Serengeti National Park is one of the most iconic wildlife reserves in the world. It is located in northern Tanzania and is home to an incredible array of animals, including the Big 5: lion, rhino, leopard, elephant, and Cape buffalo.
The park offers visitors a unique opportunity to observe these animals in their natural habitat and witness the world-famous migration of some of the park's other residents. Learn more about each of these fantastic species as we explore the big animals of the Serengeti.
Lions are one of the most iconic animals on the planet, and their strength and power have been celebrated for centuries. These beasts possess a mighty roar almost as loud as thunder, which can be heard up to five miles away.
They are the only large cats to live in groups, and each pride can have between 2 and 40 members. The male(s) of the group work to defend the territory and protect the cubs, while the females are the ones who hunt for food, often working together to take down large prey such as zebras or wildebeest.
With around 3,000 lions residing in the Serengeti, sightings are almost guaranteed, with many visitors lucky enough to witness a lion hunt in action.
Rhinos have unique characteristics that make them stand out from other animals, such as the horn on their nose used for defense and digging. They are powerful mammals with thick skin that protects them from predators. The largest rhinos can weigh over three tons, which is especially impressive when you learn that they are herbivores, meaning they only eat plants and leaves.
Sadly, rhino numbers are rapidly declining. Five rhino species roam the earth today: the white rhino, black rhino, Javan rhino, Sumatran rhino, and Indian rhinoceros. Scientists consider the white rhino the only "near threatened" species rather than endangered. Conservation efforts have been successful in some areas, but much more needs to be done to ensure these majestic creatures don't become extinct.
According to statistics from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, there are roughly 190 rhinos in the Serengeti. Still, you'll need an experienced guide and a bit of luck if you're hoping to see one of the rare black rhinos that roam these plains.
The leopard is one of the five big cats in the genus Panthera and is found in parts of Africa, Asia, and Europe. They have many unique features, such as their coat which is spotted with rosette shapes of black or dark brown spots on a yellowish background. And this pattern helps to differentiate it from the cheetah (with whom it is often confused), as the spots on a cheetah's coat are solid and circular or round.
A leopard's body is muscular, with strong legs and claws that help it climb trees easily. The leopard also has a mighty jaw with sharp teeth, which enable it to hunt its prey efficiently. These physical features have made the leopard an iconic symbol of power and grace throughout history.
These felines can be challenging to spot because of their independent nature, so they spend most of their lives alone in remote areas. They're likely to be found in trees, where they store their prey, or around the water holes that offer refreshment to the animals of the Serengeti.
Elephants are one of the most majestic and unique animals on the planet. They have several features that make them stand out from other animals, such as their large size, long trunks, and impressive tusks.
But what makes elephants unique is their intelligence, social behavior, and strong family bonds. Elephants have been known to show signs of empathy and even mourn the loss of loved ones. They are also capable of using tools, which is something very few other species can do. All these traits make elephants remarkable creatures that deserve our respect and admiration.
In the 1980s, the Serengeti population of African bush elephants plummeted to just 500 following an increased demand for ivory in the far east. Still, following a poaching ban, numbers were able to rise, and by the 2020s, an estimated 7,000 elephants were populating this vast expanse of Africa.
The Cape buffalo, also known as the African buffalo, is a large and powerful mammal native to the African continent. It is one of the most dangerous animals in Africaand has been known to charge and attack humans without provocation. The Cape buffalo is an impressive animal, with its distinctive horns and thick hide that protect it from predators.
It is also a very social animal, living in herds of up to 2000 individuals. Its diet consists mainly of grasses, but it will also eat leaves, fruits, and roots when available. The Cape buffalo's formidable size and strength can be an intimidating sight in the wild. With more than 1,000 present in this national park, there's an excellent chance you'll spot one, particularly around the watering hole.
One of the friendliest animals on the African savannah is the giraffe, which is commonly known as the "national animal of Tanzania" and features on many of their banknotes. It's not hard to see why people love giraffes; their long necks, small horns, and beautiful elongated faces make them one of the most striking and recognizable animals on the planet.
Many of us will have seen these gentle giants in the local conservation zoo. Still, seeing a wild herd in its natural habitat is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Zebra, Gazelle, and Wildebeest
The Great Migration of the Serengeti is an incredible phenomenon that has captivated the world for centuries. Every year, millions of zebras, gazelle, and wildebeest travel across the Serengeti, searching for food and water. This annual migration is one of nature's most spectacular events and has become an iconic symbol of Africa's wildlife.
The journey takes them into the Masai Mara in Kenya, as they cover distances of over 800 km. Along the way, they face many obstacles, including predators, extreme weather conditions, and limited resources. Despite these challenges, these animals have survived for generations thanks to their incredible resilience and determination.