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Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

Named for the Maasai word siringet, which translates roughly as “the place where the land runs on forever,” Serengeti National Park is among the oldest game reserves in Tanzania. It’s also one of the most iconic safari destinations in Africa. Located in the north of the country, it partly adjoins the Kenyan border and together with the Masai Mara National Reserve provides the backdrop for the annual Great Migration—considered by many to be the planet’s most impressive natural event. The park covers over 5,700 square miles (14,700 square kilometers), including vast expanses of grassland plains and tangled riverine forest.

For more than 200 years, the Serengeti ecosystem provided fertile grazing land for nomadic Maasai tribes. The first Europeans visited the area in 1892, and thereafter it became a popular haunt for big game hunters. In 1921, the colonial British administration addressed the decline in the Serengeti’s lion population by forming a partial reserve in the area. This was converted into a full reserve eight years later and eventually established as the Serengeti National Park in 1951. The colonial government evicted Maasai living within the park’s borders in 1959, two years before the country gained independence from the British.

In 1981, Serengeti National Park was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in recognition of its incredible ecological importance.

Serengeti Safari

Traditionally, the park is divided into three distinct geographic regions. The largest of these is the southern Serengeti plains—an iconic, largely treeless savannah landscape that serves as a breeding ground for the wildebeest and antelope that congregate here from December to May before beginning their migration north.The Western Corridor includes the Grumeti River and its adjacent forests. Visitors flock to this area of the park from May to July when the wildebeest migration passes through, but it’s also a great place to spot water birds and other aquatic species all year round.

Finally, the remote northern Serengeti woodlands are the best place to spot elephants and giraffes, and to observe the spectacle of the migration’s Mara River crossings.