The Serengeti takes its name from the Maasai word siringet, which means “endless plains.” The plains certainly are that, and the park itself is endless, covering 5,700 square miles (14,763 sq km) of dry rolling grassland, acacia speckled savanna, and dense riverine woodland.
In the south one finds short and long grass plains, desiccated much of the year, brought briefly back to vibrancy by the short rains of November and December. It is no coincidence that the wildebeest calving season occurs in the months that follow; the entire Serengeti ecosystem follows the rhythm of the pattering rains, great herds of grazers following the rainfall and briefly rich forage. The Serengeti supports millions of hoofed animals – wildebeest, zebras, giraffes, Thomson’s and Grant’s gazelles – and the predators that harass them. This ecosystem extends beyond the boundaries of the park, some of it protected within the Ngorongoro Conservation Area on the park’s eastern border and a knuckle of it within the Maasai Mara Reserve across Tanzania’s northern national border with Kenya.
While the bulk of the park consists of grassland, the western reaches, near Lake Victoria, feature wooded highlands, and woodlands line the tributaries of the Mara and Grumeti rivers.
The wildebeest migration that hits the southern Serengeti during December-March (typically; there’s slight variation according to local conditions!) is an unmissable sight, where up to two million animals cross East Africa in search of food, water and birthing grounds. As one of the biggest mass migrations on the planet, and certainly one of the most dramatic, there is naturally great demand in booking accommodation…we typically use smaller, private camps that offer greater exclusivity and have the mobility to escape the big groups of tourists and follow the herds after the small fluctuations that inevitably occur during their long journey. If you’d like to read up more on the migration, we suggest you go to our dedicated Wildebeest Migration page that focuses on the event specifically.