Serengeti national park

Serengeti park is a Tanzanian national park found in the Serengeti ecosystem in the Mara and Simiyuregions. It is famous for its annual migration of over 1.5 million white-bearded (or brindled) wildebeests and 250,000 zebras and for its numerous Nile crocodiles and honey badger.

The park covers 14,750 square kilometers (5,700 sq mi) of grassland plains, savanna, riverine forest, and woodlands. The park lies in northwestern Tanzania, bordered to the north by the Kenyan border, where it is continuous with the Maasai Mara National Reserve. To the southeast of the park is the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, to the southwest lies Maswa Game Reserve, to the west are the Ikorongo and Grumeti Game Reserves, and to the northeast and east lies the Loliondo Game Control Area. Together, these areas form the larger Serengeti ecosystem.

Serengeti national park

The park is usually described as divided into three regions-

  • Serengeti plains: the almost treeless grassland of the south is the most emblematic scenery of the park. This is where the wildebeest breed, as they remain in the plains from December to May. Other hoofed animals – zebra, gazelle, impala, hartebeest, topi, buffalo, and waterbuck – also occur in huge numbers during the wet season. “Kopjes” are granite florations that are very common in the region, and they are great observation posts for predators, as well as a refuge for hyrax and pythons.
  • Western corridor: the black clay soil covers the savannah of this region. The Grumeti River and its gallery forests is home to Nile crocodiles, patas monkeys, hippopotamus, and martial eagles. The migration passes through from May to July.
  • Northern Serengeti: the landscape is dominated by open woodlands (predominantly Commiphora) and hills, ranging from Seronera in the south to the Mara River on the Kenyan border. Apart from the migratory wildebeest and zebra (which occur from July to August, and in November), this is the best place to find elephant, giraffe, and dik dik.

Human habitation is forbidden in the park with the exception of staff for the Tanzania National Parks Authority, researchers and staff of the Frankfurt Zoological Society, and staff of the various lodges, campsites and hotels. The main settlement is Seronera, which houses the majority of research staff and the park’s main headquarters, including its primary airstrip.

Even during the dry season, there is water in the Serengeti. One of the region’s most notable watering holes is the hippo pool. Fed by the Seronera River, the site is located towards the northwest border of this Tanzanian national park and is most easily accessed via the Ikoma entrance.

When you step outside your Land Rover, the first thing that you notice is the odor. It is strong – unpleasantly so. The methane-laced air grows stronger and stronger as you near the water. Once the pool comes into view, it’s quickly evident why the smell is so powerful.

The pond, which could more aptly be described as a mud hole, is home to over 100 hippos. It’s difficult to count them; they are either completed submerged or partially submerged. Those large herbivores not resting on the lakebed’s bottom expose only the tops of their backs or the tops of their nostrils. They look like large gray stepping stones strewn across the waterway. The animals are in such close proximity to one another, it would be easy to walk across the pool without getting wet.

That is, of course, if hippos were gentle animals.

On the contrary: they’re one of the most aggressive mammals in Africa and are responsible for more deaths annually than any other four-legged animal on the continent. Due to their dangerous nature, it felt odd to be separated by only a one-rail wooden fence. And that was only in the viewing area!

If you have any thoughts about circumventing the lone obstruction to get a better view, they’re quickly dashed by the number of rather large crocodiles sunning themselves on the warm rocks. The reptiles’ natural skin blended in so well with their surroundings that it was difficult to see them even when they were pointed out.

So often the Serengeti is silent. The vast landscapes are disturbed by dust clouds of migrating animals, but rarely broken by sound. In an environment where I’d come to expect quiet, the hippos broke the stillness with constant snorting and fighting. Add in the expulsion of gas and dung and the pond was little more than a bubbling, dark, murky cauldron of filthy water.

Hippos are cantankerous and quick to fight. Their large mouths seemingly unhinge to expose dull but very large teeth. They bite at one another, bumping into others, causing a stir throughout the ranks. Slowly they resume their feeding and settle back down – only to have an attack break out minutes later in a different section of the pool.

All in all, the hippo pool is great theater. It’s a place where you’re assured to see large animals in their element. What first appears to be just a bunch of rocks in a dirty, stinky pool becomes an entertaining look into the social interaction of this amazing species.

This safari takes six days inclusive of flights, transfers, full board meal plans , accommodation and an experienced guide.