Serengeti National Park
Tanzania’s oldest and most popular national park, also a world heritage site and recently proclaimed a 7th world wide wonder, the Serengeti is famed for its annual migration, when some six million hooves pound the open plains, as more than 200,000 zebra and 300,000 Thomson’s gazelle join the wildebeest’s trek for fresh grazing. The annual migration is dominated by wildebeest in enormous numbers – Thomson’s gazelle, with some eland and topi, each harvesting the grass most suited to it. The herds are followed by prides of lion numbering up to 3,000 individuals, spotted hyena, striped hyena, golden jackal, side-striped jackal and black-backed jackal.
Yet even when the migration is quiet, the Serengeti offers arguably the most scintillating game-viewing in Africa: great herds of buffalo, smaller groups of elephant and giraffe, and thousands upon thousands of eland, topi, kongoni, impala and Grant’s gazelle. Popular the Serengeti might be, but it remains so vast that you may be the only human audience when a pride of lions masterminds a siege, focussed unswervingly on its next meal.
The park is usually described as divided in four regions:
Southern plains: the endless, almost treeless grassland of the south is the most emblematic scenery of the park. This is where the wildebeest breed, as they remain in the plains from December to May. Other hoofed animals- zebra, gazelle, impala, hartebeest, topi, buffalo, waterbuck- also occur in huge numbers during the wet season. Kopjes are granite florations which are very common in the region, and they are great observation posts for predators, as well as a refuge for hyrax and pythons.
Western corridor: the “black cotton” (actually black clay) soil covers the swampy savannah of this region. Grumeti river is home to enormous Nile crocodiles, colobus monkey, and the martial eagle. The migration passes through from May to July.
Northern Serengeti: the landscape is dominated by open woodlands (predominantly Commiphora) and hills, ranging from Seronera in the South, to the Mara river in the limit with Kenya. Apart from the migratory wildebeest and zebra (which occur from July to August, and in November), the bushy savannah is the best place to find elephant, giraffe and dikdik.
The central Serengeti consists of the plains woodland border and transition zone. In this area, the great Serengeti plains gradually diffuse into gentle rolling hills and the woodland habitat that dominates the western and northern regions of the park. The lions share of the lodges are located in this region as well as the park headquarters and the various research facilities. All these facilities are located here for good reason as not only is this area centrally located but it also supports an amazing abundance of year round, resident wildlife.The central Serengeti is home to the beautiful Seronera valley. Several perennial rivers run through this valley enabling many resident animals to thrive year round. The combination of location and resident prey attracts the largest populations of predators in Africa. Excellent encounters are available year round regardless of the season or where the great migratory herds are located. It is not unusual to see all four large predators (lion, hyena, leopard and cheetah) during the course of a day in 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.
Size: 14,763 sq km (5,700 sq miles) of grassland plains and savanna as well as riverine forest and woodlands. The park lies in the north of the country, bordered to the north by the national Tanzania and Kenyan border, where it is continuous with the Maasai Mara National Reserve. To the south-east of the park is Ngorongoro Conservation Area, to the south-west lies Maswa Game Reserve, and to the western borders are Ikorongo and Grumeti Game Reserves, to the north-east lies Loliondo Game Control Area. Together, these areas form the larger Serengeti Ecosystem.
Location: 335km (208 miles) from Arusha, stretching north to Kenya and bordering Lake Victoria to the west.
The park covers 14,763 km2 (5,700 sq mi)
Scheduled and charter flights from Arusha, Lake Manyara and Mwanza.
Drive from Arusha, Lake Manyara, Tarangire or Ngorongoro Crater.
What to do
Hot air balloon safaris,
bush lunch/dinner can be arranged with hotels/tour operators.
Maasai rock paintings and musical rocks.
Visit neighbouringNgorongoro Crater, Olduvai Gorge, Ol DoinyoLengai volcano and Lake Natron’s flamingos.
When to go
To follow the wildebeest migration, December-July. To see predators, June-October.
The route and timing of the wildebeest migration is unpredictable. Allow at least three days to be assured of seeing them on your visit – longer if you want to see the main predators as well.