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Serengeti National Park

The Serengeti National Park is a huge park that covers 14,750 square kilometres of the Serengeti Plains. It is by far the most popular game reserve and national park in Tanzania and receives thousands of tourists per year, all eager to immerse themselves in a wildlife safari. The majority of the park  is covered with grassland, woodlands, riverine forests and savanna.

Serengeti is derived from the word ‘Seringit,’ from the Maasai language and translates to ‘Endless Plains.’   These plains are home to 300 species of animals, amongst which, 80 are large mammals, including Giraffe, Hartebeest, Eland, Grant’s Gazelle, Impala, and Zebras.

Contrary to popular belief, the wildebeest migration isn’t the only attraction in Serengeti National Park, although it is the most famous! The Serengeti also has indigenous crocodile in its rivers, honey badgers, a healthy predator population, great birding, magnificent views of the plains and valleys and an extremely rich culture. 

The history of the Serengeti National Park

Originally the Maasai people inhabited the land that currently comes under Serengeti National Park.  After the British evicted the Maasai from the land, they oversaw the region. Today, the park is under the authority of Tanzania National Parks Authority. 

  • 1892: Oscar Baumann is  the first European explorer to visit Serengeti.
  • 1890: Serengeti faced ‘Rinderpest Epidemic’ and drought during 1890, which wiped out a majority of the animal population along with a lot of Maasai people.
  • 1913: As the Serengeti was recovering from these losses, Stewart Edward White, the first American Explorer to the region, came across the Serengeti. He described the Serengeti as the ‘haunt of swarms of the game.’ During their stay in Serengeti, Stewart and his companions hunted and shot 50 lions.
  • 1921: Due to big game hunting the population of lions declined, which led the British administration’s decision to establish a partial game reserve of 3.24 square kilometres. 
  • 1929: Serengeti’s Reserve status changed from a partial to a full game reserve.
  • 1950: The reserve gained popularity when Bernhard  and Michael Grzimek, a father-son duo, produced the documentary Serengeti Shall Not Die.
  • 1951:  The Serengeti Game Reserve was converted to National Park status and the British colonial administration gradually expanded the park to its current size  of 14,763 square kilometres. 
  • 1959: Up to 1959, Maasai people lived on the land and shared it with the wildlife. However, they were evicted from the area so that the British administration could secure it for wild animals. The British displaced them to the  Ngorongoro Conservation Area, which encompassed desolate lands and arid plains. 
  • 1981: Serengeti National Park makes the World Heritage List. 
  • 1991: Although the debate of whether the population of wild dogs became extinct or went missing still exists, there are currently no wild dogs in Serengeti National Park.
  • 1994: The Canine Distemper Epidemic leads to the death of almost one-third of the lion population.

Wildlife In Serengeti National Park

The annual Serengeti wildebeest migration has made Serengeti one of the most iconic safari destinations on the planet. Every year, more than 1 million wildebeest, thousands of zebras and gazelle start a journey from Serengeti plains towards Masai Mara. Their journey for fresh grazings and water is full of danger from the predators that follow these herds. 

The notorious Big Five – African elephant, African lion, leopard, buffalo, and rhino  – are at home in the Serengeti National Park.  Serengeti’s large lion population increases the probability of sighting a lion mid hunt. Lucky safari goers  may  see leopards resting on large tree branches during the heat of the day. Spotting elephants is less strenuous  as they can be seen regularly down by the waterholes, along with buffalo and rhino

Serengeti is home to several species of primates, including yellow/olive baboons, black and white colobus and vervet monkey.  Spotted hyenas, cheetah, African golden wolf and aardwolf (aardwolf are unique in that they are insectivorous)  are some of the other predatory species that can be seen in the Serengeti wilds. Nile crocodiles, Nile monitor chameleons, African python and black mamba are some of the infamous reptiles found only in a select few parks in Africa, such as Serengeti National Park.

Serengeti is also a bird watcher’s paradise, with over 500 bird species recorded. secretary birds, helmeted guinea fowls, crowned cranes, yellow-billed stork, southern ground hornbill, grey-breasted spurfowl, are some of the unique birds found in Serengeti national park. 

Camps In Serengeti National Park

  • Alex Walker’s Serian Serengeti Camps: Lion, leopard and cheetah sightings.  An ideal camp to witness the wildebeest migration at the Mara River. 
  • Grumeti River Camp: Frequent animal sightings at the river and the sight of wildebeest migration towards north from May to July. 
  • Klien’s Camp: Originally a hunting camp, now Kliens is known for its gorgeous views and the sight of migrating herds during the great migration and large lion prides.
  • Lamai Serengeti Camp: Has a clear view of the wildebeest migration from July to October, with its proximity to Mara river, travellers can witness river crossings as well.
  • Nomad Serengeti Safari Camp: Camp’s location changes as it follows the wildebeest migration around the park and is ideal for experiencing bush living.
  • Serengeti Under Canvas: It has more than two bush camps, on the move. They follow the wildebeest migration. 

When To Visit Serengeti National Park

Serengeti is among the top year-round tourist destinations in Africa. The best time to visit Serengeti national park depends on the purpose of visit. An ideal time to witness the wildebeest migrations at the Grumeti River is from June to July; the wildebeest crossing on the Mara River can be viewed in September, while January and February are the best months to watch wildebeest calving on the southern plains.

November to April is the ideal time for bird enthusiasts to visit the park. During this period, several migratory birds are present in the park and it also coincides with the nesting period. Top tip – the male’s breeding plumage makes it easier to spot birds. 

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