The Quintessential African Experience in a Sea of Golden Grass
There is so much more to the Serengeti than the Great Migration. These endless plains, contain valleys, hills and woodland as well as the open plains that seem to stretch out forever. Every time of year offering something different, something special. However, the Great Migration seems to be the only thing on the itinerary. The Serengeti is more than this single spectacular event and I urge you to take time to explore as much as you can in the Serengeti. This is important in Africa, to slow down and spend some time exploring; you will be well rewarded.
The Tanzanian Parks authority claim that over six million hooves thunder across the plains during the great migration. This, sadly, is the world’s last surviving migration on such a grand scale. This is understandably why it dominates every Serengeti Safari.
Do not despair if the time of year you visit falls outside the great migration or if the migration and the rains that trigger it off fail. If you sit at the Grumeti River and not a single wildebeest attempts to cross do not feel disappointed. The Serengeti has so very much more to offer – you will never be disappointed.
The Serengeti is Tanzania’s oldest park and offers arguably the best game viewing in the whole of Africa. The park has great heads of buffalo, small heard of elephant, giraffe, eland, topi, impala, grants gazelle, with leopards in the acacia lining the Seronera Valley, lion prides abound especially in the Lobo hills in the north and there is a high density of cheetah’s in the south east Serengeti. There are three types of African Sachal, spotted hyena and a myriad of small predators such as the aard-wolf and the beautiful serval cat.
There are also reptiles, amazing insects including over one-hundred species of dung beetle and over five hundred bird species; from the great and ungainly ostrich to the majestic black eagle hovering over the Lobo Hills in the remote north.
The plains are scorched a rich golden color yet after the rains the Serengeti is green carpet with wild flowers everywhere. The flat pains are broken in places with deep valleys, wooded hills and rivers lined with fig trees and the flat topped acacia.
The vastness of this park translates into 5,700 square miles - figures vary as to the exact size - this however is the official size according to the Tanzania Government. The park stretches north to Kenya and west to the huge Lake Victoria.
To get to the Serengeti you can dive from Arusha passing Lake Manyara and driving across Ngorongoro Conservation Area and into the Serengeti. You are also able to fly by light aircraft into the Serengeti although these flights are expensive.
Finally I would urge you to resist the temptation to try and see as much as possible in a short a time as possible. You will end up with safari fatigue and hating your safari experience. For Africa is an experience and best done at a slow pace. To see and experience more you must slow down. Africa is an event and to rush from place to place you will simply miss Africa, all you will have to show after your safari will be some nice photographs and maybe a tee-shirt stating ‘hakuna matata’
Enjoy your safari and experience Africa you will, no doubt, return to this amazing continent and to this wonderful country – Tanzania.
If you have been lucky enough to see nearly two million animals thundering across the plains of the Serengeti then Africa will have touched your very soul. The vast numbers in these wide open plains and woodlands coupled with the fact this is the world’s last surviving great migration; is a deeply moving sight.
During their migration the wildebeest are the basic food for many predators and there is little chance a wildebeest is dying of old age. There is an estimated 3,000 lions and 7,000 hyenas with many other predators profiting as much as they can; from the wildebeest meat avalanche that thunders through the Serengeti.
Be warned though; the migration is not a constant phenomenon and timing a visit to coincide with the surges of activity that climax with the crossing of the Grumeti River is not so easy. A more reliable and equally impressive time to visit is during the calving season in February - this being a favorable time of year for the lion of the south Serengeti.
The wildebeest and zebra’s migrate between the Serengeti and the Masai Mara, constantly driven by their search for fresh grazing. The timing of the annual wildebeest migration depends on the rains. The rains are notoriously unpredictable as the migration is spontaneous. The wildebeest migration starts to head towards the Western Serengeti in May or June.
There is much to see and experience in the Serengeti with each month having its special events. Whilst the great migration is indeed spectacular it is by no means all there is to see here. So welcome [in Swahili Karibu] to the Serengeti and enjoy everything it has to offer.
The Ngorongoro Craters [an ancient collapsed volcano] is home to more than 50,000 animals in a relatively small area. There are approximately 60 Lions here and there is a good chance of seeing lions when you visit here on safari. The Serengeti National park which lies directly next to Ngorongoro is 5,100 square miles – with 250 lions presently being studied in about 20 prides. Lions keep to their own territories; however, a territory can cover 300 square miles.
A good driver/guide will know where these lion territories lay, with the prides being typically found at waterhole's, rivers and kopjes – although the lion’s can go days without visiting their favorite hot spots.
If hyenas are feeding the calls they make as they feed is like a dinner bell to the lions.
Female lions have up to four cubs and typically there are two or three cubs in a litter. Each cub is born with distinctive pattern of whiskers and spots on the face, this pattern never changes and is comparable to a finger print in a human. Park rangers and research teams use these distinctive makings to identify individual lions.
The Female’s within a pride have a marked lack of hierarchy – they live together without conflict. The females hunt together and typically going for wildebeest and zebra sized game; the males hunting the larger game such as giraffe.
There can be from a single male up to seven males in a pride. The male lions have a hierarchy; with a male lion will on average remain with a pride for two years. When an outsider arrives into a pride and successfully challenges a male – this male leaves and as a rule never returns.
Lions are the only cats that have social groups and that have manes. Recent research in the Serengeti seems to indicate that the lion’s mane is an indication of maturity, health, aggression and reproductive success. The females also being attracted to the longer darker manes. Also males with shorter lighter manes will more readily be challenged by other males.
The East African lions have dark manes apposed to the lighted manes in Southern Africa.
Females defend their territory every few days but the males less often; as there are few nomadic males in the Serengeti. In the wet season with the arrival of the great migration the male lions may have to defend territory more often against the nomadic males; as these males tend to follow the migration.
The lion is a highlight of any safari and the Serengeti is a wonderful place to observe these majestic animals. The Serengeti should be visited for at least five days. Most visitors visit the central Serengeti as this has the highest concentration of Animals however if you have time it advisable to visit the south or the north of this vast National Park to appreciate its beauty.
All Rights Reserved Bethel Adventure 2006