Amidst serene savannas, endless green grasslands, riverine forests and dense woodlands sits the majestic Serengeti, locally known by the indigenous Maasai as the “siringet” or ‘the place where land runs on forever’. With the most expansive and liberating landscapes embedded with an abundance of wildlife excitements, this national park draws people from across the world to witness its unmatched splendour.
Serengeti national park is a UNESCO world heritage centre, encompassing the Mara and Simiyu regions of Tanzania. It is renowned for its inhabitant Nile crocodiles and the honey badger, amongst its astonishingly diverse ecosystem. Apart from being home to a plethora of flora and fauna, an expansive range of predators and prey, this park is celebrated for the monumental migration of over 1.5 million wildebeest and 250,00 zebras, a spectacle that overwhelms the plains and leaves a mark on its spectators. Take a Tanzania Safari and brace yourself to embrace its magnificence.
The indigenous Maasai people inhabited these ‘endless plains’ for two centuries, grazing livestock on lush green grasslands. Frequent British and American invasion and deleterious game hunting by the colonists, dramatically impacted the lion population in the region. The British colonial administration thus laid foundation to a game reserve of 800 acres in 1921 which led to the inception of the Serengeti National Park in 1951. 1959 saw the eviction of the resident Maasai from the region, which marked an era of controversy and contention. Today, the Serengeti is the oldest national park in the country and is home to over 2500 lions, elephants, rhinoceros, hyena and tortoise and over a million wildebeest.
The eminence of the Serengeti is accredited to the spectacular annual migration of the wildebeest. These bovine creatures are accompanied by a raft of zebras, herds of Grant’s gazelle, Thomson’s gazelle, eland and impala on this ancient cyclic journey across the borders of Kenya and Tanzania. The journey is no short of an adventure amidst mating seasons, birthing cycles, surviving predation and crossing the tempestuous Nile. The migration begins in the monsoon months of October and the beasts traverse along with the clouds, across the Kenya-Tanzania border to return back to home grounds in September. Each journey is an experience of finding mates, creating offsprings, protection from the African lions, crossing crocodile infested waters and grazing for new pastures. The cycle rejuvenates once again, with the onset of the monsoon. To witness an event of such grandeur is a boon few are blessed with. The great atrocities these creatures undergo, escaping the jaws of the Nile crocodile and the paws of the African Lion is itself an inspiring anecdote.
Flora and Fauna
To applaud the Serengeti only for the great migration would be to do the Serengeti National Park a grave injustice. Even after taking the Great Migration out of the equation, it can be argued that the Serengeti is still the finest park in Africa. Vast rolling grasslands give a soul-stirring feeling of space. To watch prides of lions lazing in the afternoon sun, herds of zebras and wildebeest raging through the earth, surreptitious pythons coiling around willow, African leopards and Tanzanian cheetahs stalking game, waiting to pounce, all in a single frame is humbling to the heart and surely does put us in our place. The ecosystem paints an aesthetic picture so accurate to the vision of an Africa we grew up imagining, that it instills nostalgia and credence of belonging. Out beyond the mechanical chaos of the machines and the commotion of our urban lives, these pristine lands engender a sense of calm and restoration. Do not be amazed if you feel a tap on your shoulder reminding you how immaculate our planet once was, and the road we are heading on.
To not take a Tanzania Safari after visiting the African land is a cardinal sin of the highest degree. The Serengeti’s pleasant climate and abundance of resident wildlife ensures that it is an excellent year-round game viewing destination, but it is of course the great wildebeest migration that attracts the most attention. Between November and August the herds are on the move in the Serengeti, providing visitors with some of the continent’s most astonishing game sightings and predator-prey interactions – guided game drives and hot-air balloon safaris enable you to witness this phenomenon first hand. For the more urbane, the bucolic safari can be accompanied by camping tents, mobile homes to honeymoon retreats, all extending the warmth and comfort in a home (to a diverse ecosystem) away from home. Only when one truly indulges into the wild, will he/she realise that beyond the raging wildebeest and the ravenous lions, beyond infinite grasslands and predating cats, there is a sense of simplicity that is the essence of all life. This brings a feeling of refresh and vigour that is such a rarity and necessity in the cosmopolitan life.
What better view to this adventure of life than a bird’s eye perspective? Yes, hot air balloon safaris engage tourists to spectate upon the mass migration, game hunting, river crossing and the living food chain in motion. With breathtaking views of greens running off to the horizon, of setting crimson suns and orange mirroring rivers, the balloon safari is a setting straight out of the heavens and one that will leave us craving for more.
When to Go
The profusion of wildlife ensures that safaris are a year round attraction. On the other hand, to view the wildebeest migration, you will need some prior planning. If you get your timing wrong, you will end up gazing out over a wildebeest-less savannah and wondering where all the animals went. You need to work out where to go and when.
January sees the onset of the calving season, with the herds moving south and often out of the confines of the national park. You’re likely to find the herds in the southern Serengeti plains till April. In May, the unfathomable density of animals that are spread across a stretch of around 40 kilometres, thunder into the central and western Serengeti. June and July showcases the best of the migration and is the perfect time to embark upon your Safari in Tanzania. Catch the river crossings of the herds, with the predators at close quarters and the crocodiles lurking in the waters. Apart from wildlife concentrations that are sure to override your senses, you get to closely watch animal behaviour, observe their instincts and catch some hot predator action. Later months find the herds breaking down into smaller groups in the north Serengeti. The survivors of the migration relish their feast of fresh pastures in the north. The short rains began during the months of November and December and bring out a beautiful lush green shade across the Serengeti. Then, the calving phase begins all over again and the cycle repeats every year, to astound its awaiting onlookers.
A visit to the Serengeti is truly life altering. From its vastness, its wildlife densities to its rich diversity, the national park hosts a breathtaking panorama of adrenaline pumping excitements.
Some activities that have been ageless hot favorites of the Serengeti are bird watching, cultural tours, game drives, local village visits, picnics, a full day safari in Tanzania and hot air ballooning.
Hop on a Tanzania Safari and soak in every dimension that the Serengeti has to offer. Drive into this hot bed of wildlife activity and embrace true beauty in its most organic and authentic form.