Serengeti Budget Travel


The Serengeti National Park is Tanzania's largest and most famous park. Established in 1951, it gets its name from the Masaai word Siringet meaning 'Endless Plain'. Covering over 14 000 km² of grassland plains and savannah, it's not hard to see why.

Serengeti is loved for its sweeping plains, abundant wildlife and the breathtaking annual Great Migration.

Location, Location

Situated in north-west Tanzania, the Serengeti joins the Masaai Mara Game Reserve at its northern border with Kenya. This unfenced border ensures that the Great Migration continues unhindered each year. The park covers a huge area and offers a number of different biomes.

The Plains

The southern part of Serengeti is made up of vast savannah plains which provide grazing for the millions of animals during the rainy season (December to May). This time on the plains is spent 'fattening up' - both from a herbivore and predator point-of-view.

With ample grass to graze on, the herbivores eat their fill and, in turn, provide a feast of prey for hungry predators.

As the dry season begins, the waterholes dry up and the grass dies back. Thus begins the Great Migration.

Kopjes

Scattered amongst the grasslands are kopjes, or little rocky hills. Made of granite, they are weathered into interesting shapes with rounded boulders. The kopjes provide a habitat for a wide range of plants and animals like the Hyrax (dassie) and small, pretty buck like the Klipspringer.

Woodlands

Three different types of woodlands occur in the Serengeti. In the north, where the annual rainfall is plentiful, huge Combretum and Terminalia trees create beautiful, ancient woodlands.

In the central and western parts of the park, almost forty different Acacia species - a tree shape that is synonymous with Africa - are found.

In the drier, eastern part of the park the Acacias share their space with Commiphora trees.

Riverine Forest

Along the rivers lies riverine forest. While most rivers dry up during the dry season, the water table still remains high along the river beds.

These forests provide a shady haven for birds, insects, frogs and crocodiles. The two main rivers that run through the park - the Mara and Grumeti - are known for their enormous crocodiles.

Wildlife

The Serengeti teems with animals: wildebeest, Thomson's gazelle, zebra, giraffe, eland, topi, kongoni, impala and other antelope. It is also home to lion, leopard, cheetah and hyena.

This is game-watching country of the highest degree.

The Big Five

While a hundred years' ago, the Big Five were the most sought after animals to hunt, these days they're the most sought after to see and shoot with cameras, not guns.

The Serengeti offers its visitors the opportunity to see these incredible creatures, with healthy populations of all five - lions, leopards, rhinos, Cape Buffalo and elephant. 

The Little Five

Often forgotten in the excitement of seeing Africa's larger animals, Serengeti also offers an incredible array of smaller, fascinating creatures such as the Serengeti's 'Little Five'.

These are sometimes harder to spot, but no less awe-inducing, with similiar names to their bigger colleagues: ant lion, leopard tortoise, rhino beetle, buffalo weaver and elephant shrew.

The Herbivores

The plains of the Serengeti provide home to millions of herd animals including over sixteen species of antelope, elephant, zebra, giraffe, rhino, hippo and aardvark.

The over a million wildebeest that form the main show in the breathtaking annual Great Migration are usually preceded by over a million zebra, and followed by almost half a million gazelles. It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Predators

With such a healthy and abundant population of 'prey', a vast number of predators also call the Serengeti home. From tiny insects like the Praying Mantis all the way through smaller cats like the Serval and Caracal to leopards, cheetah and the mighty lion, they're all here.

Let's not forget the dogs, either. Serengeti is home to the endangered Wild Dogs, jackals, foxes and the ever-so-ugly hyena!

Twittering Friends

With over 540 species of bird, Serengeti is a birdwatcher's paradise. Tiny sunbirds, tall and lanky ostriches, less-than-pretty vultures and graceful, soaring birds of prey are but a tiny sample of what's to see here.

Slitherers and Other Reptiles

Not only is the Serengeti known for its monstrous crocodiles (in excess of 5 metres long), there are also a large variety of lizards, frogs, tortoises and snakes.

The Great Migration

Certainly the biggest attraction to the Serengeti is the annual Great Migration. The spectacle of hundreds of thousands of animals kicking up the dust as they move across the endless plains and crossing crocodile-infested rivers is breath-taking.

The Great Migration actually occurs all year as the animals follow the rains in a circular pattern. The most dramatic part of it - between July and September - is when the animals cross the river.

A natural phenomenon like no other, the Great Migration begins in the Serengeti National Park and heads over the Kenyan border. The herbivores of the Serengeti migrate across the southern plains, closely followed by the predators including large prides of lion.

When and Where?

The wildebeest follow a set circular route each year, which they have been doing, well, forever, followed by many of the other species and, of course, the predators. It is impossible to give exact dates and times as, each year, these differ according to rainfall that year.

In general, the animals spend from December to May on the lush plains of the south-east Serengeti, grazing, fattening up, and having their babies in February. In late may/early June, the rains on the plains stop and the animals head north-west to the area around the Grumeti River and from there (July/August) to the Masaai Mara in Kenya.

It is this migration route that provides much drama, as the animals have to cross both the Grumeti and Mara Rivers, where crocodile lie in wait. The animals then remain in Kenya until the short rains start in November, when they make their way back down south.


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