The main attraction in the Central Serengeti is undoubtedly the beautiful Seronera River Valley. Several perennial rivers run through this valley enabling an abundance of resident animals to thrive year round. The combination of location and resident prey attracts the largest and most diverse population of predators in Africa. It is this amazing abundance and diversity of easily seen large predators that attracts thousands of visitors and hundreds of researches to the Seronera River Valley each year. The secret is out - there is simply no better place in Africa to observe these large carnivores in action! Since many of these wild creatures call this place their permanent home, excellent encounters are available year round regardless of the season or where the great migratory herds are located. It is not unusual to encounter all four large predators (lion, hyena, leopard and cheetah) during the course of a day along with a multitude of smaller predators (mongoose, jackal, serval and bat-eared fox). Seronera is actually derived from the Maasai word 'siron' meaning the place of the bat-eared fox.
The scenic landscape of this pristine valley is truly magnificent. Endless savannas saturated in sunshine stretch beyond the horizon. Meandering rivers wind through a sundry montage of trees, pools, seasonal swamps and open fields. The dark silhouettes of umbrella shaped acacia trees rise above the plains and colossal mounds of granite kopjes loom in the distance, forming a classic image of quintessential Africa. Each day begins with the golden rays of sunrise striking across the eastern plains, and ends with an over-inflated sun smoldering in crimson glow on the western horizon - a daily cycle that you will never tire of seeing on these open plains. Sunrise and sunset are just one of the timeless rhythms of nature that drive life in this valley. Sweeping grasslands blanket the landscape - morphing from a verdant savanna in the green season to tawny sunlit plains in the dry season. During the northward and southward migrations, Seronera plays host to the greatest wildlife show on earth as over a million wildebeest and zebra pour through the valley in a thunder of echoing hooves and a haze of red dust. However, the true beauty of Seronera Valley is that no matter what time of year you might venture here, a whole world of life, drama, action, and wonder await!
Seronera River Valley is unique in many ways, however the most striking feature of this valley is that no matter what the season, massive numbers of resident wildlife can be easily seen and photographed. You will consistently find lions sprawling in the sunlight on the crests of towering kopjes, and look for the famous Seronera leopards peering down from their shadowy perches in the arms of the sausage trees that line the river. Even cheetahs can be seen here, gracefully striding through the shifting grasses or scouting distant prey from the top of a termite mound. Seronera River Valley is a favorite hangout for these big cats as prey is always plentiful here.
One of the first photographic safaris in the Seronera River Valley was conducted in 1928 and was documented in a book called 'Africa Speaks' by Paul Hoefler. While camping where the Seronera Wildlife Lodge now stands, Hoefler writes about the spectacular Seronera Valley:
'From our camp we could look across a wide sweep of plain which ran into a low range of hills whose tops peeked over the horizon. As we gazed over this rolling veld, which was hemmed in on the left by large hills, and on the right by trees which melted in to the skyline, we could always see many thousands of animals. Here in our front yard Tommies, Grant's gazelle, topi, kongoni, wildebeest and zebra kicked up their heels in play or stampeded in flight from real or fancied danger. On the farther plains were eland and giraffe, while the wooded hills sheltered mountain reedbuck, waterbuck, steinbuck, duiker, dik dik and impala. In the dongas lurked not only the big cats, the lion, leopard and cheetah, but many lesser carnivora. Scattered all over this tremendous area were troops of ostrich, thousand upon thousand of hyena, jackals, bat-eared foxes and warthogs. Once in a while a black rhino or a herd of buffalo or a few roan antelope would pay our front yard a visit. At no time night or day were we out of sight or hearing of animals.'
The Seronera River Valley is home to an incredible diversity of wildlife due to its unique ecological niche as a transitional zone. A transitional zone, or ecotone, is where two distinctly different habitats merge and where various species of flora and fauna from both habitats can coexist. Seronera is the border zone between the Serengeti plains and the Serengeti woodlands. At Seronera the great Serengeti Plains stretch out to the south and east while the Serengeti Woodlands predominate to the north and west. Due this unique ecological feature, Seronera supports a much greater diversity of wildlife then anywhere else in the Serengeti.
Large groups of portly hippos can be seen bobbing their heads above and below the surface of murky pools that are fringed in spiky cattails and shaded in leafy palms. Watch for the proud male impala, posing with his tall and elegant corkscrew horns, as he guides his shimmering band of females along the riverbanks. Pairs of dik dik anxiously dart between large clumps of grasses; it is interesting to note that these tiny antelope are monogamous and form bonds for life, so where you might see one dik dik be sure to keep an eye out for his or her mate following close behind. Giraffe exchange long glances with you from lofty perspectives as they browse thorny acacia trees at a leisurely pace; if startled, these gangly looking animals can move quite quickly with remarkable speed and unexpected grace.
Reedbuck and waterbuck frolic on the riverbanks of this valley, endlessly searching for the choicest bits of grass and reeds. Hartebeest can be seen ambling through the grasslands and open woodlands, looking rather somber with their long, solemn faces. Thomson's gazelle glace about and nervously flick their little tails in unison, always alert for that cheetah stalking in the grass nearby. Groups of regal elephants stroll through these open woodlands with stately presence, displaying remarkable grace for animals such colossal size. Families of warthogs can be seen rooting for food in the grasses and thickets; if startled these amusing little animals will squeal in alarm and run away with tails pitched straight up in the air.
Large herds of buffalo strut about with their noses high in the air, tossing their mighty horns in arrogant confidence. Baboon families groom one another in the shade of acacia trees, one minute seemingly content with each other's company and the next minute squabbling loudly in some dramatic family quarrel. Vervet monkeys swing effortlessly from the branches of thorny trees, playfully scolding one another and gazing down at bystanders with mischievous expressions that make you smile and also grip your valuables a bit tighter.
Wildlife viewing in the Seronera Valley is at its best during the northward migration (May-June) and southward migration (November-December). During these two periods when the wildebeest thunder through the valley, accompanied by thousands of zebra, Seronera offers some of the best game viewing in Africa. In general though, game viewing is great all year round in the Seronera Valley regardless of the migration as there is an abundance of resident (non-migratory) animals that thrill visitors year round, including Seronera's famous lions and leopards.
Kay Turner, wife of Myles Turner who was chief game warden of the Serengeti from 1956 to 1972, eloquently writes in her book Serengeti Home, 'For as long as we lived there I never ceased to be impressed by Seronera's beauty. The sweeping plains were cropped short by grazing animals, and jutting rock outcrops lay scattered about the countryside, their sculptured shapes outlined against the sky. Flat-topped umbrella acacias and lime green thorn trees shaded the herds of gazelles and wildebeest. There was a quality of light that make the landscape glow, while the boundless sky shone with a blue vitality that seemed to crown the unique wonder of Seronera'.