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Serengeti National Park

Serengeti National Park

Established in 1951, the Serengeti National Park has become one of the most famous national parks in the world due to its prolific game, and is now recognised as a World Heritage Site. Pictures of the park's vast, open grasslands have become synonymous with even the vaguest ideas of "Africa" and a remarkable portion of wildlife documentaries are shot here. Sheer animal amounts, biodiversity and easy access have made Tanzania's Serengeti a must-stop for any African traveller.

Views across the Serengti PlainsThe park first met the public eye after Bernhard and Michael Grzimek released the still significant "Serengeti Shall Not Die" conservation documentary film/book during the 1950s, and Tanzania's improving infrastructure has seen increasing levels of visitors and media attention since these early days. Fortunately, the park is enormous (the extended ecosystem within which it lies is around the 45000 km² mark, most of which falls in conservation territory) and the number of visitors makes little impression of overcrowding as they're inevitably spread out over the park's large territory. An exception to this, however, is when tourists are focused in specific areas during the annual Serengeti migration - but more on this later (we've figured out several ways to beat the crowds!).

One of the most important things that we try to communicate with people who get in touch with us for Tanzanian safaris addresses something that both the experienced and fresh traveller are sometimes wary of - places that receive as much marketing as the Serengeti has often don't live up to their resulting hype and in this case, there is nothing to worry about. The Serengeti delivers reliably and without compromise - it has an incredibly high predator density, millions upon millions of other animals dotted about the varied habitats it encompasses...and the unshakable aura of minuscularity  when you stand on those huge, huge plains is a memory you'll never, never lose.

Serengeti National Parks instruction board
The area over which the formal boundaries of the Serengeti lie is surprisingly varied - whilst the majority of the park, particularly the southern part, is covered in the wide savannahs of so much acclaim, to the north a series of hills has allowed for some woodland to take hold and the western regions demonstrate a broken mixture of acacia, riverine forest and interspersed grasslands. The result of this is an exceptionally good birding environment; to date there are about 540 species identified in the Serengeti, with a spattering of several endemic species for the discerning bird-watcher! We tailor-make specialist safaris for clients who wish to focus on the photography or birding element of African trips, and it's worth getting in touch with your questions - our experienced and knowledgeable team will get back quickly with recommendations. Something that birders might want to look at immediately is Lake Manyara - a great little park with huge bird diversity and tree-climbing lions. The Masai Mara is also well-known for avian variety, and is conveniently linked with the Serengeti. Those looking for the more unusual might want to look at the endemic species on Príncipe, or Nchila Reserve which gives easier access to some of the Congo's rare birds.

It is the southern plains that receive the majority of visiting attention, the nearby Arusha provides air-links and a road network, and a couple of large safari lodges accommodate the all-year flow of travellers. The area has exceptional big cat sightings, with several prides of lion a day not being an unusual occurrence, and a generous helping of leopard/cheetah encounters provide some variety to the mix. The large predator populations are supported by a multitude of wildebeest, zebra, impala, gazelle and smaller antelope that are drawn to the abundance of grassy foodstuffs in the area and it's absolutely guaranteed that there are few, if any, other places where you can see the amount of African wildlife that you can here. Elephant are not abundant (the environment doesn't provide the quantity of food that the big mammals need), although they can be found in the more wooded areas. Little permanent water means that animal movement is linked to weather and migrational patterns.

The northern section of the Serengeti is far wilder than its southern counterpart, and although the game viewing is not as good (not entirely true - the migration passes through this area during September and October), there's certainly something to be said for getting away from other people! Most of the elephants of Serengeti are found here, lion and other predators (including cheetah) are regularly seen and there are a few secret spots tucked away here and there that host a veritable host of wildlife if you're lucky enough to stumble upon them! Quite apart from this, the scenery is stunning and the location holds special interest for any veteran wanderer due to the isolated nature.

Shy Serengeti elephant

The western corridor is the section of the Serengeti that trails off towards Lake Victoria, and is home to the Grumeti and Mbalagati rivers - two of the three main water features in the park. This particular area is, at the moment, relatively undeveloped and is again, a good place to escape the main tourist flow found in the plain areas. Decent populations of lion, wildebeest, zebra, giraffe occupy the broken savannah, whilst the riparian forest clinging to the rivers harbours several other species not common to the rest of the park. Of significant interest in this area is the crossing of the Grumeti, part of the annual migration - where gigantic crocodiles await their yearly feast during June/July.

200 years ago the area was inhabited by the local Maasai people, although they were controversially relocated when the Serengeti was first formed by British colonialists. Remnants of their occupation still remain, the Meru Kopjies hide some well-preserved cave paintings and small archaeological findings, whilst many of the guides found in the park draw their wealth of knowledge from the inherited and earned bush experience that comes with their Masai backgrounds.

Serengeti scenes of the migration

The wildebeest migration that hits the southern Serengeti during December-March (typically; there's slight variation according to local conditions!) is an unmissable sight, where up to two million animals cross East Africa in search of food, water and birthing grounds. As one of the biggest mass migrations on the planet, and certainly one of the most dramatic, there is naturally great demand in booking accommodation...we typically use smaller, private camps that offer greater exclusivity and have the mobility to escape the big groups of tourists and follow the herds after the small fluctuations that inevitably occur during their long journey. If you'd like to read up more on the migration, we suggest you go to our dedicated Wildebeest Migration page that focuses on the event specifically.

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