visit to Lake Manyara makes a superb addition to any safari itinerary. More Lake Manyara Information.

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