10 Interesting Facts About the Serengeti National Park (5 minute read)

(Last Updated On: May 18, 2023)

It’s Africa’s most famous national park and the dream travel destination for animal lovers around the world. But how much do you know about the mighty Serengeti National Park in Tanzania? Are you planning a trip to the reserve in order to tick the Big Five off your bucket list or to see the Great Migration in action? If so, then read on to find out more with our 10 interesting facts about the Serengeti.

The Great Migration is one of the best natural spectacles in the world - facts about the Serengeti
Watching the herds of wildebeest crossing rivers during the Great Migration can be an incredible and dramatic experience

Home to nature’s greatest spectacle

1. The Serengeti National Park is best known as the home of the Great Migration, one of the world’s greatest natural spectacles. More than 1.5 million wildebeest, 250,000 zebra and countless other prey species migrate between the Serengeti and Kenya’s Masai Mara in an annual cyclical migration in search of richer feeding grounds. They are of course followed by the lions, leopards, cheetah, and other predators which roam the plains. The most dramatic spectacle to see is the herds crossing waterways such as the Mara River, with crocodiles and strong currents to contend with. June to August is the best time to see the migration in the Serengeti National Park.

2. In the most shocking of our facts about the Serengeti, it is estimated that at least 250,000 wildebeest die annually on migration. The main causes of death for the animals are usually starvation, drought, or predation. Although these are huge losses, they are sustainable thanks to the high numbers of animals that survive the journey. And the deaths feed the rest of the food chain, supporting the entire ecosystem.

3. The Serengeti National Park was first protected in 1940, but the national park wasn’t formally established until 1951. The borders of the park have been adjusted since then. For example, in 1959, an area of 8,200 square kilometres was re-established as the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. The Serengeti National Park is huge, at more than 14,700 square kilometres. But the park actually protects less than half of the Serengeti ecosystem, which covers approximately 30,000 square kilometres.

A zebra in the Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania
The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is now a separate reserve from the Serengeti

Hakuna Matata

4. The Serengeti is home to many kopjes. These rock formations are made from exposed granite. They protrude from the grassy plains, having been shaped over millions of years. Kopjes are a popular resting spot for lions and are thought to have inspired Pride Rock in the 1994 Disney classic The Lion King. Specifically, the Simba Kopjes, which are the tallest kopjes in the park and are named after the main character in the film.

5. For years, the Tanzanian government had been planning a major highway through the Serengeti National Park to connect rural communities. However, this road would have severed the Great Migration and destroyed the pristine ecosystem. After opposition from the United Nations, the US government, the Tanzania tourism industry and conservationists, the road was finally killed off by the East African Court of Justice in 2014. To this day, the road is not happening. And we keep our fingers crossed that this continues to be the case so that wildlife can continue to thrive and bring tourism money into Tanzania. There are other potential routes to build a new road to connect those rural communities. In fact, the German government even offered to partially fund the project!

6. In the 1890s, the area which was to become the Serengeti National Park was hit by heavy droughts and a cattle disease epidemic. Sadly, this illness also swept through the wild populations of prey animals. Wildlife was decimated, and it wasn’t until around the mid-1970s that wildlife populations had fully recovered.

A group of Maasai men making fire on the outskirts of the Serengeti National Park
The native Maasai tribe is integral to the protection of the Serengeti National Park

Protecting wildlife

7. Conservation of the Serengeti is partially led by the Maasai tribe. The Serengeti was the ancestral home of the tribe. And although they were largely relocated to protect the wildlife, they continue to herd their cattle around the park and live in harmony with nature. Visitors to the Serengeti National Park will often visit a Maasai village to meet the tribespeople. For the Maasai, wealth is measured not in money, but in cattle. A herd of 50 cattle is considered respectable, for example.

8. Today, the Serengeti has a stable lion population of around 3,000 individuals. Lion populations are falling across Africa, so the Serengeti population is more important than ever to safeguard the species.

9. Elephants are native to the Serengeti, but when the national park was founded, there weren’t any. It is presumed they were all poached in the 1800s. But in the mid-1900s, elephants started moving back into the park. Populations have fluctuated due to environmental conditions and poaching. But today there is thought to be a healthy population of more than 7,000 elephants across the entire Serengeti ecosystem. This is an increase from around 6,000 in 2014 – great news!

10. More good news in the last of our facts about the Serengeti. Another member of the Big Five, the buffalo, is also doing well in the area. In 2020 there were estimated to be around 60,100 individuals, up from 50,000 in 2014.

One of our more positive facts about the Serengeti is that elephants returned after being wiped out in the 1800s and are now thriving!
Elephants began to return to the Serengeti in the mid-1900s, and are now thriving

See the Serengeti for yourself

We hope you’ve enjoyed our facts about the Serengeti National Park. Now you know more about the Serengeti, you can start planning your trip! Tourism is a crucial tool in conserving wonderful wild places like the Serengeti. It is proof that these places are worth more to local economies intact than they are if destroyed for development. Check out our range of Tanzania safaris if you’d like to visit the Serengeti for yourself.