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Serengeti National Park

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.

In May or early June, huge herds of wildebeest and zebra begin their spectacular 600 mile pilgrimage. In their wake follow the predators – lion, leopard, cheetah, hyena and jackal – while vultures circle overhead and some of Africa’s biggest crocodile lie in wait.

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 or kongoni, impala, kudu, reedbuck, roan, topi, waterbuck and the much smaller dik dik, duiker, klipspringer and oribi.

There is, of course, also a profusion of birdlife. Over 500 species including bustards, cranes, eagles, herons, owls, storks, vultures and the bizarre, long-legged secretary birds.

Getting there: A six hour drive, or one hour flight, from Arusha.

 

 

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.

 

As enduring as the game-viewing is the liberating sense of space that characterises the Serengeti Plains, stretching across sunburnt savannah to a shimmering golden horizon at the end of the earth. Yet, after the rains, this golden expanse of grass is transformed into an endless green carpet flecked with wildflowers. And there are also wooded hills and towering termite mounds, rivers lined with fig trees and acacia woodland stained orange by dust.

 

Popular the Serengeti might be, but it remains so vast that you may be the only human audience when a pride of lions masterminds a siege, focused unswervingly on its next meal.

 

 

About Serengeti

Size: 14,763 sq km (5,700 sq miles).

Location: 335km (208 miles) from Arusha, stretching north to Kenya and bordering Lake Victoria to the west.

 

Getting there

Scheduled and charter flights from Arusha, Lake Manyara and Mwanza.

Drive from Arusha, Lake Manyara, Tarangire or Ngorongoro Crater.

 

What to do

Hot air balloon safaris, walking safari, picnicking, game drives, bush lunch/dinner can be arranged with hotels/tour operators.  Maasai rock paintings and musical rocks.

 

Visit neighbouring Ngorongoro Crater, Olduvai Gorge, Ol Doinyo Lengai volcano and Lake Natron’s flamingos.

 

When to go

To follow the wildebeest migration, December-July. To see predators, June-October.

 

Accommodation

Four lodges, six luxury tented camps and camp sites scattered through the park; one new lodge will be opened next season (Bilila Lodge); one luxury camp, a lodge and two tented camps just outside.

 

NOTE

The route and timing of the wildebeest migration is unpredictable. Allow at least three days to be assured of seeing them on your visit – longer if you want to see the main predators as well.