How to camp in the Serengeti National Park

Posted by Jayne McElwee on 27 August 2013

Rule 1: Throw out what you know.

Unless I missed something blindly obvious, do not expect the organisation of a self-drive camping trip to the Serengeti National Park to happen with four clicks online or one explicit email. There’s no such thing. Unlike the splendour of South Africa’s SANParks website, which allows you to locate, book and pay for a trip in five minutes, Tanzania’s national parks are somewhat different.

It turns out it’s quicker

I’m an avid and obsessive planner and I searched long and hard to obtain basic information; stuff like campsite names, campsite locations, campsite policies, contact details, park details, gate names, park maps etc. My search didn’t reveal much at all.

By that stage all I had uncovered were vague rumours of prearranged park permits, lists of the exorbitant park and conservation fees, and one lone telephone number. I admittedly had little faith in it considering the lone email hotline address I had also found yielded no responses to my ongoing booking requests. I had lost hope and in a last effort to keep one of the world’s most famous game reserves on our itinerary, I insisted that my man phone the number.

After many attempts, he eventually got through and was instructed to phone the gate through which we expected to enter the park. He did that and was told quite simply that we should, ‘Just arrive!’

I found it quite odd that a park of the Serengeti’s popularity and stature; one that costs almost $100 a person for 24 hours (camping, vehicle and conservation fees) is quite okay with campers just pitching up. Personally, I felt rather insecure. 6498 kilometres is a long way to travel to potentially be turned away because the park’s full or because we didn’t book.

Nevertheless, over six weeks we drove 6498 kilometres and eventually arrived at Ndabaka Gate in the western part of the park. Within 10 minutes, we had filled in the necessary forms, been offered the choice of one of nine public campsites, wild-guessed which one to stay at and emptied our wallets to pay for it all.

We had arrived at Serengeti National Park. No booking hassles, no clicks or online payments, just 6498 kilometres and a little bit of faith.

More reluctant to risk the 6498 km drive? Have a look at these Serengeti travel packages. Need a bit of inspiration first? Take a look at this wildebeest migration timelapse.


What we had driven 6498 kilometres to see

Our very relieved & excited travel mascot

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