At the heart of the Serengeti is Serengeti National Park, about 5,700 square miles of pristine wilderness in Tanzania. The park is surrounded by game reserves and conservation areas, including Ngorongoro to the east and Kenya’s Maasai Mara to the north.
Taken as a whole, the Serengeti is a vast ecosystem with a variety of terrain, from the short grass plains of the south to the moist woodlands of the north. Its western corridor comprises a savannah that stretches nearly to Lake Victoria. At the center of Serengeti National Park itself is the Seronera River Valley, superb for game-viewing all year and hence very popular with travelers.
Once a Hunting Ground
Before Serengeti National Park was established in 1951, it was a hunting ground for noted adventurers of the day, including Teddy Roosevelt and Ernest Hemingway, among many. Lions were a favorite target. As late as the 1980s, poachers were decimating the elephant populations of the Serengeti.
As Tanzania’s oldest and most popular national park, and also a World Heritage Site, the Serengeti today has become a much safer and secure Eden for wildlife, although potential threats loom on the horizon. A proposal for a major highway across the northern portion of the park has raised a cry from international conservation groups. At the moment these plans are on hold, but there’s also talk of building an international airport just to the west of the park boundary.
The Great Migration
What makes the Serengeti so important -- the jewel in the crown of Tanzania’s national park system -- is the Great Migration, the annual movement of ungulates and the animals that prey on them. This whirl of activity, based on an ancient calendar of sex, birth, life and death, takes in much of the Serengeti, with over a million wildebeest and some 200,000 zebras making their annual clockwise rotation through the region, their hooves thundering on the plains, raising storms of red dust. Nothing can stop them, not the hungry hyenas and big cats lying in wait, nor the crocodile-infested waters of rivers positioned to block their paths. Nature calls, and the animals answer, often much to their peril.
It is the migration and the ensuing spectacle of predator versus prey that have made the Serengeti famous for mobile tented camps that can move with these herds. Ranging from no frills to absolutely luxurious, these camps offer the best chance to see the wildebeest crossing the Grumeti and Mara Rivers, but permanent tented camps, exclusive lodges and larger, comfortable hotels are also in the offing for safari-goers. All offer commodious accommodations (usually with en suite bathrooms), appetizing cuisine and spectacular game drives at dawn and dusk.
With so many diverse lodges and terrains, and so many jaw-dropping animal encounters, you’ll wish you had more time in the Serengeti -- however many days you allow for your safari. Stride makes it easy to select the Serengeti adventure with the degree of expertise, comfort and daring you want, as you explore the most famous wildlife setting in Africa.
Once you’re on your way
- Take a camera, of course, but also pack good binoculars for rewarding views of the wildlife.
- Don’t forget your feathered friends. There are over 500 species of birds in the Serengeti, from the ostrich, secretary bird and marabou stork to the martial eagle and crowned crane.
- For an overview of Serengeti wildlife and a close-up look at the little hyrax, don’t miss the Serengeti Visitors Center. Student guides are there to help explain what you see.
- Be prepared to see and hear the King of Beasts. Recent estimates place the Serengeti, including the Masai Mara to the north, among the largest and last of the great lion strongholds, with some 3,700 lions in residence.