Perhaps the most popular animals among tourists are the Big Five, they have become major concerns for wildlife conservationists in recent years. The African lion, African leopard and African bush elephant are all classified as vulnerable.
The southern white rhinoceros is classified as near threatened while the black rhinoceros is classified as critically endangered, so hunting them is greatly restricted for the latter.
The African buffalo is the most popular big five game animal to hunt, as its conservation status is least concern, but it is experiencing a population decline in uncontrolled areas due to poaching and urbanization.
The lion is a large feline of Africa and northwest India, having a short, tawny coat, a tufted tail, and in the male, a heavy mane around the neck and shoulders.
The pride of lions will leave you with an-experience- of –a – lifetime. Lions are desirable to hunters because of the very real danger involved in hunting them.
King of the African savannah: seeing a pride of lions in their own habitat will leave you with an indelible memory. The Serengeti is home to some incredibly large prides of lions and they are fairly easy to spot.
Lions live in a pride because they’re very social animals. In a group, the females hunt more than the males, but most will happily scavenge if they get the chance, because their favorite activity is snoozing under a tree: something they like to do for about 20 hours a day!
They walk with an elegant grace and have an amazing coat. The African leopard is a large, carnivorous feline having either tawny fur with dark rosette-like markings or black fur. This is the most shy and elusive one of the Big Five.
The leopard is considered the most difficult of the big five to hunt because of their nocturnal and secretive nature. They are wary of humans and will take flight in the face of danger.
The leopard is solitary by nature, and is most active between sunset and sunrise, although it may hunt during the day in some areas. Leopards can be found in the savannah grasslands, brush land and forested areas in Africa.
Of the big five, it is most difficult to acquire hunting licenses for. Leopards are excellent at playing hide and seek: if they don’t want to be seen, they can be perfectly camouflaged. In the Serengeti, you will be most likely to spot a leopard resting on a tree branch.
The large branches of the sausage tree are their favorite spot. So never forget to look up: a leopard might be enjoying his lunch high up in a tree, so lions and other predators don’t bother him.
The buffalo is one of Africa’s most dangerous animals with very few predators. The African buffalo or Cape buffalo is a large horned bovid. They are the only animals within the Big Five that are not endangered or threatened.
The Cape buffalo is considered by many to be the most dangerous of the big five to hunters, with wounded animals reported to ambush and attack pursuers Buffalo need to drink every day, so they are often found at a waterhole.
Although they can be notoriously bad tempered, especially when they’re injured, their wise gaze – as once described by a novelist: ‘They look at you like you owe them money’ – makes them thrilling to see.
In the Serengeti, buffalo come in very healthy numbers: there’s a good chance you’ll see herds with over 1,000 or more of these thrilling animals.
The African elephant is a very large herbivore having thick, almost hairless skin, a long, flexible, prehensile trunk, upper incisors forming long curved tusks of ivory, and large, fan-shaped ears and seeing one in its natural habitat is simply a thrilling experience.
The two distinct species of African elephant are: African forest elephant and the African bush elephant. Elephants are difficult to hunt because, despite their large size, they are able to hide in tall grass and are more likely to charge than the other species.
In the Serengeti, these grey giants roam the plains and disappear into the woodlands. Female elephants live in close-knit clans and family bonds can last for 50 years. Males often leave the clan after 12 years to roam singly or form bachelor herds.
Elephants frequently visit waterholes close to lodges. They are peaceful when left alone, but if an elephant feels threatened, get out of the way.
There are two types of rhinos in Africa: the black and white rhino. As you might expect, the white rhino is not white, but grey like the others. The black rhinoceros is a large herbivore having two upright horns on the nasal bridge.
Its thick (1.5–5 cm) protective skin, formed from layers of collagen positioned in a lattice structure, is very hard to puncture. It is now critically endangered, and hunting is extremely limited due to this.
In the context of big-game hunting in Africa, the term “rhinoceros” may also refer to the white rhinoceros, but among big five game hunters, the black rhinoceros is preferred Over the past several decades, the rhino population in the Serengeti ecosystem has suffered greatly due to poaching: rhino numbers decreased from 1,000 to less than 70 individuals.
The Serengeti has a great variety of animals, because it’s a unique transition area. The distinct changeover from rich flat soils in the south, to the poor hilly soils in the north, leads to a great diversity of vegetation and habitats across the park.
A unique habitat is the riverine forests: a favorite spot for hippos and crocodiles. Other common animals are the long-neck giraffes; many other ungulates (hooved animals) such as the eland, zebra, Topi, kongoni, impala and Grant’s gazelle are resident at any time of the year.
As said, all three big cats are easily seen. Lions are everywhere and are often found on a kill. Cheetahs are very common on the south-eastern plains, while leopards can typically be found lazing in one of the big trees along the Seronera River. Hyenas are common, wild dogs, unfortunately, are rare.
If you’re not a birdwatcher at heart, there’s a good chance you’ll become one after visiting the Serengeti. With more than 500 bird species recorded, this is a birdlife paradise.
Most guides will happily point out all the unique species in this area, like the bright green and yellow-colored Fischer’s Lovebird, or the Kuri bustard with its impressive white beard.
The Serengeti-Mara ecosystem is one of Africa’s Endemic Bird Areas (land important for habitat-based bird conservation), and also hosts five bird species found nowhere else, half of which are confined to the Tanzanian portion of the ecosystem.
Best time for bird watching
Bird watching in the Serengeti is good year-round, but at its very best between early November and late April. Serengeti National Park has more than 500 bird species recorded and the Serengeti Mara ecosystem is one of Africa’s Important Bird Areas containing restricted-range bird species), hosting five bird species found nowhere else, half of which are confined to the Tanzanian portion of the ecosystem. .
During the wet season, this is when European and North African migratory birds are present, but it is also nesting time for resident species. This makes it easy to spot birds in their exciting breeding plumage.
Read more about the best time to visit the Serengeti. Below are some of the birds you may spot; the grey-breasted spur fowl is a common roadside bird in the Seronera area, in the centre of the park.
In woodland areas, parties of Fischer’s lovebird draw attention to themselves and the Rufus-tailed weaver is a fascinating bird placed in its own genus.
The other two Serengeti-Mara EBA endemics are the Usambiro barbet and the grey-crested helmet-shrike. Migratory birds are present from November to April.