Tanzania’s oldest and most popular national park is also a world heritage site and was recently proclaimed a 7th worldwide wonder. The Serengeti is famed for its annual migration when some six million hooves pound the open plains as more than 200,000 zebra join the wildebeest’s trek for fresh grazing. The herds travel throughout the calendar year clockwise through the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem. The peak viewing seasons are in the dry periods of January-March in the Southern Serengeti, when the herds gather to calve and the predators slink around looking for young prey and then again July-October in the north (and into the Masai Mara on the Kenyan side of the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem) when the herds brave the steep banks and watchful crocodiles as they cross the Mara and Talek rivers. Yet even when the migration is quiet, the Serengeti offers arguably the most scintillating game-viewing in Africa: great herds of buffalo, smaller groups of elephant and giraffe, and thousands upon thousands of eland, topi, kongoni, impala and Grant’s gazelle.
The spectacle of predator versus prey dominates Tanzania’s greatest park in any location at any time of year since the vast majority of species do not migrate. Golden-maned lion prides feast on the abundance of plain grazers. Solitary leopards haunt the acacia trees lining the Seronera River, while a high density of cheetahs prowls the southeastern plains. Almost uniquely, all three African jackal species occur here, alongside the spotted hyena and a host of more elusive small predators, ranging from the insectivorous aardwolf to the beautiful serval cat.
But there is more to Serengeti than large mammals. Gaudy agama lizards and rock hyraxes scuffle around the surfaces of the park’s isolated granite koppies. A full 100 varieties of dung beetle have been recorded, as have 500-plus bird species, ranging from the outsized ostrich and bizarre secretary bird of the open grassland, to the black eagles that soar effortlessly above the Lobo Hills.
As enduring as the game-viewing is the liberating sense of space that characterizes the Serengeti Plains, stretching across sunburnt savannah to a shimmering golden horizon at the end of the earth. Yet, after the rains, this golden expanse of grass is transformed into an endless green carpet flecked with wildflowers. And there are also wooded hills and towering termite mounds, rivers lined with fig trees and acacia woodland stained orange by dust.
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