The Serengeti is one of the largest wildlife shelters in the world. In the Maasai language is where the name was derived ,Serengeti means “endless plain,” a fitting name for this massive expanse of grasslands and forests. If you imagine the iconic image of safari—dry, tall grasses waving beneath a blazing bright sun as predators stalk unsuspecting prey—the backdrop you’re picturing is almost certainly the Serengeti.
The most famous features of the Serengeti ecosystem are the spectacular concentration of plains animals, found nowhere else in the world, and the annual wildebeest migration. The park itself covers an areas of 15,000 square kilometres and adjoins other reserves, such as the Ngorongoro conservation area to the South and the Masai Mara (in Kenya) to the North, making a huge total area in which the wildlife can continue its age old cycles of life and death protected and undisturbed.
The best known Serengeti established in 1951, also being largest national park in Tanzania where large population of wild animals can be found. The Serengeti is famed for its annual migrations of wildebeest, zebras, and gazelles. As these massive herds of herbivores search for new grazing ground, they are tracked and hunted by an impressive array of carnivorous predators such as lions, leopards, cheetahs, and hyenas. The region is also inhabited by buffalo, elephant, giraffe, hippo, antelope, ostrich, jackal, baboon, and dik-dik. Bird life in the Serengeti is also surprisingly abundant;The birds of the Serengeti are just as spectacular and varied as the animals- there are several types of eagles and vultures, Ostrich, Secretary Birds, Kori Bustards, Hornbills, Guinea Fowl as well as a host of smaller birds. There have been almost 500 species of birds recorded in the park, including several that migrate from Europe and Asia in the winter months.
Visitors must not expect to see every animal and bird on every visit. The area is vast, and the migratory and weather patterns mean that many of the animals are constantly on the move. What you will see on any given trip depends on the season, the weather, on the skill of your driver/ guide and most of all, on luck.
As the sign at the entrance states, this is truly “the world as it was in the beginning.”
It’s one of the most dramatic, made-for-nature-video moments in the animal kingdom: the sight of thousands upon thousands of wildebeest hurling themselves into a river, desperately trying to outrace the crocodile snapping at their hooves as they race to reach the other side.
But there’s more to the so-called “great migration” than the well-known river crossing. The migration is actually a continuous movement of some two million grazing animals—primarily wildebeest (which make up between 2/3 – 3/4 of the herds) and zebra—in an ongoing search for sources of food and water.
Though the exact timing of the migration changes year to year based on environmental factors, the herds constantly cycle from the southern Serengeti, where calves are born around the beginning of the year, up towards the northern borders of Tanzania and into Kenya around August and September, then back down towards the calving grounds over the last few months of the year. Overall, 85% or more of the cycle occurs in the Tanzanian Serengeti.
At different times of year, travelers can expect to see different unique and captivating moments in the migration, from wobbling calves trying (and often failing) to stay on their feet in the green season, to increasingly dense concentrations of animals—both predator and prey—converging on the few permanent water sources that remain through the dry season.
In a way, the migration is more than just a movement of animals; it’s a chance to watch the circle of life in action.