Tanzania's oldest and most popular National Park, also a world heritage site and recently proclaimed a seventh wonder of the world, the Serengeti is famed for its annual migration, when some six million hooves pound the open plains, as more than 200,000 zebra and 300,000 Thomson's gazelle join the wildebeest’s trek for fresh grazing.
Yet even when the migration is quiet, the Serengeti offers arguably the most scintillating game viewing in Africa: great herds of buffalo, smaller groups of elephant and giraffe, and thousands upon thousands of eland, topi, kongoni, impala and Grant’s gazelle.
The spectacle of predator versus prey dominates Tanzania’s greatest park. Golden-maned lion prides feast on the abundance of plain grazers. Solitary leopard haunt the acacia trees lining the Seronera River, while a high density of cheetah prowls the southeastern plains. Almost uniquely, all three African jackal species occur here, alongside the spotted hyena and a host of more elusive small predators, ranging from the insectivorous aardwolf to the beautiful serval cat.
As enduring as the game-viewing is the liberating sense of space that characterises the Serengeti Plains, stretching across sunburnt savannah to a shimmering golden horizon at the end of the earth. Yet, after the rains, this golden expanse of grass is transformed into an endless green carpet flecked with wildflowers. And there are also wooded hills and towering termite mounds, rivers lined with fig trees and acacia woodland stained orange by dust.
On the eastern border an area known as Loliondo offers a great mix of resident game and is excellent walking country with a dramatic scenery of rock kopjes and woodlands. The emphasis here is on walking safaris, off-road driving, and night drives, none of which are possible within the Serengeti itself, and also on cultural visits with the Maasai.
As popular as the Serengeti might be, but it remains so vast that you may be the only human audience when a pride of lions masterminds a siege, focussed unswervingly on its next meal.