“If I have ever seen magic, it has been in Africa.”
– John Hemingway (American author)
Northern Serengeti – Day 8
October 06, 2018
This is our last day in the Northern Serengeti. With no crossing eminent, we leave camp to cover a little ground we had not seen in our 3 previous days. As we head out, we see some of herds of wildebeest and common zebra. Nearby, a lone White-backed vulture perches high in a tree.
We continue on and cross the river where we see a large African crocodile basking in the sun on a small sandbar in the middle of the water. Upstream we see two hippopotamus emerging from the water and heading into the brush. Further on, we see another hippopotamus walking along the embankment. A half dozen Oxpecker birds hitch a ride while pecking ticks, parasites and small insects from its thick hide.
This relationship between oxpeckers and hippopotamus is well known. The oxpeckers benefit by obtaining a good source (insects) from the hippos. The birds also receive protection from predators that wouldn’t approach a hippo. While the hippo benefits by having its parasites removed, the oxpeckers create little cuts in the hippo’s skin while doing so. Thus the relationship is both mutualistic and parasitic.
As we head further east we enter a small wooded area where we see several zebra and a wildebeest gathered together in the shade. We stop to watch them scratch on the trunk of a small tree while the wildebeest stares suspiciously at us.
We turn North and begin to move into varied terrain. The grasslands stretch along rolling hills dotted with small acacia trees. Small outcroppings of boulders are poke out from the grasslands along small ridgetops. Different flora grows among the boulders, small trees with smooth whitish bark and big thick green leaves, nothing like the woody spine covered branches of the acacia in the shallow slopes below. Here we see another Klipspringer. As we descend off the boulder strewn ridge, we encounter a Topi, and shortly afterwards a family of Baboons. The large watches over the female and infants as they forage in the grasslands.
We move lower off the slopes into the flat grasslands below and find a herd of wildebeest grazing on what little grass remains as they head South. We drift westward and spot Northern white-crowned shrike perching on a dead branch of a shrub looking for small insects. Further on we get a long look at a stunning Topi and again stop to admire its varied colors and glossy coat.
Moving further West we head towards the river. As we approach, we see a small herd of elephants browsing the brushes near the river edge.We decide to continue upstream and later find an are of the river where many elephant females and small calves are scattered about the river edge browsing the small bushes that grow along the banks. We stop for a while to admire the sheer number of elephants we can see in one location. We continue North along the river edge.
As we drive, our elevation slowly increases and we once again enter an area of broad shallow hills, covered with the dry grass. It seems this area was spared from the wildebeest. While the grass is taller, having not been consumed down to the dirt surface, these hills contain few trees; most grow along the river.
Across the river we see the hill in the distance dotted with dark spots of varying sizes. It doesn’t take but a second to realize we are looking at elephants, many elephants. We stop to gaze, transfixed by the contrast of so many dark elephants on such a bright grassy hillside.
As we watch, some of the elephants begin to walk towards the riverbank on the other side. Among them a beautiful female and a younger calf followed by an older juvenile. We continue watching these amazing creatures as they continue advancing closer. As they near the riverbank, they turn right and continue talking upstream.
At this point, we drive Northeast turning away from the river towards the open sparsely populated grassland to look for a place for a late lunch. We find a lioness relaxing in the shade of some brush. We approach slowly and get close enough to admire her features and look into her eyes. She’s simply amazing.
We continue on to put some distance between us and the lioness while we search for a spot of open land where we can safely leave the Landcruiser to eat lunch. As we move further into the open, we pass some Thompson’s gazelle taking shelter in the shade of a tall acacia, a female ostrich, and a family (or sounder) of warthogs.
We finally find a spot where we can get some shelter from the midday sun in the shade of a tall acacia tree while we enjoy a hearty lunch of ribs, pasta salad and fruit. After packing up, we take a moment to appreciate that we are standing in the Northern Serengeti before jumping back into the Landcruiser to continue on.
As we continue East, we toward a rise where the hillside is again dotted with boulders and trees other than acacias. We stop to watch a group (or troop) of baboons, where some large adults supervise smaller infants play while others forage.
Eventually we turn South and begin to make our way back to camp. It’s getting later in the day as we drive back towards the river crossing, we spot a small herd of Impala grazing in the taller grass between the brush. As we stop, they look up cautiously and I am able to take a nice family portrait of sorts. After crossing the river, we spot two giraffe browsing the tall brush near the river’s edge. From our vehicle the giraffe tower over us, but our distance provides me with the opportunity to capture a couple more “animal portraits”. Downstream a single African buffalo grazes in the grass along the river.
As we cross a small bridge on the small road that leads to our camp, we get a good look at a Waterbuck grazing close to the water’s edge. It’s our last animal of the day. Minutes later, we’re back in camp and ready to enjoy all the comforts we’ve greatly appreciated throughout our stay.
This is our last night in the Northern Serengeti. After a wonderful meal, we retire to our safari tent where we lay in our bed both overjoyed at the adventures we have had here and saddened by the thought of having to leave. We could stay here forever, but more adventures await. We turn out the lights and listen intently to the sounds of the Northern Serengeti. A lion moans in the distance while closer to us, zebra bark and hyenas whoop.
Kwaheri, Chaka Camp. Tutaonana.