The Serengeti | WWF
© WWF / John E. NEWBY

The Serengeti

Wildebeest on the short grass plains, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania.

The Serengeti

Wildebeest on the short grass plains, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. rel= © WWF / John E. NEWBY

Magnificent wildlife cross the endless plains

What and where
The Serengeti region encompasses the Serengeti National Park, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Maswa Game Reserve, the Loliondo, Grumeti and Ikorongo Controlled Areas and the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya.

Serengeti National Park is undoubtedly the best-known wildlife sanctuary in the world, unequalled for its natural beauty and scientific value. It lies between the shores of Lake Victoria in the west, Lake Eyasi in the south, and the Great Rift Valley to the east. The Serengeti ecosystem is one of the oldest, the most complex and the least disturbed ecosystems on Earth. Its climate, vegetation and fauna have barely changed in the past million years.

The name 'Serengeti' comes from the Maasai language and appropriately means an 'extended place'. The National Park, with an area of 12,950 sq km, supports more than 30 species of large herbivores and nearly 500 species of birds.

With more than 2 million Wildebeest, 500,000 Thomson's gazelle, and 250,000 Zebra, it has the greatest concentration of plains game in Africa. The Wildebeest and Zebra moreover form the star cast of a unique spectacular - the annual Serengeti migration.

Every year around October nearly 1.5 million herbivores travel towards the southern plains, crossing the Mara River, from the northern hills for the rains. And then back to the north through the west, once again crossing the Mara River, after the rains in around April. This phenomenon is sometimes also called the Circular Migration.

Over 250,000 wildebeest alone will die along the journey from Tanzania to Maasai Mara reserves in upper Kenya, a total of 500 miles. This event was chronicled in the 1994 documentary film, Africa: The Serengeti.

Two UNESCO World Heritage Sites and 2 Biosphere Reserves have been established within the 30,000 km² region.

Travellers are not the only ones who now flock to see the animals and birds of the Serengeti. It has become an important centre of scientific research. In the late 1950s, Dr. Bernhard Grizmek and his late son Michael did pioneering work in aerial surveys of wildlife. It resulted in the best-selling classic Serengeti Shall Not Die and a number of films which made the park a household name.

Most visitors enter the Park from the south-east, dropping down from the escarpment of the Ngorongoro Highlands onto the open short grass plains. The road passes by the Olduvai Gorge, where Dr. and Mrs. Leakey found the 1.75 million-year-old remains of Australopithecus boisei ('Zinjanthropus') and Homo habilis which suggest that our species first evolved in this area.