Serengeti National Park is the Tanzania’s oldest and most popular national park, a World Heritage site and recently proclaimed to be one among The 7 Wonders of Africa. Maasai people named the Southern plains as “Siringet” meaning the land of endless space… and that’s the origin of the name Serengeti. Serengeti is famed for its annual migration. Over two million herbivores partake in this journey, with about 200 000 zebra and 500 000 Thomson’s gazelle behind the main players… one-and-a-half million wildebeest!
The geologic forces that shaped this vast plain created an environment ideal for certain grasses, but unsuitable for trees. With specialized shallow-matted root systems, these grasses hold moisture from even the lightest rains. “I do not know of any country which is, in terms of earth, of solid matter, so nearly the equivalent of the sea. There seems to be no end of it” (Laurens van der Post, Venture to the Interior, 1963)
The Serengeti Plains fill the southern half of the Serengeti and are one of the reasons why the yearly Migration of Wildebeest takes place. After spending the dry season in the wetter northern woodland of Serengeti, the Wildebeest follow the seasonal rains south and move out onto the Serengeti Plains.
The incredibly high number of grazing animals in the Serengeti Ecosystem mean that during the wet season, most of the grasses on the Serengeti Plains are consumed. If grass is cut very short, it rapidly re-grows and is higher in water and nutrients. By repeatedly cutting the grass short and having it constantly re-growing, the animals create what is called a “grazing lawn” of very high quality, rapidly growing grass!
Normally, every year the mega-herd arrives in the great plains of Serengeti around Ndutu area and the guests watch in amazement as the wildebeest give birth to their young on the lush, green grasslands, and the nights are just as active, with the most incredible thundershowers. The game drive can allow guests to see predators around every corner waiting to pounce. And as you drive from the Ngorongoro towards different parts of Serengeti plains, the views are unforgettable – literally a sea of wildebeest and zebra. It is a photographer’s delight.
“Seeing the Great Migration is beyond any ones expectations. There is no way to describe the vastness of the herds and no way to capture it all in one photo.
The main attraction in the Central Serengeti is undoubtedly the beautiful Seronera River Valley. Several perennial rivers run through this valley enabling an abundance of resident animals to thrive year round. The combination of location and resident prey attracts the largest and most diverse population of predators in Africa. It is this amazing abundance and diversity of easily seen large predators that attracts thousands of visitors and hundreds of researches to the Seronera River Valley each year. The secret is out – there is simply no better place in Africa to observe these large carnivores in action! Since many of these wild creatures call this place their permanent home, excellent encounters are available year round regardless of the season or where the great migratory herds are located. It is not unusual to encounter all four large predators (lion, hyena, leopard and cheetah) during the course of a day along with a multitude of smaller predators (mongoose, jackal, serval and bat-eared fox). Seronera is actually derived from the Maasai word ‘siron’ meaning the place of the bat-eared fox.
Central Serengeti can be visited all year round but it’s absolutely rewarding paying a visit during April, May, June and December.
The pinnacle of the northward wildebeest migration takes place in the western corridor with the famous Grumeti River crossing. The river is infested with the Nile crocodile, the world’s largest crocodile. For some of these prehistoric animals, it has been a year since they have last eaten and they eagerly await the wildebeest river crossing. Additionally, The Grumeti River also supports a unique riverine forest, which is home to the beautiful black and white colobus monkey. The western corridor is also home to significant numbers of resident wildlife.
The best time to visit the western Serengeti is from late May to mid-July, which coincides with the northward wildebeest migration.
The mighty Mara River snakes across the northern tip of the Serengeti National Park on its westward flow into Lake Victoria. The Mara River is most famous for the legendary wildebeest crossing, a dramatic event, which is featured in countless wildlife documentaries. Hippos abound in these dark waters, along with massive Nile crocodiles looming just below the murky surface. Large herds of buffalo graze on the verdant floodplains and groups of giraffe glide through the shady groves of acacia trees. Mile after mile of vast pristine wilderness awaits the more adventurous safari traveler, as this part of the Serengeti is way off the beaten path.
Mara River and the bordering Lamai Triangle is a must see if visiting the Serengeti in the late dry season during August, September or October.