Finally, we leave the famous Mara River.
We departed from the Kenyan National Reserve of Masai Mara towards its extension in northern Tanzania.
We cross overcrowded and chaotic villages around the Isebania-Sirari border. Already with the respective stamps in the passports, we changed jeep and guide.
Moses Lota introduces himself. Takes over navigation.
We conquered the highlands of the Tarime region, far greener and more agricultural than anything we had seen in recent days.
Six hours after the early departure, we felt at ease with the new guide and were back in the savannah.
"Sarah Mary and Mark of Jesus?" asks us also the conductor with his purposely silly way of incredulity that would come to amuse us time and time again.
"Well, counting Moses here, this is going to look like a biblical expedition."
Journey to the heart of the Serengeti National Park
We cross the Fort Ikoma portal of the Serengeti National Park, register with the authorities, and proceed to its core. The trip was soon shaken by the appearance of one of God's most demonic creatures on the scene.
"There, it's about to start!" announces the guide after a sharp slap in the face.
With the roof of the jeep open, it only took a few seconds for us all to share an inglorious resistance against the countless attacks of tsetse flies.
Moses reassures us. “This story is no longer what it was. They had to be bitten thousands of times and be unlucky the size of Tanzania to catch sleeping sickness. In fact, on the contrary, with them around, no one sleeps in this jeep.”
It's mid-afternoon. We just have to check in where we were going to stay close to nightfall.
Accordingly, we completed the route in full game drive mode, as the English-speaking colonists from Africa called the habit of driving through the savannah and observing the fauna.
We found the first clans of lions with offspring and dozens of elephants.
Until the sun goes down, there is still a huge flock of indolent but irascible hippos that almost completely fill a small section of the Grumeti River.
We check into Serena Lodge at night and after the allowed time.
Guide more than beaten to the job, Moses is willing to favor our work and enters through the gate prepared for the eventual disgrace. "Do not worry. I tell them we had to help someone with a hole!"
Serena Lodge Serengeti Unfenced Shelter
As soon as we got out of the jeep, one of the employees of the lodge he listens to us talking and approaches us in hesitant and somewhat clumsy Portuguese. “Hello, I'm Marcerino. I also speak portuguese.
My parents are Mozambicans. They live on the edge. I came here at a very young age."
In the days we spent in that elegant Tanzanian hotel, Marcerino – the nameplate on his shirt confirmed the name – would pay us a special dedication.
The Serena Lodge where he worked was made of buildings shaped like large Masai huts, distributed along one of the rare steep slopes of the savannah, among acacia trees and thorny bushes.
In the image of some others from wild africa, the lodge is not fenced. We want to leave the room for dinner but we can only do it with an escort.
The bodyguard who knocks on the door with his lantern at the ready wastes no time in enlightening us on the advantage of his presence. "So what animals have you seen here today?" we ask. "It has been calm." responds. “But a little of everything can appear. We've been visited by buffaloes, lions, leopards and even elephants.
We have to be careful. At this time, guests are in the mood to eat, not be eaten.”
During the night, we heard a lion's shuffling roar from an opposite hill. The top of that elevation seduced us because we suspected it must provide incredible 360° views.
With the sun coming up behind it, we pursued the privilege of going there.
We ask at reception if there are any special trails. “There is and part already back here. But you're not thinking about going there like that, is it?”
In fact, we hadn't considered the little expedition in all its aspects.
Ranger and AK-46 Protected Ascension to a Panoramic Hill
Anyway, after some time, the lodge staff went from refusing us the tour to providing it with military security. Marcerino picks us up as we leave the reception: “friends, we can go now. This way."
Along the way, a park ranger joins us, dressed in a green military uniform and holding an old AK-46 against his trunk.
“Just yesterday there was a clan of lions installed on that hillside. Don't be scared, but the machine gun really has to go with us.”
Samson, the shaved-haired squeaker who walks ahead of the group looks like a man of few conversations. Like the hill, its tense face also challenges us. “We ended up starting a conversation.
In the middle of the hill's ascent, we approached the desire we had – like so many curious travelers – to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, the grandiose roof of Africa.
Samson's eyes seem to instantly glow. “I went up there a while ago in a selection test for park rangers in Tanzania. We were over fifty and only eight reached the summit. I was one of them. Now I have this job.”
We reached the top. We admire the surrounding scenery.
To all sides except the opposite slope taken by Serena Lodge, the savannah stretched out into infinity colored by some low, verdant or parched vegetation depending on the water in the subsoil.
The Serengeti Savannah without End
As we catch our breath, the four of us turn to binoculars or our telephoto lenses and scrutinize that imposing Africa in detail.
We detect herds of buffaloes and elephants, wildebeests, zebras and giraffes, any of the animal sets, tiny in the endless prairie scenery. A little later, with the sun still low on the horizon, we return to the lodge.
We left in a jeep in his wake.
Moses Lote takes us dozens of kilometers along unpaved roads, at a low speed, as is supposed to be inside the park.
We started by going mostly through herds of gazelles and impalas. It doesn't take long for us to enter a wet area – sometimes even soaked. At a glance, the Serengeti's fauna and flora proves to be far more diverse.
There are ponds, some more muddy than others, which attract specimens to which the heat begins to cause thirst.
A flock of marabouts hovers gently from the top of the branches of a dry tree to the water's edge, which comes to contend with hippos, rowdy baboons, and various wary herbivores.
As we approach this pool, we notice that a herd of elephants is crossing the savanna towards us.
Some younger pachyderms have fun investing in a caravan of wildebeests that we don't understand and that the presence of several jeeps intimidated them from crossing the road.
The Long Wildebeest Caravans That Make Life Easier for Predators
Moses stops ours and turns around: “They're really lucky! Do you know why we all stopped here? There is a clan of lions crouched in the grass waiting for the wildebeests.
Some of the jeep drivers increase the space available for the crossing.
Ox-horses are not begged. They rush, at a gallop, over the cats' trap.
Hundreds of them pass by the only lioness we can detect, a few meters away, without her attacking.
Instead, minutes after the entire caravan had moved to the other side of the road, we noticed that two more distant ones were already dragging an adult wildebeest and a newly caught baby wildebeest into the shade of a tree.
“See? That's why predators prefer them. They're easy.” shoots Moses. “God created them in a hurry. In addition to forgetting the brain, he made them with spare parts from a number of other animals.
No wonder they always rank so highly on the list of Big Ugly here from Africa.”
With the dry season settling in those parts, hunts like the one we had just followed would become rarer in the months to come.
Wildebeests greedily drank water from the remaining ponds and streams.
We saw them traverse the savanna in more and more endless caravans.
Back and forth, waiting for herd leaders to give the signal to leave or already in full migration to the distant but contiguous lands of Masai Mara.
On this route, they are forced to cross the crocodile-infested streams of the Mara and grumetti.
The heavy clouds brought by the cyclic monsoon from east Africa had already moved there.
By that time, they irrigated meadows far greener and more succulent than those of that vast Serengeti.