This is Africa at its most epic. Lions? Over 3,000. More than any other park on earth. Over two million wildebeest, zebra and gazelle astonish visitors with their vast exodus parading the ancient cycles of nature. The rivers here are filled with crocodiles and hippos while overhead 500 species of birdlife take wing.
Chances are when you picture Africa, images of the great Serengeti are what come to mind – the immense sweep of grasslands, populated by the vast herds of elephant (5,000), hyena (4,000), plus jackal, wolf, wild dog, honey badger and seven species of mongoose.
On these infinite golden plains, you can spot all the “Big Five” including buffalo (53,000) and black rhino. And the Serengeti’s forests are home to several species of baboon and monkey.
The park is so singularly spectacular that it has been named one of the “Seven Natural Wonders of Africa” and one of the “Ten Natural Travel Wonders of the World”. It has also been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. But it is perhaps the name “Serengeti”, from the Maasai phrase “siringet” or “endless plains”, that best describes the feeling of awe as one takes in Tanzania’s oldest and most popular park.
The Regions of Serengeti
Though most imagine the plains as the Serengeti, this immense reserve is actually divided into three eco-regions.
1. The Serengeti plains:
These are the great treeless expanses of grassland in the south which most think of as typifying the park. Here the wildebeest breed from roughly December to May. You’ll find other hoofed animals here like zebra, gazelle, impala, hartebeest, buffalo and waterbuck.
2. Western Corridor:
This area is mostly known for the Grumeti River and its surrounding forests, where crocodiles, monkeys, hippos and eagles dwell.
3. The Northern Serengeti:
This area is primarily open woodlands and hills. Though not heavily visited, this region is a good environment to spot elephant and giraffe.
The vast Serengeti ecosystem is one of the planet’s oldest, its vegetation and wildlife are little different than they appeared a million years ago.
The area is a prehistoric cradle for mankind as well. Early man inhabited the nearby Olduvai Gorge about 2 million years ago. Signs of early tool making, and other artifacts have been found here.