The word Serengeti is an approximation of a word used by the Maasai which means “endless plains” or “the place that land runs on forever”. It is a vast grassland area in Tanzania, to the west of the Great Rift Valley. In 1951 the Serengeti National Park was created to protect the area’s large numbers of wildebeest, zebra, and Thomson’s gazelle.
The Serengeti ecosystem is a region of outstanding biodiversity. It straddles the border of Kenya and Tanzania (mostly in Tanzania), and is continuous with the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. There are no fences between the Serengeti National Park (Tanzania) and the Masai Mara National Reserve (Kenya)
For thousands of years, these grasslands were virtually unknown to the outside world, until the first European explorer, Austrian Oscar Baumann, visited the area in 1892, opening a floodgate of hunting camps. Wildlife numbers dropped quickly, until the British banned hunting and made a partial game reserve of 800 acres. The Serengeti gained more fame after the work of Bernhard Grzimek and Michael Grzimek, a father and son team and conservationists in the 1950s. Together, they produced the book and film Serengeti Shall Not Die, which is widely recognised as one of the most important early pieces of nature conservation documentary.
Today, the Serengeti National Park is at 14,750 square kilometres, the size of Northern Ireland. The park now is home to over 1.5 million wildebeest, gazelles, zebra, and other species. In 1981, it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
There are four main areas in the Serengeti: Central (Seronera), Western Corridor, Northern, and Southern.
Central (Seronera) Serengeti
If you are short on time and would like to maximize your chance of seeing the most amount of wildlife in the least amount of time, better visit Seronera area which has one of the highest densities of leopards in Africa. Because of the Seronera river has water year-round, it reliably good sightings year round due to large numbers of resident wildlife. However, it is a very busiest area of the Serengeti, with many lodges and camps
Western Corridor and Grumeti
The Western Corridor is a remote area of the Serengeti which stretches all the way to Lake Victoria. This area is well known for the Grumeti River which, like the Mara River in the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya, is the scene of many wildebeest river crossings that form part of the Great Migration. Thousands of wildebeest, zebra and gazelle make their way across the crocodile-infested waters en-route to the grasslands of the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. The best time to see these crossings in the Western Corridor is between late May to mid-July.
Due to its remoteness, the Northern Serengeti is the least busy area of the park. One either has to fly-in or if driving, overnight in the Seronera area, before driving north. The Northern Serengeti is the best area to be from July to September, to watch dramatic wildebeest crossings on the Mara River
Southern (Ndutu) Serengeti
The Southern Serengeti is technically where the Great Migration begins. It is the backdrop for the calving season during February when hundreds of thousands of calves are born over a 2 to 3 week period. The best time to visit this area is from December to March. By March, the wildebeest have calved and begin to gather together in the areas around Lake Ndutu, before heading north again.