Serengeti National Park - Great herds of African game thundering over the plains (31 May)
Interesting Facts about Serengeti National Park
ON THE DRY, windblown African plains of northern Tanzania, shaggy wildebeests pound across the landscape in huge columns up to 25 miles (40 km) long. Year after year, more than a million animals migrate in a slow-moving, clockwise, 300-mile (483 km) circuit in quest of water and food. Joining the wildebeests in this perennial journey are 400,000 Thomson’s gazelles, 250,000 zebras, and thousands of elands.
This is the Serengeti, Africa’s greatest and most iconic game park, comprising 5,700 square miles (14,760 km2) of wild grassy plains, acacia forest, and volcanic highlands. The greater ecosystem is twice as large, incorporating the vast Ngorongoro Conservation Area and five other reserves. Collectively, this region is home to the world’s Great Migration.
It is from start to finish a dramatic spectacle of mass, movement, noise, instinct, and downright survival. Lions, leopards, hyenas, and other carnivores hungrily anticipate the coming migration. Crocodiles lie in wait in the rivers the traveling herds must cross or drink from. Meantime, the Serengeti’s other wildlife—elephants, giraffes, warthogs, olive baboons, and black rhinos—go more or less about their daily business.
The trek begins in January or February in the grassy southern plains, where the wildebeests give birth. They move onward in April and May, up through the swampy Western Corridor with its killer crocodiles, and on to the park’s open woodlands and the soda lakes Ndutu and Masek. After spending the dry season in Kenya’s lion-filled Masai Mara, the circuit begins all over again. If it sounds entirely predictable, it’s not—the timing and route change a bit every year depending on rainfall. To watch part of it from an open-air jeep is one of the greatest experiences in the natural world.
Stewart Edward White was the first European to record the Great Migration, in 1913. The big-game hunter killed dozens of lions in a three-month period, impacting the lion population single-handedly, which prompted the British colonial administration in 1929 to establish a game reserve. These lands became the basis for Serengeti National Park in 1951.
During his travels, White also met the Maasai, a proud, self-sufficient people who had been grazing their livestock in the open plains for more than 200 years. They had given these lands the name Siringet—“the place where the land runs on forever.” The Serengeti. When the park was established, the Maasai were relocated, a move that is still controversial today.