Turner's Spring is located at the heart of the Central Serengeti
in a thicket of bushes and acacia trees. The springs themselves
are difficult to see but are a magnet for wildlife during the dry
season including lion, giraffe, buffalo, leopard, impala and hyena.
Turner's Spring is named after Myles Turner, who was chief game
warden of the Serengeti National Park from 1956 to 1972. Myles Turner
took on his post just after the inception of the park. These early
years were among the darkest and most uncertain days in the Serengeti's
history. Poaching was widespread, unchecked and threatened the survival
of the entire ecosystem. Due to Myles Turner's untiring and dedicated
conservation and anti-poaching efforts, the great herds of Africa's
finest wildlife sanctuary still roam free today. Norman Myers eloquently
writes, "Myles Turner epitomized the Serengeti. Others visited it,
he was part of it; others observed it, he knew it; others analyzed
it, he comprehended it; others enjoyed it, he loved it."
The location of Turner's Spring is wonderfully remote and isolated from the many visitors that flock to the Central Serengeti. The area is home to two of the Serengeti's finest dry season campsites, which are situated on either side of a massive and heavily vegetated kopje. Of course game drives to Turner's Spring can be conducted whether or not you are staying at the campsites. The game track into Turner's Spring is approximately 5-miles long and heads directly east from Seronera. The Turner's game track offers superb wildlife viewing opportunities as it cuts across thick acacia woodlands punctuated with small open areas where many animals congregate. This is a great area to see large groups of giraffes and buffalo. The giraffe in this area are especially habituated to vehicles and will often come to within a few feet of your vehicle. The game track also offers excellent leopard viewing as these elusive cats are often seen discretely peering from the acacia trees that line the road, given away by the white tip of their flicking tail that hangs just a little too low. One time, during a single game drive into Turner's Spring, three separate leopards were spotted only a few feet from the road!
Wildlife viewing for various species of animals is great around the Turner's area but it's the resident lion prides that steal the show. With cat-like disdain, these golden felines rule the entire surrounding area with regal confidence. Lions are quite social in nature - hunting, eating, sleeping, and even playing together in tightly knit communities. The lionesses form strong bonds within a pride, and work together as a team to rear their cubs. Pride territories are fiercely guarded by whichever male lions are the most confident and physically powerful. Displaying the noble air of royalty one minute and the playfulness of a kitten the next, these big cats are quite entertaining to watch as they interact. There are three resident lion prides within a 10-mile radius, and each of these prides is studied by the Serengeti Lion Project. These notorious lions are frequently encountered by enthralled visitors during the day and their spine-tingling roars are regularly heard during the night.
Turner's Spring is indeed the 'park place' of lion territories in the Serengeti due to the permanent sources of water and high biomass of resident prey. Be ready for a thrill if you are camping at Turner's Spring because you will certainly hear their powerful roars at night, especially during the dry season when resident prey densities are at their highest. Craig Packer, director of the Serengeti Lion Project, writes on the subject of lions,
"Lions roar most during seasons of plentiful prey, when nomad lions or neighbors might be tempted to pilfer from their larder. Roaring tells the strangers how many lions occupy a given territory and where they are at the moment. Roaring also tells companions what is happening within the pride...each sex is fiercely territorial. Males are on the constant lookout to keep other males away from "their" pride, and females are intolerant of any strange female that wanders into their territory."
Male and female lions roar similarly except that the calls of the male are somewhat deeper in tone. A roar can be detected from as far as 5-miles away. Roaring by one group member often stimulates others to join, and the ensuing concert is surely one of the most powerful and impressive animal sounds in nature. George Schaller notes during his four-year study in the Serengeti,
"Lions call mostly at night and generally roars are rare before 5.00pm and after 8.00am. Roaring advertises the lion's presence and in essence denotes 'Here I Am' and in this capacity has several functions as a long-distance signal. First, it helps lions find each other, although their propensity to ignore calls makes this somewhat difficult. Once, for example a male lost sight of a lioness he was following. He roared but received no response and finally tracked her by scent. Second, roaring enables lions to avoid contact, by, for instance, delineating the pride territory. Third, roaring enhances the physical presence of an animal by making it more conspicuous. During antagonistic encounters roaring may help to intimidate the opponent. Fourth, communal roaring, like most social endeavors may help to strengthen the bond of the group."
Though the lion's roar may be legendary, the spotted hyena of the Serengeti is actually the most vocal animal in the park. Hans Kruuk, who lived in the Serengeti between 1964 and 1968 studying spotted hyenas, writes:
"The loud melancholy 'who-oop' call of the hyena is one of the most characteristic sounds of Africa, and the maniacal laughter of this species is also very well known. But hyenas produce many other sounds besides; they are very vocal, and during my study I was able to distinguish between a number of different calls: whoop; fast whoop; grunt; groan; giggle; yell; growl; soft grunt laugh; whine; soft squeal...The giggles, yells and growls which accompany the attacks over food around a kill may attract hyenas from a great distance. In Ngorongoro, where lions often steal hyena kills, I sometimes found myself watching the hyenas over a kill and wishing for their own sakes that they would be quiet, because their deafening noises attracted lions from miles away!"
Myles Turner's book entitled My Serengeti Years is arguable the best book ever written about the Serengeti and is highly recommended. This is wonderful first hand account of the Serengeti from the unique perspective of an ex big game hunter turned stern conservationist. Myles's account of his 16 year tenure as chief game warden of the Serengeti is packed full of fascinating wildlife stories including close encounters with infuriated rhinos, fearless honey badgers and deadly poachers. It's hard to resist the pull of the Serengeti once you've finished My Serengeti Years and you will undoubtedly be planning your Serengeti safari or returning for another one shortly thereafter.
Serengeti Home is another must read before, during or after your safari and is a great companion book to Myles Turner's My Serengeti Years . Kay Turner lived in the Serengeti with her husband, Myles Turner, who was chief game warden for 16 years. Kay Turner's book details her adventures including raising her family in the Serengeti (this chapter is charmingly titled "Bush Babies"), humorous stories about her wild pets including 'Chuta' the bat-eared fox, 'Gussie' the Grant's gazelle and 'Prince and 'Pixie' the serval cats. Kay shares many wonderful adventures both living and going on safari in the Serengeti.
The chapter in Kay's book about camping in the Serengeti will undoubtedly have you excited to camp at Turner's Spring:
"After a long day out in the sun amongst the game, we would return to camp...then, stretching our feet towards the campfire with drinks in hand, we enjoyed seeing the sun sink slowly towards the horizon and the stars appear in the thousands, until it seemed there was no space in the sky for more. The sky at night felt close on those treeless plains, and it glowed with a soft and enveloping radiance that inspired a feeling of harmony with the universe. We were alone in that immense open country, and it seemed the stars displayed their brilliance solely for us. After an early supper, we would be lulled to sleep by the rhythmic sound of the wildebeest bleating, interspersed by the off-key moan of a hyena or the plaintive cry of a stone curlew."
A visit to Turner's Spring is only recommended during the dry season (July to November). During the green season (December to June), the small track out to the remotely located Turner's Spring can be difficult to navigate when wet. Additionally, wildlife will be less concentrated in the woodlands immediately around Turner's Spring during the green season as the resident animals have many other sources of water. The best place to be during the green season is in the open plains to the south.