Serengeti National Park
Endless plains as far as the eye can see. Just grass and even more grass, a treeless flat piece of earth, which is home to about 3 million animals. The origin of the name of this large national park lies in the Maasai term “Siringet”, which translated means “endless plains”. In fact, this word describes very well the emotions you will experience when you descend from the Ngorongoro Highlands into the plain. The feeling of air and space is overwhelming – nothing but ‘infinite vastness‘.
The Serengeti is world famous for the Great Migration, where nearly 2 million wildebeest and zebra travel 1,000 kilometres, always in search of green pastures. During the migration the animals cross the most dangerous obstacle: the Mara River with its dangerous reptiles. The park is the best place in East Africa to observe lions and leopards in the wild, and it is home to the entire Big Five. In total the Serengeti is home to more than 9000 hyenas, almost 3000 lions and more than a thousand leopards and is an ideal place to watch predators hunting.
Facts and Figures
Area: 14,750 km²
Travel: 330 km from Arusha
Visitors: 350.000 / year
Known for: Great animal migration, UNESCO World Heritage Site, “Serengeti shall not die” (Movie 1959), Frankfurt Zoological Society
Activities: game drives, walking safari, balloon ride
Serengeti National Park:
The Serengeti is considered one of the best nature reserves in the world. In this UNESCO World Heritage Site, the unique environment has inspired and embraced writers, film-makers and numerous photographers and scientists. The Serengeti ecosystem is one of the oldest in the world. The main characteristics of climate, flora and fauna have hardly changed in the last million years. The Serengeti is known for animal migration. Every October and November, more than one million wildebeests and about 220,000 zebras travel south from the northern hills to the southern plains for the short tropical rains and then west and north after the long rains of April to June. The animals’ ancient instinct for movement is so strong that no rivers, canyons or crocodiles can hold them back. The wildebeest roam through a number of parks, reserves and protected areas and through a variety of habitats.
The 2,500 or so lions of the Serengeti, a population that far outnumbers that of the other national parks, feast on wildebeest and zebras, which can be seen here in large numbers. Lions are territorial, i.e. as soon as the wildebeest migration has started again towards the north, they have to stay behind and then feed on smaller antelopes and prey that do not migrate. – Cheetahs generally avoid confrontation with lions and hyenas, these pose a threat to themselves and their young. Cheetahs are most likely to be seen in this treeless Serengeti plain, where their lightning-fast attacks run down young antelopes and Thomson’s gazelles and then kill them with their deft throat bite.
Hyenas emerge from their burrows and flutter away in their wiggly walk. There is only one species of hyena in the Serengeti, and that is the spotted hyena. There are about 6500 of them in the Serengeti. In other parts of Africa, hyenas are mainly nocturnal, but in Serengeti they are quite often seen during the day. Mostly they are just about to wallow in mud holes or they are looking for shade in the ditch. They are the most efficient hunters of all predators. Their teeth are extremely strong. Although hyenas look quite ugly with their sloping back, they are very social animals. They live together in family clans dominated by females. They weigh about 70 kg, the males are about 10 kg lighter.
You will also see the fox-like jackals more often in Serengeti. There are three species: the black-backed jackal, the striped jackal and the golden jackal. The Striped Jackal has dark stripes on its flanks and is rarely seen. The Golden Jackal has a golden-red yellow coat and is usually found in the short grass savannah of the Serengeti. The most common species is the Black-backed Jackal. It is sometimes called the silverback jackal because its coat is shiny grey-silver and its black saddle on the back makes it stand out. They mainly eat carrion. Many visitors to the Serengeti have seen how they killed a Thomson gazelle. Jackals keep males and females together for a lifetime, which is not very common in mammals.
Towards Seronera there is a rather abrupt change of vegetation in the plain, the grass is higher here. This change is especially obvious at Naabi Gate: Here is the actual borderline between Serengeti’s southern short grass savannah and the long grass savannah further north. While driving in the Seronera area, acacia trees and bent Commiphora trees now dominate the red oatgrass savannah. This stock of trees runs in a curved line along the Seronera valley. Commiphora trees resemble wild apple trees. But the most striking feature is the protruding acacia tortilis. Along the Seronera Valley also grows the yellow bark acacia (Yellow Fever Tree) and the wild date palm.
The Great Migration
For at least two million years, wildebeest migration has connected the Serengeti ecosystem. Each year, with seasonal variations in time and size, the huge herds leave the short grassy plains of southern Serengeti in search of the grass and water they need to survive. During their annual pilgrimage they will devour approximately 4,000 tons of grass per day. About 250,000 animals are born. Follow this link for a dedicated article about the great animal migration.