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Serengeti National Park Overview
Serengeti National Park quite simply offers the finest game viewing anywhere in Africa. Unrivaled concentrations of wildlife, stunningly beautiful landscapes and vast pristine areas make Serengeti National Park our pick for the best national park in the whole of Africa. With so much hype and praise surrounding the Serengeti, you might expect to be disappointed upon finally visiting this infamous park. However, it really is this good and you will undoubtedly fall in love with this last great wilderness (we certainly did). Even in the dry season (July – October) when the great herds have retreated into the woodlands from the plains, game viewing in Serengeti National Park still rivals that of any park in Africa.
The Serengeti National Park is a massive park encompassing 5,700 square miles, and as one of our customers best said it, ‘even during the high season there are only a few hundred vehicles roaming around an area the size of Connecticut.’ The greater Serengeti ecosystem encompasses 10,395 square miles (the size of Massachusetts) and includes many other game reserves and conservation areas including the Ngorongoro, Masai Mara, Loliondo, Masawa, Grumeti and Ikorongo reserves. This is a more relevant figure as there are no fences and many of the animals freely migrate in and out of the official park borders. Additionally, many of our safari itineraries include some time in these adjacent game reserves and conservation areas as game viewing can be just as rewarding during certain times of year. The Serengeti National Park is about 90 miles wide (west to east) and about 120 miles long (north to south). The surrounding Serengeti National Park ecosystem is roughly double this size.
The Serengeti National Park ecosystem supports not only the largest herds of migrating ungulates but also the highest concentrations of large predators in the world. At a quick glance, the numbers are astonishing. Estimates put the wildebeest at about 1.7 million, zebras at 250,000 and Thomson's gazelles at about 440,000. Hyenas are the most numerous of the large carnivores at about 9,000, lions at 2,800 and leopards at about 1,000. In general, cheetahs live at much lower densities than other large predators. However, the Serengeti boasts the highest density of cheetah in Africa (at certain times of year) with up to 40 animals per 60 square miles found on short grass plains during the wet season.
The Serengeti National Park is the most famous national park in Africa and is the best place for wildlife viewing for a variety of reasons. First of all, the variety and abundance of animals you will likely encounter exploring the Serengeti is far greater then any other park in Africa. With a couple well-planned days (adjusted for seasonal wildlife movements), you will likely encounter representatives of just about every large and medium sized animal in East Africa. Every day, every game drive and every horizon brings new, exciting and unexpected wildlife encounters.
Second, the Serengeti National Park offers exceptional year round game viewing. Though much of the wildlife in the Serengeti is migratory, abundant wildlife concentrations can be found throughout the year by basing yourself in the appropriate areas depending on your specific month of travel. Additionally, resident animals are plentiful. Regardless of when you travel, both resident and migratory animals can be found due to the size and nature of the Serengeti.
Third, the Serengeti encompasses a massive and pristine wilderness area. Thousands of square miles filled with plentiful wildlife beckon your exploration. Because of its large size, the Serengeti has retained a raw and wild feel that many of the other parks in Africa have lost. There are a few areas of the Serengeti including the Seronera Valley that may feel congested during peak travel months. Once outside these tourist areas and off the main arteries, you will likely encounter very few other visitors. The unpredictability of such a large area filled with so many large carnivores and herbivores makes for an adventure of the grandest proportion.
Fourth, the Serengeti ecosystem encompasses a variety of habitats providing for a diverse and well-rounded safari. There are short grass plains, long grass savannahs, riverine areas, open woodlands, thick bush, wetlands, mountains and lakes. The south and east are home to the famous Serengeti plains where over two million animals congregate in the wet season. The central areas are home to the Serengeti’s famous lion prides and resident leopards. The remote western and northern corridors are home to the woodlands and offer wild and off the beaten path game viewing.
Lastly, the Serengeti rests on huge plateau situated at an altitude ranging from 6,000 feet in the east to 4,000 feet in the west. This means that the strong equatorial sun is tempered and conditions are ideal for comfortable game viewing. The weather is generally pleasant and temperatures rarely exceed 85 degrees. This is in stark contrast to the many hot and humid areas found in low-lying areas throughout Africa.
Serengeti Wildlife Census
The Serengeti ecosystem contains the greatest remaining concentration of plains animals in the world. The below data is based upon the latest census data available, which was conducted from 1989 – 1991. The counts are for the entire Serengeti Ecosystem including adjacent game reserves.
Large and Medium Size Animals in the Serengeti Ecosystem:
Thomson’s gazelle: 440,845
Grant’s gazelle: 31,276
Elephant: 2,000 – 4,000
Black Rhinoceros: 12
Wild Dog: Rare (1-2 transient packs)
Black Back Jackal: 6,300
Mongoose (all species): 130,000