If you find Edward O Wilson’s words that, “Each species is a masterpiece, a creation assembled with extreme care and genius.”, are a perfect reflection of your own thoughts; if you can easily spend the whole day watching Discovery and Animal Planet just wondering about what these places might really look like, then please stop and think again before reading any further; because what you might read here and the decisions which the impact may lead you to make, might change the way you look at the world entirely. Such is the experience of visiting the vast ancient lands of Africa which have borne testimony to ages of evolution and which are the common origins of all humans together.
Such is the extent of this nature’s wonder that it is shared between two countries, with its major portion lying with Tanzania and then extending into Kenya too. The park extends over a tremendous area of more than 14750 square kilometres. Located in the northern part of Tanzania the park extending continuously in Kenya is known as The Maasai Marra there. The region gets its very name from its feature of infinite vastness, as the present name is derived from a Maasai word meaning “infinite lands”.
The lands were first made famous by a book called ‘Serengeti shall not die’ accompanied by a movie of the same name. It is also the oldest national park in the country and one of the richest, in terms of bio-diversity, in the world. It is one of UN’s World Heritage Sites too.
Serengeti for many, alters the feeling of time and space for many people by the eternal and infinite reflections it radiates at people. Being one of the most complex eco-systems in the world it has been kept widely unspoiled by any human activities and habitation in the park region is strictly prohibited except for researchers, administrative and hospitality staff.
The geography can be divided broadly in three regions the main limitless grasslands, which provode habitat for hoofed animals like zebra and wildebeests, called the Serengeti plains; Wetern Corridor- the swamps of the parks which are quenched by many big small streams of which the Grumeti River is the biggest. These are safe havens for predators and species like pythons etc.; and the woodlands and hills which lie between Seronera in the south, to the Mara river and are in greater proximity to Kenya, these are home to bigger species like elephants and giraffes and are called Northern Serengeti.
The main attraction obviously is the wild life of which Serengeti has more than anybody could long to see in one trip. African lion, African leopard, African elephants, black rhinoceros, wild buffalos, wildebeests are some of the most popular sightings for the visitors. Africa is the king in terms of lion population and its crown jewel is Serengeti with more than 3000 lions in the ecosystem. The bird species are equally rich with more than 515 species with the likes of ostrich, secretary bird, Kori bustard, crowned crane, marabou stork, martial eagle, lovebirds, and many species of vultures; these can best observed and watched in early morning hours. Cheetahs, African wild-dog, baboons, impala, gazelle, you name it and they have it.
The climate of Serengeti too, doesn’t go opposite to the visitors, with year round temperatures flickering between 24-27 degree Celsius, though nights can be distinctly chilly at higher altitudes. Rains are sporadic during November and December and are more frequent and heavy during the months of March- May. Any safari is best timed during April- May and the tourist season runs year long as different people come for different species which have different seasonal patterns.
Probably Serengeti’s biggest attraction is the wildebeest migration, known worldwide as one of the biggest migrations for any species on the planet. Visitors come in the particular season just to take in the breath-taking view of millions of wildebeests and other hoofed animals go around clockwise in the park in search of food and water. The sheer scale of this annual occurrence is mind-numbing and though provoking at the same time.
Some other must have experiences at Serengeti include –
Lake Lagarja, South Serengeti – During the months of December to May large herds can be found between Olduvai, Gol, Naabi and Lagarja, this spot can be an ideal place to put down your base as it is centre point and one can move out to all the locations from here as they are located at almost similar distances. It also provides one freedom to travel across the plains in true explorer spirits meeting numerous wildlife species on your way, diving deep into the depths of nature.
Moru Kopjes and Seronera, Central Serengeti- The place provides for a change of terrain and thus a distinct kind of wildlife. Seronera is not very far and hilly forests and waterholes can be enjoyed on a typical day.
Northern Serengeti is always rich in water and thus many species migrate to the part with many other permanently habiting there. Elephants are a common sight. Bologonja Springs are most popular destination due to their immense beauty made better with a combination of the scenic views and the varied wildlife.
The nearest airport is the Kilimanjaro Airport; however international flights on a smaller aircraft to Seronera or Kirawira can be availed at around $150 for a one-way ticket. Seregeti can also be reached via road and is about 330 kilometres from the Lake Manyara National Park, though it is a less availed option for most of the international tourists. Cars can be refuelled at Seronera and couple of other spots.
The trip cannot be really termed as a budget experience with charges of about $50 for a single day in the park, $30 for cars and tents each, for a single day.
While one is free to enjoy and bask in this amazing creation of nature, immersing themselves in the raw life of these lands; one is prohibited from disturbing animals in any fashion, carrying fire-arms, littering and driving above speed limits in the park.
The food available in the safari packages is of sound quality and appealing to the taste buds there are not many specialties form the land itself but almost all the popular western dishes are available along with regular beverages.
The lodging is mostly mobile for people on safaris with simple but hygienic and systematic arrangements. People sleep in mobile camps which have basic necessities like camp toilets and solar powered electricity. Other facilities like showers are dependent on the operator.
There are safari lodges which blend right into the landscapes with the planned architecture. These have all the luxuries of god hotels like swimming pools and fully furnished bathrooms. Then there are luxury camps too, resorts which make the trip an absolutely once in a life time experience for anybody. These equipped with state-of-the-art facilities like en-suite bathrooms, spacious and fully furnished rooms which have more than just a touch of class. These as one would guess are up high on the price ladder but many people find it too irresistible to stay with all the luxury in midst of the wild, experiencing best of both the worlds.
The cheapest options are the campsites in Serengeti which provide for a regular and authentic camping experience.
Serengeti is not just about the animals and the wildlife around but also about the thoughts it inspire in one when one gets to know the true nature of the land and the infinite bounds of nature.