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- 03.05.07 / 7pm
Serengeti? It’s all it’s cracked up to be…
Whether you’re simply an armchair traveller or of the footloose and fancy free variety, I guarantee that the name Serengeti will bring a glint to your eye.
It’s up there in that wish list of legendary destinations alongside Machu Picchu, Angkor Wat, Kakadu, Killarney and the Great Pyramid of Giza. But although I’ve been fortunate enough to visit dozens of Africa’s parks and reserves from the far north to the deep south, somehow Serengeti has always eluded me. I’ve always felt like a well-respected Shakespearian scholar who has never read Hamlet.
Finally, in late March, I get my chance. If there was animal karma then Serengeti would be nirvana, because this is full-on food paradise. It’s an abundantly-stocked raptor restaurant which also offers something for every predator’s palate - a hyena hamburger place, a jackal fast-food joint, cheetah takeaways, banquets for bat-eared foxes, breakfast, lunch and dinner for leopards and feasts for lions. And if you’re a vegetarian, then don’t chew the fat but go for the lush grazing instead…
...I see the migration - the annual movement of the wildebeest, one of the great natural wonders of the world, when hundreds of thousands of animals are drawn into the relentless cycle of movement, birth and death. Because this is late March, the wildebeest have started to move in that time-honoured clockwise motion around the Serengeti, culminating in the survival of the fittest as columns - 40km long - plunge into the crocodile-infested Grumeti River on the annual 1,000km pilgrimage to new pastures.
So here I am drinking a cup of coffee surrounded by over a million and a half wildebeest. A couple of weeks ago they were dropping 8,000 babies a day, now the migration cycle has started again and they are on the move, grazing as they go. A few stop to lie down and rest now and again. A soft lowing fills the air, a melancholy moaning. Babies bleat. These calves are pale brown, able to keep up with the herd within 20 minutes of being born, but if left behind a swift, easy meal for a cheetah, hyena or golden jackal. Read more in the July 2007 issue of Africa Geographic…