The Serengeti is one of the most famous and iconic safari destinations in the world, renowned for its vast plains, diverse wildlife, and spectacular migrations. But did you know that there is more to the Serengeti than meets the eye? In this post, we will explore the northern Serengeti, a lesser-known but equally amazing region that offers a different perspective on this incredible ecosystem.
The northern Serengeti is located in the northern part of Tanzania, bordering Kenya and the Masai Mara National Reserve. It covers an area of about 4,000 square kilometers (1,500 square miles), which is about a quarter of the total size of the Serengeti National Park. The northern Serengeti is part of the larger Serengeti-Mara ecosystem, which spans over 25,000 square kilometers (9,700 square miles) and encompasses several protected areas and community lands.
The northern Serengeti is characterized by rolling green hills, acacia woodlands, rocky outcrops, and the mighty Mara River, which flows through the region and forms a natural boundary with Kenya. The landscape is more varied and rugged than the southern Serengeti plains, which are dominated by flat grasslands. The northern Serengeti also has a lower human population density and tourism pressure than the southern and central parts of the park, making it a more secluded and serene safari destination.
Landscapes and Natural Features
The northern Serengeti is characterized by diverse landscapes and natural features that create a scenic backdrop for wildlife viewing. The area stretches from the Lobo Hills southwards to Seronera and is typified by green rolling hills, which contrast with the much flatter southern plains. The Lobo Hills are a series of granite outcrops that rise above the surrounding savanna and provide shelter and shade for many animals. The hills are also known for hosting several large lion prides that often rest on top of the rocks.
The northern Serengeti also contains vast areas of open grasslands that are ideal for grazing animals such as wildebeest, zebra, gazelle, eland, topi, hartebeest, impala, buffalo, giraffe, elephant, rhino, and warthog. The grasslands are interspersed with patches of acacia woodlands that offer cover and food for browsers such as giraffe, elephant, dik-dik,
kudu, bushbuck, duiker, and monkey. The woodlands are also home to many birds, such as hornbills, rollers, woodpeckers, shrikes, and weavers.
One of the most prominent features of the northern Serengeti is the Mara River, which forms the border between Tanzania and Kenya. The river is a vital source of water for the wildlife in the dry season, and a major obstacle for the migrating herds. The river is also a habitat for many aquatic animals, such as crocodiles, hippos, fish, and turtles. The river is surrounded by lush riparian vegetation that attracts many insects, birds, and mammals.
Wildlife and Biodiversity
The northern Serengeti is home to a rich and diverse array of wildlife, including some of the most iconic and charismatic species in Africa. The region boasts one of the largest lion populations in Africa, with over 3,000 lions roaming the area. Other predators include leopards, cheetahs, hyenas, jackals, servals, and bat-eared foxes. The northern Serengeti also hosts large numbers of elephants, giraffes, buffaloes, zebras, wildebeests, gazelles, elands, topis, impalas, hartebeests, waterbucks, dik-diks, and many more herbivores. The Mara River is a vital source of water and life for these animals, especially during the dry season.
The northern Serengeti is also a paradise for birdwatchers, with over 500 species of birds recorded in the area. Some of the notable birds include ostriches, secretary birds, kori bustards, crowned cranes, marabou storks, vultures, eagles, owls, bee-eaters, kingfishers, rollers, hornbills, weavers, sunbirds, and many more. The region also supports a variety of reptiles, amphibians, insects, and plants that contribute to the biodiversity and beauty of the ecosystem.
The Great Migration
The Great Migration is one of the most amazing natural phenomena in the world. It involves the movement of over 1.5 million wildebeest, 250,000 zebras, and hundreds of thousands of other herbivores across the Serengeti ecosystem in a circular pattern that follows the seasonal availability of food and water. The migration is not a single event, but a continuous process that varies in timing and routes depending on environmental factors such as rainfall, vegetation growth, and predation pressure.
The northern Serengeti plays a crucial role in the migration cycle, as it serves as a corridor between the southern short-grass plains and the dry season areas in the north. The best time to visit the northern Serengeti to witness the migration is from July to October, when the herds gather along the banks of the Mara River, waiting for the right moment to cross. The river crossing is one of the most dramatic and thrilling scenes of the migration, as thousands of animals brave the crocodile-infested waters and stampede across the river. The river crossing also attracts many predators, such as lions, leopards, cheetahs, hyenas, and crocodiles, who take advantage of the chaos and confusion to hunt their prey.
The migration has a significant impact on the ecosystem of the northern Serengeti, as it influences the distribution and abundance of herbivores and carnivores, as well as the nutrient cycling and vegetation dynamics. The migration also provides an important source of income for local communities and tourism operators who benefit from the influx of visitors who come to see this natural spectacle.
Accommodation in Northern Serengeti
The northern Serengeti offers exceptional safari experiences for visitors who want to explore this remarkable region. The main activity is game driving, which allows guests to observe wildlife from open or closed vehicles guided by professional drivers and guides. Game drives can be done in different times of day, such as early morning, late afternoon, or night, to see different animals and behaviors. Game drives can also be combined with other activities, such as guided walks and hot air balloon safaris,
Guided walks are a great way to experience the northern Serengeti on foot and get closer to nature. Guided walks are led by armed rangers and guides who share their knowledge and skills on tracking, identifying, and interpreting the signs of wildlife. Guided walks can be done in designated areas within the national park or in the adjacent Loliondo Game Controlled Area, which is a multiple land use area where the Maasai people live and graze their cattle alongside wild animals.
Hot air balloon safaris are a unique and exhilarating way to see the northern Serengeti from above. Hot air balloon safaris in Northern Serengeti are available fromJuly to November when the migration passws through this region. The activity is usually done at sunrise, when the weather is calm and the light is soft. The balloons take off from designated launch sites and fly over the savanna for about an hour, offering panoramic views of the landscape and wildlife. The balloons can reach heights of up to 1,000 feet, but can also descend to treetop level for a closer look at the animals. The balloon safari ends with a champagne breakfast in the bush.