July in the Serengeti was a month of sweeping bush fires and stormy afternoon rain! Late one evening heading into camp stopped by the roadside to watch a bushfire light the sky with colourful magenta hues. That morning we woke to a broad front of billowing white smoke obscuring the sun, crackling as the moisture boiled and steamed bursting the fast drying grass and consuming it in flames. All hands on deck as every available person in camp policed the firebreak surrounding camp. A car despatched to the ranger post to enjoin their support. Some judicious back burning and a lot of swatting, coughing and hacking in the oxygen starved air. Only moments before resembling swaying stalks of a wheat field moving to the rythmn of Hans Zimmers “Gladiator” soundtrack. The blanket of white smoke clearing to reveal the bare charred landscape. Shadows appear overhead and massive Marabou storks swoop in to take immediate advantage of the crisp burnt frogs, grasshoppers and other delicious offerings. A couple of weeks later and following some strong afternoon rains the grass has raised its head once more. Delicate shoots of fresh green pushing through the nitrogen enriched carpet of ash. Herds soon followed and they surround camp at night munching on the succulent new growth.
One of the sights people particularly hope to see is the wildebeest crossing the Mara River, most likely between July and November. It's an impressive sight to see hundreds of thousands of animals plunging into fast flowing water and braving some very large crocodiles in the process. That said, actually finding a crossing is about being in the right place at the right time. Largely a matter of both luck and patience as a herd may look as though they're about to cross, only to decide on an apparent whim to turn round and go home.
Pushed around by Lion and poacher alike, the larger herds wend their way back and forth along the banks of the murky Mara waters. Drama and Trauma intertwine as the young fall thirsty and rush to the rivers edge. Downstream smiling dragonesque crocodiles wait for the herds to decide whether or not the grass really is greener on the other side. Barking Zebra vie with laughing Hippo calling to their cousins on the opposite bank. Back and forth the swaying wildebeest roam. Hesitant! Unsure, uncertain and shy they walk away from the rivers edge, moments later turning and heading once more to the rivers edge. A youngster rushes thirstily to the edge; others break ranks and join the little one slaking their thirst. Buoyed by the decision yet more leap in and head for the other bank the river fanning them out in a wide arc as they power to the other side. The volume rises and chattering herds push forward from the rear the momentum solidly in favour of crossing the river now.
At the northern reaches of the Nyamalumbwa’s we were stopped to watch some Zebra playing in the springs when two Buffalo Bulls several hundred yards away started a tussle. Lasting no longer than a couple of minutes you were immediately aware of the raw power emanating from these two “Brigadiers”! Primed and ready to impose their will, they stepped back and crashed together; releasing again to pit the solid design of their hardened bosses against each other. Arm wrestles be dammed! Their necks arched. Bent back like the curve of a taughtly strung bow they powered into each other. The younger of the two breaking and stretching out to launch of in a lolloping run as the elder statesman sought to ram home his advantage, a bone crunching broadside charge.
In Africa there is a saying
“When two giants fight, only the grass suffers!”