The Serengeti: It’s one of the 10 natural wonders in the world and one of seven natural wonders in Africa. Derived from the Maasai word Serenget, Serengeti means “endless plains” which is an entirely accurate description. On our trip to Tanzania, I found the vastness of the Serengeti both awe-inspiring and panic-inducing, often at the same time. The Serengeti is known for many things, including being home to 70 large mammal and 500 bird species. It’s home to an extraordinary amount of lions, and boy did we delight in seeing them
Before heading to Tanzania, I didn’t know much about the Serengeti, had no idea what to expect, and I most definitely did not picture myself camping in the Serengeti. I’ll probably be saying it for the rest of my life, but our time in Tanzania almost feels like it didn’t happen, it was so special and different and amazing. Let’s start at the gate, shall we?
There are two memorable spots upon entering the Serengeti, the official Serengeti gate and the check in point. The gate, pictured above, defines the entrance to the park but is perhaps a more symbolic spot, ideal for getting photos. About 20 minutes in, there’s an official checkpoint for paperwork. Everyone entering and leaving the Serengeti needs to file paperwork and permits and things. Hopefully it keeps poachers out!
The Serengeti is known for its annual migration of wildebeests and zebras, and due to the rainy season being so incredibly dry, the migration happened while we were there, three months before it is supposed to. There were about 500,000 wildebeests, which are loud and hilarious looking and move in the funniest way. I love them. Zebras and wildebeests travel together peacefully. Wildebeests can smell really well and zebras can see, so together they find water and do their best to stay away from predators. They also keep an eye on each other when they are eating and drinking. It’s kind of cute how they stick together. The line of these animals was neverending. I wish I could do a better job of describing it. It was amazing.
Each day in the Serengeti, we went on a sunrise game drive, had lunch and some free time, and then did a late afternoon game drive. Each drive brought us different animals doing different things. I loved the graceful yet goofy giraffes, especially the babies.
We saw lions just about every day. One early morning a bunch of lionesses were teaching a young lion to hunt. The way they crouched down and pounced was so similar to our cats’ behavior, on a much, much larger scale. We didn’t see a kill, which disappointed most of our group.
The adorable animal in the above photo is called a dik-dik. It’s a tiny antelope with a pretty funny name, and our group quickly became obsessed with them.
The Serengeti isn’t just home to animals, but also to beautiful landscape, different climate zones, and kopjes, large rock outcroppings. On one of the evening game drives, we climbed a kopje that was home of the gong rock, a rock that makes a musical sound when struck hard enough. Above is a photo of one of our guides “propping up” a kopje. And below is an endless plain with endless blue skies. Standing in this spot was quite unlike anything I have ever experienced. This was on the third day of our Serengeti trip, so I was more comfortable with our surroundings and able to fully soak this up.
I wasn’t even scared when we encountered a hungry lioness headed in the direction of a lost baby wildebeest. We like to think the wildebeest got away and found its mama. . .
On yet another game drive, lions decided to take a rest in the shade of another safari vehicle. These lions were about three feet away from us. We could hear their breathing and they ours. As long as no one bothered them, they were just fine.
We saw many hyenas on our journey and heard even more at night. Hyenas are kind of jerks, very mean, and slightly creepy, but I thought they were kind of cute. . . except for the time we saw a hyena with his mouth covered in blood, fresh from snacking on a kill.
In addition to lions, giraffes, hyenas, elephants, wildebeests, and zebras, there were so many other animals, like lazing about hippos and the extremely endangered black rhino, which we saw from a distance. Rhinos will be gone within a few years, which is heartbreaking. I can’t even begin to think about what poachers are doing, all in the name of false claims of power of a rhino’s horn, which is basically the same material as our fingernails. Our time in the Serengeti made me wish that as a world we could respect the environment and our precious plants and animals more than we respect cold hard cash.
The Serengeti is a magical, unbelievable, spiritual place, where everything that is happening in nature happens for a reason. It is a wonder of the world for a reason, and its beauty has stolen a spot in my heart forever.