Tanzania's oldest and most popular national park, also a world heritage site and recently proclaimed a 7th world wide wonder, the Serengeti is famed for its annual migration, when some six million hooves pound the open plains, as more than 200,000 zebra and 300,000 Thomson's gazelle join the wildebeest’s trek for fresh grazing. 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. 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.
Popular the Serengeti might be, but it remains so vast that you may be the only human audience when a pride of lions masterminds a siege, focussed unswervingly on its next meal.
Size: 14,763 sq km (5,700 sq miles). Location: 335km (208 miles) from Arusha, stretching north to Kenya and bordering Lake Victoria to the west.
Hot air balloon safaris, walking safari, picnicking, game drives, bush lunch/dinner can be arranged with hotels/tour operators. Maasai rock paintings and musical rocks.Visit neighbouring Ngorongoro Crater, Olduvai Gorge, Ol Doinyo Lengai volcano and Lake Natron's flamingos.
The route and timing of the wildebeest migration is unpredictable. Allow at least three days to be assured of seeing them on your visit longer if you want to see the main predators as well.
The Great Wildebeest Migration in the Serengeti is the largest single movement of wild animals in the world, deservedly listed as one of its eight Natural Wonders and an exceptional inspiration for a dream nature tour of northern Tanzania with African Mecca. Around 1.5 million wildebeests, with hundreds of thousands of zebras, elands, gazelles along with a trailing retinue of predators, leave their calving grounds in southern Serengeti, around March and April, heading for the next water source. Trekking via the south-central Seronera outskirts into the Western Corridor and Grumeti River arriving during the month of April to May and residing till June, and then finally towards the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya crossing the perilous Mara River around July or August onwards with a return via the same death-defying river, this time heading to the bearing of Lobo and Loliondo in eastern Serengeti around October to November. The white bearded wildebeest journey continues back to the southern Ndutu calving grounds with arrivals starting around December with temporary residence till March.
The dates timing of the migration depends upon the annual rains and renewal of fresh pasture which may seasonally occur earlier or later in some years. Their epic journey is one of violence and endurance as they battle onwards, past granite kopjes where cheetah or lion lie in ambush, through flood-swollen and crocodile infested rivers, over parched plains scorched by wildfires, to sanctuary in the north. Then, homing in on distant rains, they circle back again, daring greater hazards by the same water, by exhaustion and by predators, shedding a quarter of their numbers by the wayside. To appreciate the enormity of this phenomenon, you must take part, tracking and observing from 4x4 game-viewing vehicles, filming from the ground or in the air in a hot air balloon to zoom in on the action as if the unending grasslands were your theatre with your own cast of millions acting out their ancient ritual for you alone.