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Serengeti National Park

The Serengeti Plains, Tanzania.

Best time to visit: February, June, July

Safaris: An Eco Exploration, Tanzania's Northern Circuit

Activities: Cultural Visits, Bird Watching, Game Walking

Accommodation: Adventure Camping, Mobile Camping, Loliondo Camp, Serena Lodge

Day: 20-35° C, 68-95° F
Night: 10-20° C, 50-68° F

'Siringet' is the Masai word for "endless plains"; it is for these endless plains that the Serengeti National Park is named. This 5,700 square mile park is one of the world's last great wildlife refuges, estimated to contain over three million large animals and millions more small animals.

The main impression received from the Serengeti is that of space. Even at the height of the wildebeest migration, when over one million animals are on the move, noisily bleating and creating thundering dust storms that scud across the plains, the Serengeti never seems crowded. The waving yellow grasses stretch endlessly into the horizon, with the deep African sky filling the space above.

The Serengeti changes with the rain and the new grasses that sprout after the rain, which the animals follow. The short grass plains of the southern Serengeti are home to the herds during the rains.

A Kopje near Loliondo Camp in the Serengeti National Park.

By May, with the start of the dry season, the grasses start to vanish and the animals migrate toward the fresh pastures of the northern Serengeti, the Mara River and the Masai Mara itself, just across the border in Kenya. This movement coincides with the mating season; the deep lowing of the dominant males and frantic territorial battles resound across the plains as nearly half a million animals breed within the same month.

By November, with the northern grasses exhausted, the heavily pregnant females lead the migration back toward Tanzania's short grass plains, now being replenished by the rains as the cycle starts again.

The cycle supports a multitude of predators as well, such as wild dog, lion, cheetah and the spotted hyena. These magnificent predators tend to cull the herds, taking the oldest, youngest or the sick and leaving behind the healthy to breed the next generation.

The rolling plains of this vast grassland are interspersed with unexpected kopjes, rocky outcrops dating back to volcanic times. These kopjes are home to klipspringer antelope, orange and turquoise Agama lizards, as well as several mongoose species. The large, black Verraux eagles often make their nests high on these rocky domes; both cheetah and lion are frequently found using them as lookout posts in their continual search for prey.

Wildebeest gathering on the Serengeti plains.

The kopjes are often decorated with ancient Masai rock paintings. Using nothing more than natural ochre dyes and sticks of charcoal, the Masai recount the life of the plains. Images of elephant, antelope, cattle and men with tall, red shields survive through decades of wind and rain, allowing a glimpse of tribal artwork.

With its immense, wide-open spaces, rich plant life and diversity of animals and birds, the Serengeti is truly a natural 'wonder of the world'; no safari to Tanzania would be complete without a visit here.

Copyright Melinda Rees of Eco-resorts

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