Its no secret that the Serengeti is one of the most amazing wilderness places to visit on the globe, especially having recently won the title of the best national park in the world…again. Usually, when people envisage Africa and going on safari they think of wide-open space and rolling savanna. It’s the cliché Africa that we see in films time and time again. Simply put this version of Africa we all have in our minds is beautiful and it is most definitely out there for us to find. However, something special happens in the Northern Serengeti.
This is of course a place where you can see all the wide-open space you have ever dreamt about, or all the rolling savanna ups and down the movies have made famous. But it’s in between these areas where the real magic of the Serengeti begins to sing. One of the most striking landscapes one encounters in this area is that of the “Koppies”. Suddenly and beautiful jutting out of the soft landscape, there are rocky outcrops for mile after mile. This is a place of incredible intrigue; you just don’t know what is around the next corner. Your eyes continuously scan the rocks, left to right, up and down and while that may sound like a lot of work, there really are few places that make you feel as at ease.
The koppies slowly give way back to the savanna as you fight the urge to turn around for a bit more exploration of the rocks. Suddenly though, they don’t matter anymore as you are confronted with a small gorgeous soft flowing river, where on either side there is grazing wildlife and perhaps a monitor lizard just lazing about on a nearby rock enjoying the sun. Out of the corner of your eye a kingfisher drops from its perch and catches something in the water – don’t worry no one else got the shot either. Afterall, some things are just a “nice to see” and photographs aren’t always all that matters. Leaving the river, you begin driving with countless wildebeest on either side of you, well wildebeest and zebra and topi and gazelle and maybe in the distance, some elephants.
This is a region littered with the remains of those animals who couldn’t make it, who just didn’t have the strength to finish the journey or those that were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. The countless vultures and marabou storks don’t complain though, the living is easy for them at the moment and the buffet has never had so much choice.
Leaving the savanna behind, you approach what could pass for typical Southern African “bush”. Thorny acacias dominate the landscape and large birds sit proudly atop the countless perches while impala rams fight it out at the ground level. Of course, this is an area that seldom evades the attention of elephants. Their tusks and trunks make quick work of the delicious bark and leaves.
Suddenly the bush opens up and right in front of you is the massive and mighty Mara River and the riverine wonder that comes along with it. Everywhere you look you see life, hippos lounging on the sand banks while the ox peckers provide their services. The scaly backs of crocodiles break the surface of the water as they surface and haul themselves onto the bank. And out of nowhere, a herd of elephants that has had enough of the midday heat appear for a good old fashioned dust bath before crossing the river on their journey to Kenya and the Masai Mara.
Now, what would the Mara River be without the migration. You see them in the distance. The massing of thousands of wildebeest. Slowly they approach the rivers edge, then suddenly they retreat. This goes on for some time while you and your vehicle buddies sit back and enjoy the view but all crossings must happen and this one if no exception. First one, then two, then three thousand!
On your way back to camp, you stop to appreciate another crossing happening at a small tributary and then another and then another as you get closer and closer to home base. The Savanna takes back over here and in front of you is probably one of the largest massing’s of wildlife you have ever seen, as streams of gnu crisscross the land. Each line being led by one single wildebeest, that seems to have no idea that ten thousand souls have decided he is the current pathfinder. Your hair stands on the back of your neck as you realise where you are and the day you have just had.
You get back to camp, just in time to feel like going out again.