Serengeti National Park is one of the best-known wildlife sanctuary in the world, and symbolises the classic African safari. With more than 2 million wildebeest, half a million Thomson’s gazelle, and a quarter of a million zebra, it has the greatest concentration of plains game in Africa. The Serengeti is also synonymous with the annual wildebeest and zebra migration.
A million wildebeest... each one driven by the same ancient rhythm, fulfilling its instinctive role in the inescapable cycle of life: a frenzied three-week bout of territorial conquests and mating; survival of the fittest as 40km (25 mile) long columns plunge through crocodile-infested waters on the annual exodus north; replenishing the species in a brief population explosion that produces more than 8,000 calves daily before the 1,000 km (600 mile) pilgrimage begins again.
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. 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.
The spectacle of predator versus prey dominates Tanzania’s greatest park. Golden-maned lion prides feast on the abundance of plain grazers. Solitary leopards haunt the acacia trees lining the Seronera River, while a high density of cheetahs prowls the southeastern plains. Almost uniquely, all three African jackal species occur here, alongside the spotted hyena and a host of more elusive small predators, ranging from the insectivorous aardwolf to the beautiful serval cat.
But there is more to Serengeti than large mammals. Gaudy agama lizards and rock hyraxes scuffle around the surfaces of the park’s isolated granite koppies. A full 100 varieties of dung beetle have been recorded, as have 500-plus bird species, ranging from the outsized ostrich and bizarre secretary bird of the open grassland, to the black eagles that soar effortlessly above the Lobo Hills.
What to see and Do
Although outnumbered eight to one, the zebra join in the migration, maintaining their family units of about a dozen members, each with a dominant stallion. Lion, cheetah, hyena and hunting dog follow the wildebeest and zebra, making sure that only the fittest survive. In November, when the grazing is finished in the North, this army of animals surges back to the now green pastures of the south, where they calve and mate before starting the entire cycle again.Normally, the best time to see the animals here is during January and February. Heading north into the Park, the grass becomes noticeably longer, and it is usual to see Grant’s and Thomson’s gazelles, as well as the occasional small groups of topi and kongoni. Out of the vast sea of grass also rise great granite outcrops, known as ‘kopjes’, which have their own range of vegetation and wildlife. Towards Seronera, the Park headquarters, the landscape becomes more varied. Hills rise out of plains criss-crossed by small rivers. Umbrella acacia trees appear, elegant and serene, contrasting with the twisted commiphora trees.
Where to Stay
Serengeti Serena Safari Lodge:
Serena Safari Lodge is a large lodge located in the central Serengeti. It is well located for the migration between December and May.Serena have a number of large upmarket motel type lodges in Tanzania. There camp in the Serengetioffers a traditional Maasai style lodge built of thatch in round rooms; guests can choose between 66 bedrooms each with a stone bathroom and a private balcony. The lodge also has a swimming pool surrounded by shady trees and sun beds in a private area. The lodge offers beautiful views from the central dining room and the bar area. Meals are good with buffets available as well as dishes prepared in the open-air kitchen. Friendly and efficient staff will see to your every need and special requests can be catered for including Bush breakfasts or bush dinners.
Klein’s Camp in the Northern Serengeti eco-system. It is perched on the edge of the Kuka Hills, which straddles the north-eastern border of the Serengeti National Park. Set in a private 10 000-hectare/24 500-acre wildlife sanctuary overlooking wooded hillsides, rolling grasslands, marshes and forested riverbanks, the camps’ spectacular location is in a vital corridor linking the Serengeti in Tanzania and Maasai Mara in Kenya.Klein’s Camp is unique in Tanzania in that night game-drives and bush walks are offered and driving off-road in open game-viewing vehicles is permitted. Klein’s Camp offers 10 intimate cottages of local stone and thatch with rich wooden floors and classic interiors. The bathrooms are en-suite. From the private veranda a diversity of resident wildlife may be viewed in the valley below. The camp has a large beautifully furnished open-sided bar/sitting area with a central fireplace, just a short walk from the dining room, both with sweeping views of the valley and surrounding hills. There is a pool and deck tucked into the hillside and a shop stocks locally made Maasai crafts.