The Serengeti in Tanzania offers one of the most amazing wildlife spectacles in the world. There are approximately 70 large mammal and 500 bird species living there and many of Africa’s big game can be found there.

To the north of the park is the Maasai Mara national park in Kenya which is linked to it. Game will travel between the two parks especially in the spring mass migration.

The main route into the Serengeti is from Arusha to the south east of the park. Here you can arrange safari’s and game drives at the many safari companies located in the town. Arusha is located at the foot of Mt Meru mountain and this overlooks the town. Visitors will often stay in the town for a couple of days while they shop around the safari companies looking for a safari that suits them and is the best deal.

The main language in this part of Tanzania is Swahili but most of the guides will speak English. There are different types of safari, you can stay in lodges or camp with varying degrees of luxury. Some tours will include a cook to make all the bush meals and the driver will often double as a guide while on the safaris. The vehicle you hire will determine the type of drives you will be able to do, 4 wheel drive vehicles will be able to go further off road than 2 wheel drive bus type vehicles. On some of the vehicles the roof will lift up for the best views.

The route into the Serengeti from Arusha goes past the Ngorongoro Crater and here there is a very dense population of wild animals. Going up into the highlands you may see leopard and elephant. The road then goes over into the crater down the steep road down the crater edge. On the crater floor you can see water buffalo, zebra, wildebeast, gazelles and many other animals.

Nearby is the Oldupai Gorge where some of the earliest human remains were found.

Drives start early in the morning to see the animals at sunrise, you may have a couple of drives during the day and a drive at sunset. There will be rest periods to eat and chill out in the park.

Ideally not too many vehicles will be around an animal or group of animals so they can hunt successfully and look after their young without too much disruption. You do get the feeling that they can get quite irritated if there are too many cameras pointing at them.

The landscape of the Serengeti is quite varied. As well as grassland there are areas of forest where you might find elephants and giraffe, and knolls or kopjes of rocks where big cats will sun themselves while keeping an eye out for animals for their next hunt.

Lions tend to hunt at night but occasionally you will see them hunting in the day if they are hungry or there are a lot of mouths to feed. Camping in the Serengeti at night while a pride of calling lions passes by is one of the most awe inspiring and not a little scary experiences.

Leopards and Cheetah hunt on the grasslands, though you are more likely to see the cheetah hunting as the leopard mainly hunts at night. The cheetah may have young nearby while she hunts and sometimes you see them coming in to feed at the end of a successful hunt. Leopard will kill any cheetah young they come across.

The Maasai people have coexisted with the game since the 17th century. They farm and protect their animals on the same grasslands.

Image (cc) Stig Nygaard, Flickr

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