Serengeti National Park

Size: 5,700 sq. miles (14,800 sq. km.) Best time: Dec-July (wildebeest); June-Oct (predators)

The word “serengeti” is derived from the Masai word for “endless plains.” Without a doubt the vastness of the Serengeti, Tanzania’s largest national park, will leave you breathless. To the south and east, the plains roll unbroken for hundreds of miles, providing an ideal habitat for grazers like zebra, gazelle, and wildebeest who spend much of their lives migrating within the boundaries of the Serengeti. Literally millions of animals can be seen on the plains of the Serengeti; when the grazing is good, you’ll be sure to spot wildebeest, zebra, gazelle, ostrich, cheetah, hyena, jackal and vultures.

Lions also frequent the open plains because of the abundance of food. The Serengeti is home to many lion prides that tend to live on and around the kopjes – rocky outcroppings that dot landscape. The rocks provide a shady place to lie in the hot afternoons as well as a nice place to hide and wait for unsuspecting antelope and wildebeest. Naabe Hill, one of the entrances to the park, has been the base for much of the lion research that has been conducted in the area. In fact, many of the lions you see will be wearing radio collars and you can read up on their personal histories!

In the centre of the Serengeti lies the Seronera Valley. This area is greener and wetter than the plains and is home to a different set of wildlife. Leopards might be sighted lounging in a sausage tree, hippos can certainly be found wallowing in the hippo pool and a variety of antelope bound in and out of the brush. At the brand new visitor centre (opened in 2000), you might be amused by the antics of curious vervet monkeys who will gladly steal your lunch if given a chance. Also in abundance are hyrax, mongoose, and baboons although these tend to keep their distance.

To the west, the Grumeti Western Corridor sees the great migration move through in June and July. The Grumeti river is home to the famous Nile crocodiles – giants that grow up to 18 feet (6 meters) long! As the migration moves through the area, the crocodiles snap up animals that stop to drink and cross the river. The crocodiles may not eat again for a full 12 months until the herds return again next year.

Of course, many of the animals of the Serengeti only come out at night and these are difficult to find since night safaris are not permitted. Early risers may be lucky enough to catch the “tail end” of nocturnal activities but some animals such as the genet cat, serval, bushbabies, and pangolins are a really rare treat.

Visitors to the Serengeti may arrange for a balloon safari and experience the wonders of the great ecosystem from above. Accommodations are available within the parks boundaries and along the edges. Excursions into the Gol area to the east can be made off road with a ranger specially trained in the behaviour of lions.

Why do zebras have stripes?

There are many theories about the zebra’s stripes. Some people say it is to confuse predators, others say it is a kind of display like the peacock’s feathers. The official website of the Serengeti relates a different story.

“While studying buffalo and wildebeest in Serengeti, Dr. Sinclair would watch these animals at night with ‘night vision’ goggles. On starless nights, the ground appeared black and the sky a greenish colour on the screen. Animals appeared as either black or grey shapes silhouetted against the sky. Strangely, every now and then, a wildebeest would just disappear and then re-appear a few seconds later. After watching this occur a few times, a powerful spotlight was brought into play. Standing among the wildebeest were a group of zebra, invisible on the goggles. Since then, technology has improved, but the zebra remain invisible at night.”
.

Accommodation

Seronera Wildlife Lodge (TAHI group)

The Seronera lodge is situated in the centre of Serengeti National Park near the visitors centre and hippo pool. The lodge has seventy-five rooms with private bathrooms and offers a spectacular vantage point from which to observe the wildlife of the Serengeti; it’s central location makes it ideal for accessing various areas of the park.

Lobo Wildlife Lodge (TAHI group)

Deservedly earning a reputation as one of the most beautiful lodges in Tanzania, the Lobo wildlife lodge is built into a large rocky outcropping overlooking the Serengeti Plains. The Lodge features a swimming pool and is located ideally for game drives.

Serengeti Serena Lodge

Serengeti Serena Lodge is set atop a hill that provides awe-inspiring views of countless zebra, buffalo, gazelle, wildebeest, and other species. Big game feed in full view of the lodge. Inspired by traditional African architecture, the lodge design is charming, offering accommodation in individual cabins that are rich in atmosphere and indigenous touches.

Serengeti Sopa Lodge

The buildings of this Sopa Lodge (link) are inspired by the Maasai, with rounded corners and flat roofs. The lodge is situated in an acacia woodland near year-round springs. It’s elevated position provides scenic vistas and cool breezes.

Loliondo

Located just inside the north-eastern edge of the Serengeti near the Masai Mara in Kenya, Loliondo is a semi-permanent camp located in the shadow of massive kopjes where wildlife frequent the waterholes. Guests are attended by the permanent camp crew and can expect the highest level of service.

Grumeti River Camp

Located in a hidden valley in the western corridor of the Serengeti, the Grumeti Camp overlooks a tributary of the Grumeti River, home to hippo and crocodile. Ten self-contained tents are available, each with private shower and toilet.

