We are in Tanzania, where we aim to follow the migration of wildebeests through the Serengeti up to the Mara river, which represents the border with Kenya. We will travel straight to the north and it will take about two days with our jeep.
After entering the park we decide on a brief game drive along the pools as it is the area where it’s easiest to watch the animals. There are a lot of cars, tourists and some snack bars too, but the “zoo atmosphere” vanishes in the vastness of the savannah. A unique, rough road, crosses the park and, although the rangers know the places where is likely to observe the wildlife, the freedom of animals is true, their movements are not traceable and their dens stay far from the main road.
After enjoying a number of species such as elephants, and catlike gazelles, we leave the game drive area, heading towards the north. The further we go on there are less jeeps around and, after many kilometers, we can’t see even see the dust moved by their tires.
We reach the camp before sunset. It is an open clearing, without any enclosure, identified only by the presence of a building – which would have to be the toilet – and a cage, where we will dine safely from potential attacks.
While we are pitching the tents, a couple of elephants are eating some leaves from a tree and a group of baboons is monitoring us from the top of a rock, waiting for the darkness when they will try to frisk our tents. During the night, we wake with a sound of hoofs and deep breaths and we understand that the buffalos are also paying us a visit.
The day after we have to travel a long way, so we wake up before dawn. In the gloom, I go to the cage to prepare breakfast. I’m just inside it when I’m illuminated by a couple of emerald green eyes. I stand for a second then, instinctively, I light up my torch in time to see a spotted fur jumping in the foliage. I’m amazed and astonished and I realize that, here in the middle of the African nature, me, the human, I’m forced behind the bars, while animals are free to run away.
When we leave, the sun has barely appeared over the horizon and the light of the early morning paints the savannah with a vivid ochre. We didn’t schedule any stop as we have to cover a long distance. But, after a few minutes, we halt to admire a lioness lying on the edge of the road, apparently doing her morning toilette.
While we are observing her, I feel intrusive and I wonder how annoying she is finding our presence. Suddenly, she stands and heads up to something that we are not able to see and we think that we are going to assist to a real hunt. But, after a while, she relaxes again, bowing her hears, and we proceed on our way as she goes away.
We don’t meet any other jeep for hours, we are totally merged with the savannah. Giraffes, zebras, elephants, hyenas appear along the way and our eyes are not able to hug completely such an immensity of beauty. As we approach the north, we meet more and more wildebeests, then we become aware that we are in the middle of the migrating group.
It doesn’t seem a rush race as we could imagine, actually some gnus grazes calmly, others seem to observe the poor remains of their fellow gnu eaten by the vultures. Yet, watching the whole group, I can perceive a unique movement towards the same direction.
A green strip in front of us reveals that we are approaching the river. The banks are high and very muddy, so we have to move on carefully to avoid getting stuck. Kenya is on the other side, where hundreds of thousands of wildebeests flock together safely, after wading the river full of predators, which is the most critical step of the migration. Just a few hundreds of them are still on our shore and they don’t seem willing to join the others.
Thus, after hours of waiting in vain, it’s time for us to go back. I’m disappointed, we embarked on a long way and we won’t take back even the shot of a splashing hoof or a crocodile’s open jaws. Once again, it becomes clear to me that here, where Serengeti blends with Masai Mara, nature dictates the rules and we have been late this time. Yet, the powerful beauty around us makes our enthusiasm rising up again and we feel ready for the next adventure.