I had been already three times in the Serengeti and I have developed a growing appetite to return. The first time was love at first sight, the second time was exciting, the third time was exciting. The more I go the more mature I become with enjoying nature and the wildlife, the more experienced with the photography. I had seen a lot: big cats, hunts, kills, the migration, lion matings and much more. But there were certain things that I felt I wanted to experience.
For starters the Mara crossing. The wildebeest migration, the life line of the Serengeti ecosystem, the eternal seeking of the wildebeest herds to find new grass brings them along the southern bank of the Mara river. An inescapable barrier full of dangers, mainly in the form of big African crocodiles.
I planned the trip with the intention to witness what fascinated me most in browsing photographs of the Serengeti wildlife. Ole, my good friend and owner of Boutique Safaris promised to let me know when the herds would start gathering in north Serengeti and close to the river. I received a call in mid July telling me that the right time would be in a month’s time. No promises, but the chances were good.
Then I wanted to see the most elusive of the big five. The leopard and the rhino. I had the chance to see them before but from a distance and had this sense of unfulfillment that I wanted to satisfy.
After my second visit, I decided to start a business in East Africa and today my business has branch offices in Nairobi and Kampala. So when I feel the urge to return to the Serengeti, I fool myself that it is business that brings me there.
Athens to Nairobi, three days of business and a visit to the Nairobi orphanage later, we were ready to fly to Arusha to meet Ole. We formed a party of four, together with Efie, Peter and Radina, his new lovely new bride. Peter is my manager in Nairobi who has developed a the same passions for wildlife, photography and Africa. He has been in several sites in Kenya for safaris but had not got the chance to visit the mecca of wildlife safari, the great Serengeti plains.
Ole from boutique safari, was waiting as usual for us in the Kilimanjaro international, together with Elias, another great guide who was going to be our driver for the next 5 days. Ole has become a very good friend and he always makes sure we will have a great safari. This means that he always hires a driver for our safaris, ensuring that he he will concentrate on game spotting and there will be four eyes to discover the wildlife instead of two.
The first time we drove from Arusha to the entrance of the Serengeti national park, I thought that it took for ever. Three trip later and I got the impression that the trip is short. We arrived just before closing time to pay the fees and proceed to the tented lodge we had booked in central Serengeti.
The golden hour is magic in the plains. Our attention was drawn by a couple of vehicles near a kopje. We followed and got rewarded with two male lions resting on the rocks.
The camp was very good in an excellent spot with elephants, wildebeest, zebras and buffalos wandering in the vicinity. During dinner we welcomed the visit of a spotted hyena in search of an easy dinner.
We woke up early to continue north. After breakfast, we had the pleasure to photograph a pair of hornbills taking a genuine interest at the mirror of the lodges lavatory next to the breakfast tent.
The landscape changed from plains to hilly forest and the again to plains. And it went like this for two or three times among herds that formed the great migration, elephants, giraffes and the occasional eagle or secretary bird.
Near the the north west border of the national park we saw a large herd of elephants running. They were making threatening noises, ready to cross our way. I got tense for a minute as they seemed to be frightened. Ole and Elias were thinking that they were maybe hunted down as right outside the park the area is reserved for hunting. I had no idea that this still continues to be legal. Sad.
We arrived late at the camp near the crossing area. We heard that there was a crossing that same day so we got really excited. Ole kept repeating that he was hoping for the best but did not want to make us believe that it was a sure thing.
We set the alarm call at 6am and went to sleep surrounded by the sounds of the savanna.
Next: Serengeti, the crossing