Serengeti National Park is the oldest national park in Tanzania and holds a spot among the largest wildlife parks on the African continent. The park is found in eastern Mara Region, northeastern corner of the country. It stretches over 5,700 square miles of rolling mesmerizing savanna. This celebrated park derives its name from "Serengeti" a phrase loosely translated from the ancient Masai language meaning "the place where land runs on forever".
Serengeti national park was set aside as a game reserve in 1930 covering an area of 2,286 km2 initially stretching from southern to eastern Serengeti. This was an effort by the Tanzanian government to preserve the wild fauna and flora of the area sustainably for future generations and was given a go-ahead to become a fully-fledged national park later in 1940.
The park was granted stoutest protection resulting in restricted settlement of the Masai who inhabited the area. In 1959, Ngorongoro Conservation Area was carved off from the park spanning an area of 3,200 sq. mi in the eastern sector of the park to cater for land-use interests of the Masai. By 1981, Serengeti only covered 12,950 km2 a portion that was less than half of the initial land that was designated for the national park.
Serengeti is divided into three regions:
Serengeti plains. The most celebrated section of the park with scanty tree grassland plains in the south. This particular sector is filled with several kopjes, granite formations that serve as surveying points for predators like lions. Predators can easily be seen from this section as it's easier to spot them because of the open landscape.
Northern Serengeti.This section is predominantly covered by woodland and hills. The northern section runs from Seronera in the south and covers all the area to Mara River along Kenyan border. It is mostly inaccessible due to its remoteness.
Western corridor. The major features in this corridor are the two rivers, Mbalageti and Grumeti. There are large clusters of riverine forest and modest mountain ranges that occupy this western corridor. The great wildebeest migration crosses through the corridor from May to July. Western corridor goes up to Lake Victoria. It is relatively flat compared to the northern section of the park and densely covered with vegetation than the southern plains.
The park stretches over a wide range of landscapes from enchanting savanna grasslands, to riverine forests and mystical woodlands. In addition to the above Serengeti's size makes it connect with more than 5 conservation areas including Masai Mara National Reserve in the north, Ngorongoro Conservation Area in the southeast, Maswa Game Reserve to the southwest, and the Ikorongo and Grumeti Game Reserves in the west.
These two give an extreme advantage for Serengeti being endowed with a diverse range of wildlife, from predators, grazers, birds, vegetation and coveted scenery views. Serengeti is one of the few things where you can encounter the highly sought Africa big five in abundance with African buffalo herds of over 28,524 individuals, African bush elephant, leopard, lion and rhino.
Other notable carnivores that roam the plains include cheetah, striped and spotted hyena, African golden wolf, caracal, serval cats and honey badgers.
The park harbors several reptiles from Nile crocodile, African python, leopard tortoise, Nile monitor, serrated hinged terrapin,black-necked spitting cobra, rainbow agama, black mamba, and puff adder.
Over 450 bird species such as the Masai ostrich, Kori bustards, southern ground hornbill, secretarybird, crowned crane, helmeted guineafowls, and martial eagles. Red-billed buffalo, weaver, grey-breasted spurfowl, shoebills, sacred ibis, Tanzanian red-billed hornbill, and lesser flamingos can also be easily viewed on a Serengeti safari either on arranged natural walks or in a safari vehicle.
Serengeti rose to fame as an elite national park following the publication of the famous and widely viewed documentary and book "Serengeti Shall Not Die" by Bernhard Grzimek and his son Michael in 1959. Since then it hasn't dropped any bit from its position and one of the main reasons is attributed to the great migration.
The great wildebeest migration is recognized as the world's longest overland migration. The complete journey covered during the migration is about 800 kilometers and lasts over six(6) months. The southern part of the migration cuts across the Ngorongoro Conservation Area where more than half a million wildebeest calves are born in January before the migration starts in March.
By the beginning of March, at the start of the dry season, approximately 1.5 million wildebeest are joined by over 250,000 plain zebras, gazelles and eland come together and travel northbound to Masai Mara in Kenya. Throughout April to May, the ever-increasing herds transverses through the Western Corridor. The migrating herds have to cross the Mara and Grumeti Rivers to reach Masai Mara that is filled with countless crocodiles waiting for this easy feast.
For every wildebeest or zebra captured by the crocodiles, at least 50 of them succumb to drowning. In late October as the dry season draws to an end, herds embark on the return journey south into Serengeti. Over 200,000 wildebeests, 30,000 plains zebras, and other ungulates die annually from predation, exhaustion and thirst, plus drowning before the rest are finished by disease on this migration.
The Mara River, which snakes through the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenyan highlands to Lake Victoria, is the sole permanent flowing river in the Serengeti ecosystem.
Ideally, the park can be visited throughout the whole year and guests are assured of utmost satisfaction and unforgettable memories during their safari. However, guests are recommended to plan their trip to fall in the dry season – betweenJune and October. Guests who visit from June to July are rewarded with the best experience of wildebeest migration as it's at its peak in these months.
For predator enthusiasts, late January to February is advised, in order to spot these great beasts in action, when wildebeests are calving and predators eagerly waiting for unsuspecting prey.