Endless Plains of the Great Serengeti

Endless Plains of the Great Serengeti : Tanzania is an iconic tourist destination for almost every safari goer who is interested in doing various activities. This mysterious country is home to Serengeti National Park, a spectacular park in the northern part, which hosts the most magnificent natural event; the Great wildebeest Migration. The word Serengeti comes from a Maasai word “Siringet” meaning endless plains. The vast plains of Serengeti stretch to the northern border of Kenya and Tanzania. Woodlands, grasslands and kopjes are the main parts of Serengeti National Park. If you have a desire to visit this marvelous park, there are many hidden gems, the must-see things in Serengeti. These hidden gems are rarely spotted in other parks in Tanzania and Africa in general. One of these is the Great Migration. This is the biggest migration of mammals on earth. Millions (1.5 million) of wildebeests, about half a million zebras and about 250, 000 gazelles move from the south to the north seasonally. This thrilling event is witnessed by thousands of tourists annually. You can be one of them if you want. You have to time the right time for specific event you want to view. However, the best time to visit the Serengeti is during the dry season that is between June and September. The Great Migration has various special natural events in different locations; these include the calving season, the crossing of the Grumeti River and the crossings of the majestic Mara River. Calving season takes place in February. About 500, 000 calves are born. During this time, most of the mobile camps are situated in this area. You will likely to witness the wildebeests giving birth to well adapted calves that becomes physically fit after few hours after being born. Predators also migrate to the south for hunting newly born calves or mother wildebeests in delivery. At around, April to May, the southern plains of Serengeti lose their greener pastures causing the herd to migrate eastwards.

Endless Plains of the Great Serengeti
Endless Plains of the Great Serengeti

In the eastern plains and kopjes, some of animals from the herd (especially Thomson’s gazelles) depart from the herd into the Ngorongoro Crater. From the eastern plains, the herd moves to the Western Corridor of Serengeti where it crosses the magical Grumeti River. Although Grumeti River is not as famous as the mighty Mara River, it offers fantastic views of the animals. This is the first ever terrific obstruction to the Great Migration. Hungry crocodiles and high pressure flowing waters take away many lives of wildebeests. The Nile crocodiles take advantage of weak starving wildebeests to have themselves a nice meal. The other spectacular event during the Great Migration is the Mara River Crossings. This is a magical and once-in-a-lifetime event where the herd faces its second biggest obstacle. It happens between July and August. This is a thrilling and must-see thing for everyone trekking this gigantic migration. Mara River is crowded with the mass of visitors filming, recording and taking pictures of this unparalleled event.

A second hidden gem in Serengeti is the Moru Kopjes. Moru Kopje is located in the central Serengeti said to offer scenic views of the world’s endangered animal, the black rhino. The number of black rhinos is Tanzania have declined since 1980s. but, the efforts done by the government in 2019 to relocate the about six rhinos from South Africa into Serengeti has boosted the odds of spotting this rarely seen animal. A trip for rhino viewing in Moru costs about TSHS 100, 000 per head for East African citizens and about USD 100 per head for non-East African citizens and expatriates. The Big Cats also reside this area hiding in the kopjes in search of prey. A trip to Moru Kopjes will reward you will an unforgettable experience.

Another hidden gem is the Big Five animals (rhino, elephant, buffalo, leopard and lion). Serengeti is one of the few celebrated parks in Tanzania where you can spot all the Big Five animals. In the endless grasslands the king of the jungle (lion) is always spotted resting with members of the pride. Elephant is usually encountered in woodlands and tall grasslands grazing. This largest land animal is endowed with intelligence due to its large brain size. In the kopjes like Moru, Simba and Gol Kopjes, hides the African leopard. If you are lucky to witness of the its excellent kills, you will be amazed by its wonderful hunting tactics. In the open grasslands and shrubs, you will witness the terrific bush cows in large herds grazing. Black rhino can be spotted in the shrubs and short woodlands. It is less social and likes to camouflage with short shrubs and scrubs.

