The Serengeti National Park is arguably the best known wildlife sanctuary in the world. “Serengeti” means “endless plains” in the Masai language and within its boundaries are more than three million large mammals. About 35 species of plains animals may be seen here including the so-called “big seven” - buffalo, elephant, lion, leopard, rhino, cheetah and African hunting dog. Unfortunately very few of the latter remain in the Serengeti. Originally exterminated as a threat to domestic stock they have more recently become victims of distemper.
However, after being decimated by poaching, the black rhino population of the Serengeti has developed well in recent years thanks to constant surveillance and the shielding of the animals from mass tourism. There are now 13 black rhinos in the Moru Kopjes area but they may be difficult to see as visitors are only allowed to drive through the area on certain roads. White rhinoceros are not found in the Serengeti.
Other animals frequently seen in the Serengeti include baboons, caracal, civet, bat-eared fox, genet, giraffe, hippo, honey badger, hyrax, mongoose, ostrich, serval, both Grant’s and Thomson’s gazelle, vervet monkeys and some 20 types of antelope including eland, hartebeest, impala, kudu, reedbuck. Roan, topi, waterbuck and the much smaller dik dik, duiker and oribi.
There is of course also a profusion of birdlife. Over 500 species including bustards, cranes, eagle, herons, owl, storks, vultures and the bizarre, long-legged secretary birds. The Serengeti National Park is one of world’s greatest game parks. Meaning “endless plains” in the Maasai language, the Serengeti continues to be an ongoing source of inspiration to writers, filmmakers and photographers alike.
It is Tanzania’s oldest game reserve and is world-famous for the role it plays in the annual Great Migration, when an estimated two million herbivores - mostly wildebeest - migrate from the Serengeti to Kenya’s Masai Mara Game Reserve. Hundreds of thousands of animals die along the way and the drama of this epic seasonal journey is a gripping, deeply moving experience and a wonderful photographic subject.
The Serengeti is probably the most famous game reserve in the world and it is also now a World Heritage Site. Some 2 million animals migrate annually in these special flat grassy plains. Imagine a column of one and a half million wildebeest patiently plodding across the plain for hour after hour. Throw in some 300 000 zebras, another 300 000 gazelles and the lions and hyenas roaring and crackling as they prowl the outskirts of the herds. The Serengeti National Park forms part of a huge conservation area, encompassing the adjacent Ngorongoro Conservation Area, well as the Masai Mara in neighbouring Kenya. With no fences or man-made barriers, huge numbers of wildlife move freely throughout this area, constantly recreating an ageless natural cycle. The magnificent Serengeti is famed for its vast tree-less grasslands allowing for excellent wildlife sightings. The Park boasts 35 species of plains-dwelling game and prolific birdlife.
The Serengeti is an unfenced park which is connected to Kenya’s Moasai Mara Reserve in the north and neighbours the Ngorongoro Conservation Park in the south-west and it is the largest eco-system in the world. From October to May, the area will be teeming with life. The migration is actually a year round phenomenon, a broad, slow clockwise route march covering a total of around 3 000kms. The various different species that make up the migration live amicably together, part of a carefully balanced cycle that allows them to get the maximum amount of food from any area. The cycle actually begins with the elephant opens up the woodland, the heavy buffalo and hippo who rip up the coarse, long grass and the antelope such as eland, hartebeest who have their own migration cycle around the woodland fringes. The wildebeest are the most dedicated travelers in quest for the finest shoots, followed by the zebra and behind them came the smaller gazelles.
The cycle begins in May when the grass is exhausted and the herds begin to move slowly northwards towards the Western Corridor. Migration reaches the Moasai Mara by late June, remaining here until September, when they return south through the Lobo area, following the scent of rain. They reach the southern plains by November, remaining there to feed on the rich grass during breeding season.The herds remain in the south after breeding, allowing their young time to build strength, before heading north as the grass runs out and the cycle begin again.
Every year between June and July, Africa’s annual Great Migration passes through Grumeti and hundreds upon thousands of wildebeest, zebra and other herbivores cross the Grumeti River, risking the jaws of some of Africa’s largest crocodiles. The best way to view the Serengeti with its endless plains and magnitude of wild life is to take to the sky in a hot air balloon. Or drive into the middle of the great wildebeest migration to experience moments that will be humbling and electrifying.