THE SERENGETI NATIONAL PARK
THE WORLD’S GREAT ANIMAL MIGRATION
The Serengeti is a vast open plain in a complex stretch away as far as the eye can see and throb with life in an endless annual rhythm made constant by a migrating herd of 1.5-2 million wildebeests and the best-known population of lions and hyenas on the frontline to be found on earth. The Serengeti is situated in the North of Tanzania at 255km from Arusha. It achieved its legendary status from its inauguration when professor Bernard Grzimek wrote the book THE SERENGETI SHALL NEVER DIE, the story of the quest to have it declared a national park, an aim achieved in 1951.
The park covers approx. 14763 sq. km (5700sq. miles). The full Serengeti ecosystem is far larger, covering the Maasai Mara in Kenya and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area totaling a massive 25000 sq. km (9,650 sq. miles) and this permits animals to wonder freely throughout the ecosystem. A third of the park is made up of the flat grassy plains which gave the park its name -SIRINGIT, a Maasai word for “the place where the land runs forever”. However, it is these plains and their role in the annual migration of some 2million animals which have made the area so special.
About 3-4 million years ago, a thick rain of ash from the Ngorongoro massive eruptions, settled over the plains creating a hard pan. It’s too tough to be broken by tree roots, leaving the landscape for the shallow rooted grasses, packed with nutritious minerals which act as a magnet to grazers such as wildebeests, zebras, Grant’s and Thomson’s gazelles.
- The Seronera valley where the plains meet the woodlands.
- Meet the greatest animal movement on the planet.
NB -The Serengeti is an enormous park which needs at least two nights if you want to enjoy this amazing wildlife sanctuary. It’s common that some visitors will only spend a night in the Serengeti due to a tight schedule, budget or lack of proper information and this ends up being quite hectic.
The Seronera Valley
At the Centre of the park, the Seronera River Valley is one of the richest wildlife habitats in the region, not only providing a valuable water source, but also marking the boundary between the grassy plains and wooded hills in the North, attracting animals and birds belonging to both environments. In addition to the plains animals, the woodlands are favored by buffalo, dik-dik, giraffe, elands, elephants and bushbuck. Waterbuck and reedbuck hang out along the river banks, overlooked by leopards who love to laze away the heat of the day in the shady sausage trees. The river provides a home for hippos and crocodiles, while many of the park’s estimated 500 species of birds can be found in the area.
The Great Migration
Imagine a column of wildebeest 40 km (24 miles) long patiently in move across the plain for hours. Now multiply that until you have about 1.5 million wildebeests, throw in some 500,000 zebras, another 300,000 Thomson’s gazelles, and about 30,000 grant’s gazelles, all on the move in the search for fresh new grass.
Imagine it taking over two weeks for the column of animals to pass a single spot and visualize them all bunching together into protective herds in the evenings or scrambling across each other’s backs in their panic to cross the river and stay clear of the snapping jaws of the crocodiles. Imagine the hyenas and lion’s roaring and crackling as they sprawl the outskirts of the herds looking for weakened animals. Now you may just begin to have an idea of the awesome spectacle that is the Serengeti migration.
The Serengeti migration is actually a year-round phenomenon, a broad slow clockwise route march that covers 6000 km (3,740 miles). The cycle begins in May when the grass on the Southern plains is exhausted and the herds begin to move slowly Northwards through the Western corridor. The mass reaches the Maasai Mara by late June, remaining there until September when they return South through the Lobo area following the scent in the air of the short rains. They reach the Southern plains by late November, remaining there to feed on the nutrients-rich grass during the breeding season.