SERENGETI NATIONAL PARK
This is a plain dwellers' stronghold of 14,763vsq km, reaching up to the Kenyan border and claimed to be the finest in Africa. The magnificent Serengeti is probably what most people envisage when they imagine ‘real’ Africa. Wide-open plains teeming with wildlife, animals roaming freely in search of food and water and beautiful and dramatic landscapes as far as the eye can see – this is the heartbeat of the Serengeti. The Serengeti harbours the greatest remaining concentration of wild game in Africa and is home to the annual phenomenon where millions of herbivores migrate en mass across the plains of Tanzania.
‘Serengeti’ is derived from the Maasai word 'Siringit' which means 'an extended place'. The region is home to approximately a quarter of a million gazelles, two hundred thousand zebra and thousands of other herbivores, as well as huge prides of lion, high densities of cheetah and solitary leopards. The Serengeti region encompasses the Park itself, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Maswa Game Reserve, the Loliondo, Grumeti and Ikorongo Controlled Areas and merges with the Maasai Mara National Park in Kenya.
One of the oldest ecosystems on Earth, the Serengeti has remained almost intact over the past million years. Its plains are mostly crystalline rocks overlain by volcanic ash with numerous granitic rock outcrops, known as kopjes, which are home to rich ecosystems (and where lions usually hide their cubs). In the north and along the western corridor are mountain ranges of mainly volcanic origin. Two rivers flowing west usually contain water and there are a number of lakes, marshes, and waterholes.
Considered the longest and greatest show on earth, the Great Migration takes place every year and is quite a spectacle to behold! Being there at the height of the migration is a never to be forgotten experience. The 800 km long trek begins in late May or early June, depending on the weather conditions. Millions of wildebeest, zebra and Thomson’s gazelle move away from the short grass plains between the Ngorongoro Highlands and Seronera and head towards the north and west in search of water and fresh grass. In their wake follow predators hungry for an easy kill: lion, cheetah, hyena and hunting dogs, which ensure that only the fittest of herbivores survive. Vultures and other birds of prey also descend upon the weak and dying, or scavenge on the kills left by the predators.
The Migration moves west and then north crossing the Grumeti and Mara Rivers where hundreds more die through drowning, or being taken by predatory crocodiles. The survivors settle in the Western Corridor and northern reaches of the Serengeti and in the Maasai Mara National Park in Kenya.
The Park is broadly divided into three different areas. The Seronera Valley and Seronera River, in the centre of the park, is probably the most popular area. This area is characterized by wide open grasslands and rock kopjes, with several perennial rivers (Seronera, Nyamanje, Wandamu, Ngare Nanyuki) running through it, ensuring year-round water supplies and enabling many resident animals to thrive year round. The Western Corridor, crossed lengthwise by the Grumeti River, is a regular setting for drama, as year after year the wildebeest cross the crocodile-infested river during the Great Migration, in their attempt to reach the northern plains. Finally, the Northern Lobo are, extending northwards to join the Maasai Mara, offers a change to see plentiful game during the dry season.