Updated: Sep 20, 2020
The Serengeti is a vast ecosystem in east-central Africa. It spans 12,000 square miles (30,000 square kilometers), according to NASA, giving rise to its name, which is derived from the Maasai language and means “endless plains.” Serengeti National Park is home to the largest concentration of large mammals in the world, where one is to witness the giraffes, elephants, hippos and lions. There are 500 species of birds, including ostriches and flamingos. The Great Migration is the Serengeti’s major attraction: This magnificent journey of more than one million wildebeest, zebras and other hoofed animals is the world’s largest wildlife spectacles.
The Great Migration
The Great Migration is the race of more than one million wildebeest, zebras, gazelles and a variety of other animals traversing the Serengeti annually in hunt of food and breeding grounds. From December to June (the Serengeti’s wet season), the animals direct south towards Naabi Hill and Southern Serengeti. As temperatures rise and the dry season sets in, the herds graze through the Seronera River Valley and the Western Corridor before crossing the Grumeti River and moving north to the Lobo Valley and Bologonja Springs. After several months of grazing in greener pastures, the hoofed menagerie turns around to head from where it all began: The circle of life!
Seronera River Valley (Central Serengeti)
A sizable portion of Central Serengeti teems with wildlife. The valley’s river keeps the vegetation ample, supporting herbivores throughout the year. Wildebeest, zebras, elephants, giraffes, gazelles and many other species can be spotted near the valley. The large amount of prey also invites the highest population of predators. The golden Savannah rustles with the movement of lions, cheetahs, leopards and hyenas. One can reach the Seronera River Valley, which sits less than 15 miles south of the Retina Hippo Pool, from Arusha by plane via the Seronera airstrip or by driving through Ngorongoro Conservation Area and Naabi Hill’s gate in Eastern Serengeti.
Naabi Hill (Eastern Serengeti)
Situated in Eastern Serengeti by the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Naabi Hill serves as Serengeti National Park’s main entrance. Naabi Hill’s walking trail offers some of the most beautiful views of the Serengeti. This acacia-populated hill also is the home base for a pride of lions and hosts millions of wildebeest, zebras and gazelles during their annual Great Migration to Eastern Serengeti to breed and gather food. If you want to spot a variety of wildlife, visit between December and June when The Great Migration’s animals roam the area.
Lobo Valley (Northern Serengeti)
Along with the Seronera Valley, the Lobo Valley is one of the only places in the park where all three big cats: lions, cheetahs and leopards wander. Giraffes, elephants and baboons are also habituated in the Lobo Valley. From July through November, millions of wildebeest, gazelles and zebras travel the area during The Great Migration. Though a few species stay in the area year-round, Northern Serengeti’s animal population typically thins during the wet season, so it’s best to visit in the dry season when animals travel north as part of The Great Migration. The Lobo Valley is also a more affordable spot to catch a glimpse of this famous migration.
Moru Kopjes (Central Serengeti)
Situated in Central Serengeti, 32 miles northwest of Naabi Hill, Moru Kopjes is home to Serengeti National Park’s only black rhino population. Though the park made countless attempts to rescue the rhinos from extinction in the 80s, poaching of the horns has caused this species’ population to decrease in recent years. A small herd of the critically endangered animal still resides in the region and is carefully monitored by armed anti-poaching rangers. Black rhinos are solitary animals. Other animals, such as lions, elephants and leopards, can also be habituated here. Black rhinos inhabit the area year-round, but if you want to increase your chances of seeing other animals like wildebeest and zebras, visit Moru Kopjes between July and November when The Great Migration arrives in Central Serengeti. Also, the park’s ties to the indigenous Masai community, Gong Rock and the region’s famous Masai rock paintings. In addition to Moru Kopjes’ rock paintings and plains, towards the northern part of the area is Lake Magadi home to pink flamingos.
Retina Hippo Pool (Central Serengeti)
Situated where the Seronera and Orangi rivers converge, the Retina Hippo Pool consists of a deep puddle of water with roughly 200 sloshing, playing hippos. Possibly some herons and Nile crocodiles also found to be sharing the pool, the hippos are huge and very dangerous, so it’s better to be distant. Recommended to visit the hippo lounge during the dry season (between July and November) when more hippos are exposed due to the pool’s lower water levels.
Grumeti River (Western Corridor)
The Great Migration crosses the Grumeti River near the Western Corridor’s Kirawira region. This particular section of the river is known for its large crocodile population; the crocodiles anxiously await the migrating herd’s crossing for a guaranteed meaty feast. Despite the obvious danger, the wildebeest and zebras will not stop until they reach their final destination. Other animals will be found swimming in the river and drinking water including elephants, hippos and monkeys.The Great Migration from this part of the Serengeti, visit between July and November. The Grumeti River snakes through the Western Corridor to the west of the Seronera River Valley.
Photo credits: @tanzaniatourism.co.tv | @roni_photography85