Kirawira Cam

Located on the Kirawira hills in the western corridor of the Serengeti, the Kirawira Camp also overlooks the famous Grumeti River – home of the giant Nile crocodiles. 25 double tents are available, each one with its own solar-heated shower.

Kliens Camp

This camp is at a private ranch on the north-eastern edge of the Serengeti and offers high standards of comfort to guests in eight individual thatched-roof cottages.

Migration Camp

Built into a rocky outcropping near Lobo, this camp also overlooks the Grumeti River.

Classic Camping

Classic camping can be arranged and is a truly rewarding experience for those who want a closer look at the Serengeti ecosystem. Generally, food and supplies are provided and you will be accompanied by a staff to assist with the logistics of camping in the Serengeti.

.

.

Aberdares National Park

Size: 676 sq. km. Best time to visit: Anytime

The Aberdares National Park takes its name from the majestic mountain range that runs through it, stretching due north from Nairobi. The park also protects a tract of forested land known as the Salient, which stretches to the east of the range; it is in this area that the famous Ark and Treetops Lodges are located.

The forested Salient is the best place to see animals and provides a home for elephant, rhinoceros, warthog, giant forest hog, dikdik, bongo, several types of monkey and cats such as lions, leopards and serval. The park is also home to many brilliantly coloured birds and insects. Although not as rich in large animal life, the Aberdare mountain range offers dream-like vistas, deep valleys and towering peaks.

Aberdares National Park is one of the best places to catch a glimpse of night time wildlife thanks to the Ark, which is a game lodge built over a waterhole and salt lick that have been lit up to allow guests to witness the secret night time activities of the African bush.

Accommodation

Aberdare Country Club

The Country Club features 46 luxury rooms/cottages, many of which offer views of the Aberdares, Mt. Kenya, or the wide-open plains below. Horse-back riding, swimming, golf, and tennis are all available on the grounds.

The Ark

Overlooking a lighted waterhole in the heart of the Aberdares National Park, the Ark offers unique opportunities to observe African wildlife at night. 60 luxury rooms with (small) bathrooms and showers are available complete with buzzers to announce the arrival of big game in the night.

Treetops

Built as a two-room treehouse in 1932, the Treetops is now a unique 50-room lodge overlooking two waterholes where copious wildlife can be observed and photographed at close range. Accommodations include suites with private bathroom facilities and private twin or double rooms with shared bathroom facilities.

.

.

Tsavo National Park

Size: 20,800 sq. km. Best time to visit: July-Sept.

The mammoth Tsavo National park is actually comprised of two parks: Tsavo East and Tsavo West. Tsavo West is more accessible and less arid and therefore enjoys more popularity. There are only two rivers in this vast area and drought has been a problem for the Tsavo ecosystems.

Tsavo West

Thousands of elephant and many rhinoceros inhabit the park as well as many lions – although none have proved worthy of their ancestors “man-eating” reputation. Other predators include cheetah, leopard, serval, hyena and caracal. The oasis of Mzima is a natural wonder that attracts wildlife of every variety. Clear, cool waters feed the pool from underground streams; these springs also provide Mombasa with most of its water supply. Not far from the springs, the lights of Ngulia Lodge attract thousands of migrant birds that are captured, ringed and released. Truly a birder’s delight.

Tsavo East

Only a small part of the larger east park is open to human intrusion, the rest remains an absolutely wild and undisturbed home for many African animals. In the areas where tourism is permitted one may view sunbathing crocodiles, one of the worlds longest (extinct) lava flows, and beautiful falls.

The number of elephant and Rhino killed by poachers in the Tsavo area – a number that reached into the thousands just 15 years ago – has been reduced to 0 in recent years.

.

Accommodation

Ol Donyo Wuas

Ol Donyo Wuas (Maasai for “spotted hill”) (link) is comprised of a main building and 6 cottages – 3 of which are double units suitable for families – all with open fireplace, verandah with panoramic views, electricity and private bathroom with toilets and heated showers. Nature walks, cave walks and horse-back riding are just a sample of the available activities.

Ziwani Tented Camp

Located in view of Mt. Kilimanjaro, between the famous Amboseli game reserve and Tsavo West Game Park, Ziwani can accommodate up to 40 guests in private tents under thatched roofs. Each tent includes bathroom facilities and a private verandah.

Salt Lick Hilton Safari Lodge

Built on stilts overlooking a waterhole, the lodge features 96 guest rooms and an opportunity to view many different animals as they come to drink. Camel rides and regional entertainment can be arranged.

Taita Hills Safari Lodge

Located in the Taita Hills at the edge of Tsavo National Park, this lodge has 60 guest rooms and two suites with private bathroom and shower and panoramic views of the hotel’s own wildlife sanctuary. The lodge also offers swimming, mini-golf and camel riding.

.

.