Introducing Serengeti National Park
In the vast plains of the Serengeti, nature’s mystery, power and beauty surround you like few other places. It’s here that one of earth’s most impressive natural cycles has played out for eons as hundreds of thousands of hoofed animals, driven by primeval rhythms of survival, move constantly in search of fresh grasslands. The most famous, and numerous, are the wildebeest (of which there are some 1.5 million) and their annual migration is the Serengeti’s calling card. During the rainy months of January to March, the wildebeest are widely scattered over the southern section of the Serengeti and the western side of Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Most streams dry out quickly when the rains cease, nudging the wildebeest to concentrate on the few remaining green areas, and to form thousands-strong herds that by April begin to migrate northwest in search of food. The crossing of the crocodile-filled Grumeti River, which runs through the park’s Western Corridor, usually takes place between late May and early July, and lasts only about a week. Usually in August they make an even more incredible river crossing while leaving the Serengeti to find water in the Masai Mara (just over the Kenyan border) before roaming back south in November in anticipation of the rains. Besides the migrating wildebeest, there are also resident populations in the park and you’ll see these smaller but still impressive herds year-round. In February more than 8000 wildebeest calves are born per day, although about 40% of these die before reaching four months old.
The 14,763 sq km Serengeti National Park is also renowned for its predators, especially its lions. Hunting alongside the lions are cheetahs, leopards, hyenas, jackals and more. These feast on zebras (about 200,000), giraffes, buffalos, Thomson’s and Grant’s gazelles, topis, elands, hartebeest, impalas, klipspringers, duikers and so many more. A few black rhino in the Moru Kopjes area give you a chance for the Big Five, although they’re very rarely seen. It’s an incredible birdwatching destination too with over 450 species, including brightly coloured Fisher’s lovebirds and large ground hornbills.
Seronera, at the heart of the park, is the most crowded area since the largest lodges are here and almost all short trips into the park don’t travel beyond it. Busy, however, has benefits since animals here are more relaxed around vehicles. Other sections are also rewarding; if not more so because you won’t get stuck in a pack of 20 vehicles jostling to look at a lion.
One new development in the Serengeti is the introduction of walking safaris. Led by Wayo Africa, multiple-day camping trips are available in the Moro Kopjes and Kogatende (by the Mara River) regions and can be as relaxing or as adventurous as clients like. A few lodges, mostly in the north, are allowed to lead short (under two hours) walks.
Overall, wildlife viewing in the Serengeti is unparalleled. If you’re able to visit, it’s a chance not to be missed.