The Lure Of Serengeti
The Tanzanian Serengeti National Park located in northwestern Tanzania in the Mara and Simiyu regions is famed for its migration of millions of white-bearded wildebeest, magnificent scenery and an abundance of wildlife. The Maasai people have been grazing livestock in the eastern Mara Region for 200 years, dubbing it Serengeti as derived from the Maasai word siringet meaning ‘extended place’.
Austrian explorer, Oscar Baumann was first to visit in 1892, but when the first American explorer, Stewart Edward White visited Serengeti in 1913, he returned years later to camp in the area for three months to shoot 50 lions with his companions. This resulted in the British making a partial game reserve of 800 acres in 1921 and a full one in 1929, forming the basis of Serengeti, established in 1951. On the basis of preserving wildlife, the British also relocated the Maasai people to Ngorongoro Conservation Area in 1959.
Serengeti is Tanzania’s oldest national park covering 14,750 square kilometres of grassland plains, riverine forest and woodlands. In the park, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and Maswa Game Reserve is located in the southeast whilst Ikorongo and Grumeti Game Reserves sit on the west and Loliondo Game Control Area covers the northeast. Together, these form Serengeti’s ecosystem.
There are three regions in Serengeti which are Serengeti plains encompassing grassland in the south where wildebeests breed and remain from December to May, the Western corridor featuring black clay soil on the savannah and northern Serengeti with landscape covering woodlands and hills. The Serengeti plains bear hoofed animals like zebras, impalas, hartebeests and topis with many granite formations common in the region known as Kopjes whilst the Western corridor is where the Grumeti forests are home to Nile crocodiles, patas monkeys, vervet monkey, hippopotamus, olive baboons and martial eagles with migration happening in May to July. Northern Serengeti on the other hand is where the migration of wildebeest and zebras occur from July to August and in November.
Containing various wild animals, Serengeti is densely packed with half a million Thomson’s and Grant’s gazelle. Carnivores here include hyenas, jackals, honey badgers, servals and the recently introduced East African wild dog. The park also features 500 bird species. Lodges located on park grounds include Buffalo Luxury Camp, Four Seasons Safari Lodge Serengeti and Serengeti Pioneer Camp, however, human habitation is forbidden in the park with the exception of staff and researchers. Due to its biodiversity and ecological significance, Serengeti is a World Heritage Site and government officials have even proposed expanding it to Lake Victoria due to increasingly intense droughts threatening the animals’ survival.