Serengeti National Park, Wildebeest Migration & African Big Fives
Serengeti National Park is located in the Serengeti ecosystem in the Mara and Simiyu regions. The Park is Tanzania’s mostly visited national park and one of Africa’s most ideal destinations for wildlife safaris mostly famous for its annual migration of over 1.5 million white-bearded wildebeest, 250,000 zebras, half a million of gazelles and other antelopes which migrate from the Park to Kenya’s Maasai Mara national park.
Maasai Mara in Kenya is the northern extension of Serengeti and both Parks are attached to each other thus allowing the migration of Wildebeests which is best seen in April, May and June. The Park is also famous for its numerous Nile crocodiles and honey badgers.
The park covers 14,750 square kilometers (5,700 sq mi) of grassland plains, savanna, riverine forest, and woodlands and it lies in northwestern Tanzania bordered to the north by the Kenyan border where it is continuous with the Maasai Mara National Reserve/park.
To the southeast of the park is the popular Ngorongoro Conservation Area, to the southwest lies Maswa Game Reserve, to the west are the Ikorongo and Grumeti Game Reserves, and to the northeast and east lies the Loliondo Game Control Area. Together all these areas form the larger Serengeti ecosystem.
The park is divided into three regions which include;
Serengeti plains: it is almost treeless grassland in the south of the Park and it is the most emblematic scenery of the Park. This is also where the wildebeest breed as they remain in the plains from December to May before migrating to Maasai Mara.
Other hoofed animals in this region include; zebras, gazelles, impalas, hartebeests, topis, buffaloes, waterbucks which occur in huge numbers especially in the wet season.
“Kopjes” are granite florations that are very common in the region and they are great observation posts for predators as well as a refuge for hyrax and pythons.
Western corridor: the black clay soil covers the savannah of this region. It is a habitant of the Grumeti River and its gallery forests which is home to Nile crocodiles, Patas monkeys, hippopotamuses, and Martial eagles.
The annual migration of Wildebeests and other animals also passes in the western corridor via the Grumeti River from May to July.
Northern Serengeti: the landscape is dominated by open woodlands and hills ranging from Seronera in the south to the Mara River on the Kenyan border.
Apart from the migratory wildebeest and zebra (which occur from July to August, and in November), this is the best place to find elephants, giraffes, and dik dik.
The migratory -and some resident- wildebeests which number over 2 million individuals constitute the largest population of big mammals that still roam the planet.
They are joined in their journey through the Serengeti – Mara ecosystem by 250,000 plains zebra, half a million Thomson’s and Grant’s gazelles, and tens of thousands of topi and Coke’s hartebeest together with elands.
Masai giraffe, waterbuck, impala, warthog and hippo are also abundant. Some rarely seen species of antelope are also present in Serengeti National Park, such as common eland, klipspringer, roan antelope, bushbuck, lesser kudu, fringe-eared Oryx and dik dik
Perhaps the most popular animals among tourists who usually travel to Africa are the Africa’s Big Five which include African lions, African leopards, African bush elephants, Rhinos and Cape buffaloes which exist in larger quantities in the Park:
Lions: the Serengeti is believed to hold the largest population of lions in Africa due in part to the abundance of prey species. More than 3,000 lions live in this ecosystem.
African leopards: these reclusive predators are commonly seen in the Seronera region but are present throughout the national park with the population at around 1,000.
African bush elephants: the herds have recovered successfully from population lows in the 1980s caused by poaching numbering over 5,000 individuals, and are particularly numerous in the northern region of the park.
Eastern black rhinoceros: mainly found around the kopjes in the centre of the park, very few individuals remain due to rampant poaching.
Individuals from the Masai Mara Reserve cross the park border and enter Serengeti from the northern section at times. There’s currently a small but stable population of 31 individuals left in the park.
African buffalo: the most numerous of the Big Five, with around 53,000 individuals inside the park.
Other carnivores aside from the Big Five include the cheetahs which are widely seen due to the abundance of gazelles, about 4,000 spotted hyenas, two species of jackals, African golden wolves, honey badgers, striped hyenas, servals, seven species of mongooses, two species of otters and East African wild dogs.
Apart from the safari staples, primates such as yellow and olive baboons and vervet monkey, patas monkey, black-and-white Colobus are also seen in the gallery forests of the Grumeti River.
Other mammals include aardvarks, aardwolves, bat-eared foxes, ground pangolins, crested porcupines, three species of hyraxes and cape hares.
Serengeti National Park also boasts about 500 bird species including Masai ostriches, secretary birds, kori bustards, helmeted guineafowls, Southern Ground hornbills, crowned cranes, marabou storks, yellow-billed storks, lesser flamingos, martial eagles, lovebirds, ox-peckers, and many species of vultures.
The Park also inhabits various reptiles such as Nile crocodiles, tortoises, serrated hinged terrapin, rainbow agama, Nile monitor lizards, chameleons, African pythons, black mambas, black-necked spitting cobras, puff adders among others.
There are various accommodations established within and around the Park to offer shelter to its annual visitors such as; Alex Walker’s camps (Lamai camp, Kusini camp, Southern camp and North camp), Buffalo luxury camp, Serengeti Bush-tops camp, Serengeti Pioneer camp, Lemala Kuria hills lodge among others.