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Covering an area of 14,763 sq. km, Serengeti National Park is the largest National Park in Tanzania. The park is located some 320 km to the northwest of Arusha, lying in a high plateau between the Ngorongoro highlands and the Kenya/ Tanzania border, and extending almost to Lake Victoria to the west. Aptly named “endless plains” by the Maasai people, you immediately experience this vastness as you enter the southeastern plains of the park from Ngorongoro.
Serengeti National Park is undoubtedly the best-known wildlife sanctuary in the world. With more than two million wildebeest, half a million Thomson’s gazelle, and a quarter of a million zebra, the park remains a resting place for the “big 5 and surely one of the greatest concentrations of plains game in Africa. The Serengeti is most famous for its animal migration to the Masai Mara – over a million wildebeest and about 200,000 zebras migrate south from the northern hills to the southern plains every September – November.
The Serengeti is covered by vast open plains with lofty rocky outcrops, called Kopjes. The other areas are covered by acacia, savannah woodland, scrub, forested and mature treed rivers, an occasional swamp and small lakes ‘here and there’. The park ranges in altitude from 910 meters up to 1,820 meters. True eye-catching beauty, immortalized in the film “Serengeti shall not die.”
There is a variety of scenery, which include the plains, lakes, hills and the rock outcrops called kopjes. The main game drive areas in the Serengeti are the Seronera Valley, the Western Corridor, and Lobo or northern Serengeti. The Seronera valley in central Serengeti endowed with permanent surface water attract a large concentration of wildlife throughout the year. Common animals that can be seen here are lions, buffaloes, impalas, hippos, waterbucks, elephants, cheetahs and the leopard. From December, when the long rains start, to May, eastern Serengeti plains provide the best opportunities for game viewing as hundreds of thousands of the migratory animals are concentrated in this part attracted by the short palatable grass.
The best time to visit the Serengeti is between October and July before the wildebeest return to Kenya’s Masai Mara around August. Note however that the migration is a fluid affair: not only is its precise timing subject to each year’s rainfall pattern but the herds move around the Serengeti depending on the time of year.
Arusha is the gateway to the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, Tarangire and Lake Manyara, and most safaris in the Serengeti will begin and end there. The town can be reached easily by scheduled or charter flights directly to Arusha or connecting through Dar es Salaam. It is also accessible by road.
Declared a protected area in 1921 and gazetted as a National park in 1951, Serengeti is the oldest National Park in Tanzania and undoubtedly one of the most famous wildlife sanctuaries in the world. The principal features of the Serengeti are the short and long grass plains in the south and east, the acacia Savannah in the central areas, the hilly and densely wooded areas in the north and the extensive woodland in the west.