The Serengeti ecosystem hosts the largest terrestrial mammals migration in the world, which helps secure it as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa, and one of the ten natural travel wonders of the world. The Serengeti is also renowned for its large lion population and is one of the best places to observe prides in their natural environment.
The Serengeti ecosystem spans some 30,000 km2 (12,000 sq mi).The region contains the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania and several game reserves. The Kenyan part of the Serengeti is known as Maasai (Masai) Mara.
Approximately 70 larger mammals and some 500 avifauna species are found in the ecosystem. This high diversity in terms of species is a function of diverse habitats ranging from riverine forests, swamps, kopjes, grasslands and woodlands.
Serengeti is derived from the Maasai word “Serengit” meaning “Endless Plains”.
Much of the Serengeti was known to outsiders as Maasailand. The Tanzanian government later in the 20th century re-settled the Maasai around the Ngorongoro highlands.
Each year around the same time the circular great wildebeest migration begins in the southern edge of Serengeti. This movement is a natural phenomenon determined by the availability of grazing. From January to March the calving season begins – a time when there is plenty of rain ripened grass available for the 260,000 zebra that precede 1.7 million wildebeest and hundreds of thousands of other plains game.
As the rains end in May the animals start moving north west, July sees the main migration heading north, arriving on the late July / August and stay for the remaining time. In early November with the start of the short rains the migration starts moving south again, to the short grass plains of the south east, usually arriving in December in plenty of time for calving in February. A total of 800 kilometres (500 mi) to be covered annual.