“Karibu! Welcome to the Serengeti!” the pilot bellows after he cuts the twin prop’s engines. He opens the plane doors, letting in the hot scent of desert sage. The smell is intoxicating—one that sparks excitement for travellers new to Africa and recalls for veterans the reasons they continue to return. Seeing Africa from above does little to prepare you for immersion in the Serengeti National Park, a UNESCO-inscribed game reserve jointly managed by Kenya and Tanzania. The Serengeti is the Africa of The Lion King, of Karen Blixen and Hemingway. It’s the home of graceful Maasai warriors and the fierce Big Five—lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos and buffaloes—not to mention crocodiles, hippos, cheetahs and baboons.
It’s also home to hundreds of colourful and lesser-known species such as lilac-breasted rollers, intricately marbled Charaxes butterflies and umbrella thorn acacia trees, which provide some shady respite from the sun-scorched landscape. To put it another way, there are more than 70 species of large mammals and more than 500 types of birds found among these riverine forests, swamps, rocky kopjes and grasslands. And while staying at Four Seasons Safari Lodge Serengeti, one of the few properties located entirely within the Serengeti National Park, you can see them all.
Adventure begins at the Discovery Centre, where wildlife research programmes, cultural exhibitions and educational activities unravel the mysteries of Tanzania’s vast wilderness.
In the Serengeti, opportunities for wildlife viewing present even before the day begins, and setting out on safari—either by Jeep or hot-air balloon—quickly becomes a form of extreme game chasing. The Discovery Centre at Four Seasons, the region’s first lodge-based conservation research and education facility, brings these dynamic interactions with wildlife into high-definition perspective.
“The aim of the Discovery Centre is to help our guests understand the intricate interactions that are going on in the bush all around them—both large and small,” says Oliver Dreike, the Discovery Centre Manager. Follow the course of the Great Migration with a 3-D interactive map of the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem, track night-time movements of nocturnal predators with state-of-the-art camera equipment and embark on a guided tour with a member of the local Maasai or Ikoma tribe.
“The Discovery Centre showcases more than half a century of Serengeti wildlife research,” says Dreike. He and other centre staff also manage the Lodge’s Kijana Klub activities. Kijana means “youth” in Swahili, and the programmes appeal to the wide-eyed eagerness for knowledge that most young guests arrive with. “Kids love setting up remote camera traps,” says Dreike. “They set them up outside their rooms, and then tune in to see what creatures walked past during the night.”