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Serengeti National Park

The Serengeti National Park is a huge park covering 14,750 square kilometres of Tanzania’s Serengeti Plains. It is by far the most popular national park in Tanzania and receives thousands of tourists per year, all eager to immerse themselves in a remarkable Serengeti 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.’  The plains are home to 300 different species of animals, of which 80 are large mammals including giraffe, hartebeest, eland, Grant’s gazelle, impala and zebras.

The annual wildebeest migration is just one of the highlights of 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.

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 many 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 it as thehaunt 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 1,959 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 becomes part of the UNESCO World Heritage List. 
  • 1991: Although the debate of whether the population of wild dogs became extinct or went missing still exists and 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 of the Serengeti National Park

The annual Serengeti wildebeest migration has made Serengeti National Park one of the most renowned safari destinations on the planet. Every year more than 1 million wildebeest, thousands of zebras and gazelle start a journey from the Serengeti Plains towards Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve. Their journey for fresh grazing and water is full of danger from the predators that follow these herds. 

The Serengeti National Park is home to the big five as well as a large lion population, which 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 while spotting elephants is less strenuous  s they can be seen regularly down by the waterholes, along with buffalo and rhino.

The 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. Nile crocodiles, monitor chameleons, African python and black mamba are some of the 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 including secretary birds, helmeted guinea fowls, crowned cranes, yellow-billed stork, southern ground hornbill, grey-breasted spurfowl. 

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 as well as the wildebeest migration towards north from May to July. 
  • Klien’s Camp: Originally a hunting camp, Kliens is now known for its gorgeous views, the sight of migrating herds and large lion prides.
  • Lamai Serengeti Camp: With clear views of the wildebeest migration from July to October, its proximity to Mara river enables visitors to witness river crossings.
  • Nomad Serengeti Safari Camp: The camp location changes as it follows the wildebeest migration around the park and is an ideal bush experience.
  • Serengeti Under Canvas: With more than two bush camps which follow the wildebeest migration. 

When to Visit Serengeti National Park

Serengeti is one of the top year-round wildlife destinations in East Africa. The best time to visit Serengeti National Park depends on the what you want to see. An ideal time to witness the wildebeest migrations at the Grumeti River is from June to July; the wildebeest crossing of 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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