Birdlife is another stunning gem in Serengeti. The plains of Serengeti host over 550 beautiful colorful bird species. Exotic bird species are endemic to the Serengeti meaning that you can’t spot them anywhere in the world except in the Serengeti National Park. Here is a list of such birds; Gray-crested francolin, grey-breasted spurfowl, Tanzania red-billed hornbill and Rufous-tailed weaver. Other species are endemic to Tanzania only. They can be spotted in other Tanzanian parks. Therefore, Serengeti is the best destination for viewing these stunning birds. Examples of these birds are Usambiro barbet, gray-crested Helmet shrike, Schalow’s turaco, red-throated tit, Karamoja apalis, Hildebrandt’s starling, Abyssinian wheatear, Jackson’s widowbird, Swahili sparrow and Southern grosbeak-canary. Many other birds present in the Serengeti plains will make your trip superb one. They include ostrich, African fish eagle, lilac-breasted roller, black-headed gonolek, helmeted-guinea fowl, crested-guinea fowl, lesser flamingo, Kori bustard, Hartlaub’s bustard, African cuckoo, pennant-winged nightjar, gray-crowned crane, marabou stork, secretary bird, black heron, grey-backed fiscal, silver bird, yellow-throated sandgrouse and many others. Serengeti also receives various migratory birds between November and April. For better birdwatching experience, the Western Corridor is an excellent place for bird viewers since this area has riverine forests very attractive to exotic birds.

Endless Plains of the Great Serengeti
Bird Watching in Serengeti

Wildlife is another hidden gem in the plains of Serengeti. Serengeti is a spectacular wildlife sanctuary in Africa. Forget about the Big Five, this majestic park is home to over 35 plains animals including up to spotted hyenas, wildebeests, cheetahs, baboons, giraffes, warthogs, waterbucks, eland, civet, African wild dog, topi, zebra, impala, Grant’s gazelle, buffalos, reedbucks, oribi, bushbucks, foxes, jackals and duikers. Wildebeests, zebras, gazelles and other ungulates like eland are frequently spotted in the southern plains. Predators especially the big cats and jackals are frequently viewed in the kopjes like Moru, Gol and Simba Kopjes. Spotted hyenas are usually seen in medium-sized groups in the open grasslands after ungulates like dik-diks and inside the woodlands. Thomson’s gazelles are highly concentrated in the eastern grasslands in the months of June to September when the herd had started migrating to the north, Endless Plains of the Great Serengeti.

Hippos and crocodiles are also spotted in the Serengeti. Retina Hippo Pools is an excellent place for viewing these aquatic giants. They emerge as black ghosts. Hippos are also viewed in the Grumeti River, Mara River and Seronera River. Excellent views of Nile crocodiles are spotted in the Grumeti, Mara and Seronera Rivers. As I said earlier, the Nile crocodiles hunt the animals of the herd for food after long time waits. Spectacular views of crocodile’s kills are seen in the Grumeti and Mara Rivers.

Other hidden gems close to the Serengeti

If you are a fan of cultural tourism, Serengeti neighbors the world famous Maasai tribe. These authentic semi-nomads practice pastoralism as their main economic activity. They have maintained their cultural values and norms through centuries in the endless plains of Serengeti before they were relocated into the Ngorongoro Crater. The Maasai people pose no harm to wild animals because they do not eat wild meat. They prefer eat edible meat from their livestock instead of wild animals. Therefore, the government of Tanzania decided to allow them graze their cattle in the protected areas specifically in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. These people have fantastic dressing codes of “lubega” (a Maasai bed-sheet like dressing worn by both sexes). Maasai also perform sensational traditional dances and performances. Their age-set organization which you may have read about in history books is still practiced. They are talented in making handicrafts like sandals which catch your eye and have your own merchandise from their local market.

Olduvai Gorge is another nearby gem for you. After being tired of seeing wild animals in the great plains of Serengeti you may book a visit to the Olduvai Gorge where the oldest remains of early man were dug by Dr. Louis leaky, the famous East African archaeologist. The remains discovered in Olduvai Gorge dates back millions of years ago. Laetoli is also an historical site close to Olduvai where the earliest footprint of ancient mankind was discovered. These two historical sites are excellent must-see places for every visitor in Serengeti.

Serengeti is the oldest, natural and unspoiled wildlife sanctuary in the world. A safari to Serengeti, is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for every wildlife watcher. Dozens of activities can be done in this magnificent park including game drives, hot-air ballooning, birdwatching, cultural torus, trekking the Great Migration and camping. Visitors don’t have any regrets of having a trip to Serengeti. You won’t be the one.

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