Friday, 24 June 2016

On safari in Serengeti’s North

Tanzania is blessed with the world’s Garden of Eden. Serengeti is an approximation of the word used by the Maasai to describe the area, siringet, which means “the place where the land runs on forever”. This name couldn’t be more appropriate. Tanzania’s oldest and most popular national park was established in 1951 and has since become synonymous with unforgettable safaris in Africa.
The Serengeti is famed for its annual migration, when some six million hooves pound the open plains, as more than 200,000 zebra and 300,000 Thomson’s gazelle join the wildebeest’s trek for fresh grazing. Yet even when the migration is quiet, the Serengeti offers arguably the most scintillating game-viewing in Africa with great herds of buffalo, smaller groups of elephant and giraffe, and thousands upon thousands of eland, topi, kongoni, impala and Grant’s gazelle.
Good morning from a herd of elephants on an early game drive
People are often overwhelmed by the dimensions of the park – the Serengeti stretches 14,763km² (5,700 miles²) north to Kenya and bordering Lake Victoria to the west. Serengeti has the highest concentration of large mammals on the planet and it’s famous for its 2,500 lions – the largest concentration found anywhere in the world.
The park also has over 518 identified bird species, ranging from the outsized ostrich and bizarre secretary bird of the open grassland, to the black eagles that soar effortlessly above the Lobo Hills. A staggering 100 varieties of dung beetle have been recorded, as well as hundreds of other insects and amphibians.
A typical shot during the migration – wildebeest for as far as the eye can see.
Many guests planning their safari ask which part of the park is the best and when they should come. Each area is special and much depends on the time of year.
Open woodlands and hills dominate Serengeti’s northern area which ranges from Seronera area to the Kogatende area with the Mara River on the Kenyan border. The north is most famous during two parts of the wildebeest migration when tens of thousands of animals are crossing the Mara River. The spectacle of the Mara crossing attracts many predators looking for an easy meal.
It is also critical to the life cycle of some of the park’s crocodiles – for them this is a time of abundance. The two most impressive periods to visit Serengeti’s north for migration viewing are from July to August and in November. However, the north is amazing at other times of the year because is it filled with animals and very few visitors. Apart from the migratory wildebeest and zebra, the bushy savannah is the best place to find some of the park’s large herds of elephant, giraffe and many types of antelopes.

A massive male Cape buffalo inspects visitors’ arrival
The spectacle of predator versus prey dominates Tanzania’s greatest park. Golden-maned lion prides feast on the abundance of plain grazers. Solitary leopards haunt the acacia trees, while a high density of cheetahs prowl the south-eastern plains. Almost uniquely, all three African jackal species occur here, alongside the spotted hyena and a host of more elusive small predators, ranging from the insectivorous aardwolf to the beautiful serval cat.
But there is more to Serengeti’s north than large mammals and predators. Gaudy agama lizards and rock hyraxes scuffle around the surfaces of the park’s isolated granite koppies. We regularly spot birds of many species – bee-eaters, rollers, cranes, vultures, superb starlings, hornbills, storks, Egyptian geese, ducks, weaverbirds, eagles and guinea fowl. Another highlight are flocks of peach-faced lovebirds – spectacularly beautiful and as noisy as a construction site. The woodlands are home to so many species –it’s a bird-lovers buffet!
A resident leopard with a full belly
The gaudily coloured agama lizard
As awe-inspiring as the game viewing is, so is the liberating sense of space that characterises the Serengeti Plains, stretching across sunburnt savannah to a shimmering golden horizon at the end of the earth. Yet, after the rains, this golden expanse of grass is transformed into an endless green carpet flecked with wildflowers. And there are also wooded hills and towering termite mounds, rivers lined with fig trees and acacia woodland stained orange by dust.
Sunset over the Serengeti
The north has some amazing lodges to enjoy. One of our favourites is the Serengeti Migration Camp; a tented wonderland, overlooking the valley and the Grumeti River filled with resident hippos. This luxury camp is often referred to as ‘Out of Africa’ chic. It comes with only a handful of tents, extraordinary food and even a split-level lounge deck that has a bean-shaped pool, complete with white parasols and loungers.
The ‘Out of Africa’ chic style of Northern Migration Camp
Two sets of French doors give onto the deck, with khaki director chairs and roped off banisters – the perfect place to sit and enjoy the view. And what a view it is!
Serengeti-Migration-Camp-view Like most safaris, your day begins with an early morning game drive – usually starting around dawn when the animals are at one of their most active phases. Within minutes expect to be surrounded by an astonishing variety of wildlife –perhaps a herd of Cape buffalo, impalas and other herbivores. Flocks of birds eat the insects that the animals stir up through their grazing.
Early morning hartebeest antelope
Returning to camp for a grand breakfast of juices, yogurts, cereals, eggs, sausages, and many other choices, guests enjoy their meal sitting outside overlooking the animals walking past. Spending the hotter portion of the day enjoying this gorgeous property, guests are often on their verandas or by the pool before lunch is served.
By 2pm, expect to take off on an afternoon safari with expert guides who know the area like we know our own gardens. One highlight for many is spending time at a filled-to-capacity hippo pool. With crocodiles, many water birds and hundreds of hippos, this is an experience for the senses.
One of the many hippos having a wallow
As your day of adventure winds down, the northern Serengeti usually blesses us with one of her ridiculously glorious sunsets. The hues of orange, yellow, pink and purple, plus the smells and sounds of the bush, make for a lifetime high.
Boutique Safari is the only Maasai-owned safari company in East Africa. We specialise in wildlife safaris and treks in Tanzania’s world famous national parks including the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater and Mount Kilimanjaro. Book your Serengeti safari with us now

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