Next time you think about the feel of nature, think Serengeti! Albert Einstein once said “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” Nothing quite captures this quote more than the plains of Serengeti. What is Serengeti? Serengeti is a Maasai word meaning “endless plains.” This name no doubt stems from the fact that Serengeti spans over 30,000 km2, stretching from northern Tanzania into south-western Kenya. It is managed by both the Tanzanian and Kenyan governments. The Kenyan part of the Serengeti is called Maasai Mara. According to Wikipedia the Serengeti hosts the largest terrestrial mammal migration in the world which helps secure it as one of the seven natural wonders of Africa and one of the ten natural travel wonders of the world.
Earlier the Serengeti was known to outsiders as Maasailand. The Maasai are fierce warriors and live alongside wild animals loathe to eating game and birds surviving exclusively on their cattle. Historically, their reputation and strength kept newly arrived Europeans from exploiting the animals and resources from most of their land. However, a rinderpest epidemic and drought greatly reduced the number of both the maasai and animal populations but the Tanzanian government resettled them around the ngorongoro crater in the 20th century. The absence of poaching and fires set the stage for development of dense woodlands and thickets over the next 30 to 50 years. Tse-tse fly populations have prevented human resettlement in the area.
Each year around the same time, the great circular wildebeest migration begins in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area of the southern Serengeti in Tanzania and loops in a clockwise direction through the Serengeti National Park and north towards the Masai Mara reserve in Kenya. The beauty of it all is that the migration is a natural phenomenon determined by the availability of grazing. The migration includes about 1.7 million wildebeest, 260,000 zebra, hundreds of thousands of other plains game and over 470,000 gazelles. About 250,000 wildebeest die during the migration. Death is usually from hunger, thirst, predation or exhaustion.
Apart from the great migration, the Serengeti is also known for being host to a large number of large predators. It is home to about 3,000 lions, 1,000 leopards and about 7000 to 8000 spotted hyenas. Wild dogs have become relatively scarce due to the activities of larger predators that steal wild dog kills and are a direct cause of the high mortality of the species. The governments of Tanzania and Kenya give a majority of the Serengeti legal protection i.e about 80% of the Serengeti.
The Serengeti landscape can be divided into two defined mostly by their dominant vegetation- Woodland and grassland. The expansiveness of this attraction is interrupted by Ol Doinyo Lengai, the only active volcano in the area and still ejects carbonatite lavas that is white when exposed to air. In rainfalls the ash turns into a calcium rich material that is almost as hard as cement. The southeastern area is composed of shortgrass and treeless plains as this area experiences no rainfall.
With the magical nature of the Serengeti, it was the inspiration behind the Disney blockbuster animation “The Lion King”. Next time you think about the feel of nature, think Serengeti.