The Land Goes On Forever: Serengeti Safari

I sure hope the eye is getting better. But I’m having self-doubts that I’ll ever see clear out of that eye again. Fear.

“You’re not afraid of riding alone through Africa?” Ben or others would ask,

“No. But I’m afraid I’ll never see right again.”

Thanks to the helpful reminders of Ben, both Simon and he agreed that my eye was looking better this morning.

“Macho,” Ben would say throughout the day, using the Swahili word for “eye” and a reminder to take my two drops of antibiotic and two drops of anti-steroidal as treatment for the still nagging eye. Photography has been challenging because I can’t see clear through my right eye, the one I use to pear through the viewfinder of my DSLR. I see the red focus lights in double or triple and nothing seems clear. I’m just not used to the other eye. And when it comes to photographing wildlife you have to be quick to pan, frame, focus, expose and shoot.

Perhaps nothing symbolizes the wild of Africa more than the treeless plains of the golden Serengeti. Spanning a massive area of nearly 15,000 square kilometers, the Serengeti is a microcosm of life in balance. The Masai people call these plains Siringet, translated as “land of endless space.” Here nature serves up a massive ecosystem which endures the endless cycle of life and death. More than a million wildebeast make the prodigious annual migration in search of fresh grassland and where you can watch the enormous movement of hoofed creatures move as a black blob staining the golden yellow landscape of the endless plains. During migration mothers bear more than 7,000 calves daily – each of which can walk on their own in a matter of hours. Though only sitxty-percent of these live beyond a few months. They’re tasty treats for lions and leopards. And what they don’t eat of the carcas the hyena, vultures and jackals will happily scavange.

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Above the Serengeti plains from a Kopje looking east; below looking west.

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Dried up skeletons of all kinds of animals lie in the tall grass. Millions of years ago when Africa was the scene of dozens of volcanic eruptions giving birth to the Rift Valley as well as the Serengeti. Beneath the endless miles of treeless grass the soil is extremely shallow. Beneath this is a cement-like layer of volcanic rock and windswept ash impenetrable by tree roots. Yet this hard surface is usually broken or cracked in the proximity of the hundreds of “kopjes” (rock croppings) scattered throughout the plains. These mounds of land that are actually tops of mountains once formed by molten rock bubbles pushed up into overlying rock layers. These cooled slowly to from hard, crytalline granite and gneiss rocks. The broken soil around on on these kopjes not only gives trees the ability to root but also capture rainwater in their folds and crevices. Plants and animals take advantage of the available moisutre while in many lions, leopards and cheetahs find shelter here, make their dens and use as lookouts across the plains.

Heading west from Ngorogoro we first pass through the Olduvai Gorge, where Mary and Louis Leaky made perhaps the most important archaeological discovery giving credence to Darwin’s theory of evolution. Nearly 30 miles long this ravine reveals more than two-million years of layers and layers of volcanic rock which neatly preserved fossils have been discovered over the last 40 years including the 1.8 million year old skull, Australopithecus boisei which in addition to fossils found in Ethiopia, Lucy, and others in Kenya as well as human-like foot steps just near this gorge prove that there were at least three moninid speciales in Africa more than two-million years ago.

From here the roads got rougher and while Doc was bopping and popping along in the rear the ruts, rocks and plains of the Serengeti surely unfolded as we motored on until coming to our campsite in the Seronera area in the central park – close in proximity to a river and an amazing mass of wildlife. That’s when we discovered that a flying rock took its toll on one of the windows in the rear of the Land Cruiser. Again Ben and Simon unhooked the trailer, unloaded food, cooking and camping supplies and Simon and I cruised for a late afternoon and sunset game drive where we encountered giraffe, elephant, lions, Thompson and Grant’s Gazelles, hippos, including one that must have been the victim of a brutal lion attack the night before. We culminated the drive at the five-start Seronera Lodge where cold beer while watching a colony of rock hyrax play on the rocks while trying to steal my peanuts served with the chilled Kilimanjaro. The perfect ending to a day’s safari.

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