In Our Travelers' Words: Serengeti Safari
In June 2017 children’s book author Lori Stewart took her first trip to Africa on a Bushtracks safari spanning the Ngorongoro Crater, the Serengeti, and Uganda. “I thought it might be my only trip to Africa,” she said, ”so I wanted to see as much as possible, from the big herds to gorillas.” Lori’s observations of the Serengeti – part of a longer narrative chronicling her entire adventure – appear below.
…And then it was time for the long drive to the Serengeti – Swahili for “endless plain.” The rainy season is over, and the migration had passed through the southern Serengeti, leaving the dusty plains dry and barren, and indeed, endless! As we continued north, we started seeing longer grass, and immensely wide views, and the green and amber colored plains came to life, dotted with millions of migrating animals and termite mounds.
We’re here to see the “great migration” which is what happens when two million wildebeests, zebras, gazelles, warthogs, and other hooved animals gather up their young and start the long trek north from Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park to Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve in search of greener pastures. These massive herds attract a bevy of predators. Lions, leopards and cheetah feed on the herd – striking on land, while crocodiles strike in the water – killing roughly 250,000 animals along the way. Following the predators are hyenas, jackals, vultures and other scavengers, who pick clean the bones left behind.
We saw all these animals and more at Ngorongoro, but most were at a distance. In Serengeti, not only are the numbers staggering, but the wildlife is so close – and seemingly unbothered by us as long as we stay in our Land Cruiser.
Traveling with Geoffrey, our guide, is a great experience. Geoffrey is a Masaai, so we’ve learned a great deal about that tribe and their semi-nomadic pastoralist culture, which is a subject for another book. In addition to being a naturalist, and an auto mechanic (a skill one needs on the high plains) he is an exceptionally experienced guide with very keen eyesight. He is able to spot leopards and lions in trees, and cheetahs roaming the plains half a mile away. I imagine his chatter with other passing guides involves a lot of information sharing. So thanks to him, we’ve seen a cheetah and a leopard, and a rhino with baby, and a tree-climbing lion – as well as herds of elephants, prides of lions, herds of giraffes, tens of thousands of wildebeests, zebras, gazelles, warthogs, baboons, and rafts of hippos – all with their babies – crocodiles, ostriches, crowned cranes and so many extraordinary birds worthy of their own separate safari.
I love Tanzania and the people. It may just be those in the wildlife business, but the guides and the people working in the camps seem to view their country – and the continent – as a world heritage site, and care very deeply about preserving all of it – just as it was meant to be.