Serengeti National Park
Serengeti National Park Activities view all
Serengeti National Park is Africa's most famous destination. The annual wildebeest migration and dense predator population attracts most of the visitors who come to Tanzania. There is an overwhelming sense of space in this archetypal African Savannah which stretches for over 15,000 square kilometres. The Greater Serengeti Eco-system which includes several smaller reserves and the Masai Mara in Kenya is actually twice that size! The name comes from the Masai word 'Serengeti' which means 'endless plains'.
There is very little permanent water in Tanzania's largest National Park, so the Migration and general location of the most of the animals is linked to rainfall patterns. The non-stop parade of over a million wildebeest, a quarter of a million zebra and numerous Thompson's gazelles. Big cats and other predators follow the migration through their territories.
Wildebeest Migration Seasons and Locations
- January, February and March - As the short rains have fallen on the southern plains of the Serengeti Seronera and northern reaches of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area the migration spreads out in vast herds, often over 10,000 animals, for calving season.
- April, May and June - By the end of April the countless animals and the new offspring begin to congregate south of the Western Corridor in preparation for the lengthy northwards migration of over 800km. One huge single endless herd, a column of animals up to 40km long and several wide is the famous spectacle known over the world. The animals' dangerous crossing of the Grumeti River normally occurs at the end of June, sometimes in July. It can take up to two weeks for the herd to cross and many ungulates lives are lost to the ravenous crocodiles.
- July, August and September - The wildebeest congregate again in the Western Corridor after crossing the river. The herds then disperse northwards making Lobo the best place to view the migration at this time of year. About half will cross the Mara River entering the Masai Mara in Kenya.
- October, November and December - By the end of October the animals tend to gather together for the long slow trek southwards again aiming for the southern plains as the short rains begin in November.
Europeans were not familiar with the Serengeti until after the the First World War when big game trophy hunters moved in. The area was part of the Masailands and evidence of their pastoral occupation can be seen in the preserved rock paintings at Moru Kopies. Since the national park was gazetted in 1951 the Masai are no longer allowed to graze their cattle and hunting is prohibited.
All of the 'Big Five are present in Serengeti. Elephants are few in number on the wide grassy plains but more concentrated in the wooded areas of Lobo and the Western Corridor. An estimated 300 lion hunt on the central Seronera Plains alone, with more being dispersed around the park. Leopard, more elusive and very well camouflaged in the foliage of trees can often be spotted by their tails hanging down. Buffalo are significant in number and sizeable herds are scattered throughout the park, whilst the few remaining black rhino are protected in an inaccessible area.
Other species of animal are also prolific including giraffe, warthog, hyena, various gazelles and antelopes and some primate species (mainly vervet and olive baboon). The Serengeti Ecosystem is an Endemic Bird Area. Six species are not found anywhere else in the world and due to the diverse variety of habitat an amazing 505 species have so far been documented.
Serengeti National Park Locations view all
North of the busy Seronera area, the central part of Serengeti is considerably less touristy.
To the north of the Serengeti is the wilder region of Lobo, with large granite outcrops nestling in the rolling green hills. Particuarly worth visiting during October or November when the migration passes through, Lobo also supports larger populations of elephant than elsewhere in the park.
The Serengeti is divided into three main areas. Seronera is the most central and accessible region, and this is where the Park HQ is based as well as most of the larger lodges and busier campsites. This is the Serengeti that you will have seen in wildlife documentaries, characterised by the open swathes of grassland packed with animals. The Seronera is particularly good for cats.
The Western Corridor is much woodier and the main feature is the Grumeti River. Crocodiles and photographers alike feast on the amazing spectacle of up to two million wildebeast and zebra crossing the river as they head north in search of fresh pasture. Typically the migration passes through the Western Corridor between June and July, and for the rest of the year this is a great place to stay in the Serengeti avoiding the main crowds. It is also possible to exit the Serengeti at the western Ikoma Gate where foot safaris and night drives are possible.