Thursday, September 29 to Monday, October 3, 2016
The Northern Serengeti
I did hours and days of research to ensure that we had the perfect “Out of Africa” safari experience. The Northern Serengeti and experiencing The Wildebeest Migration and a river crossing, the “holy grail” of the migration, were at the top of “Shelley’s Bucket List.” The Northern Serengeti is magnificent and breathtaking. It is serene and magical. The Wildebeest Migration, is one of the “Seven New Wonders of the World.” Alex Walker’s Serian looked perfect. Alex Walker’s was straight out of “Out of Africa.” In fact some of the movie was filmed not far from here, just over the border in the Masai Mara.
The camp, the people, the location exceeded my wildest expectations. Four perfect days and nights. A perfect ending to a perfect trip! This is why I chose Alex Walker’s. I could not say it any better than Alex Walker.
“After a day out in the silence, solitude and indescribable immensity of the bush, the ancestral ritual of coming together to enjoy fire and food caters to our innate appreciation for sharing. We are social animals, and part of what makes things vivid and real to us is this capacity to share: the pleasure of dissecting your day, raking over the delicious details and unwrapping the delights over and again as you enjoy a meal, is what renders the evening perfect for digesting and processing the day.
“Alex Walker’s Serian is a charismatic collection of exclusive and intimate safari camps in the prime wildernesses of Kenya and Tanzania. We operate and outfit safaris, and our focus is on offering you access to the magic of the bush in a rich variety of ways. All of our clients have exclusive use of their safari vehicle at no extra cost, and on top of that, walking adventures, flycamping, night game drives, photography, ballooning… The list goes on. Our objective is to show you there’s more to safari than driving around ticking big animals off a list… It’s about being open to falling under the spell of this enchanting landscape. The word ‘serian’ comes from the Masai language, meaning ‘serene… calm… tranquil’ and there is an element of this that is particular to the bush.
Partly it has to do with silence. At night, you can feel a lion’s roar resonate in your chest cavity because the air is not clogged with distractive sound. Its clarity lets you see straight to the sparkling heavens. It is also to do with distance from the rest of the world – not just a physical distance, but a deliberate distance in the way we decide to live. It’s about choosing to disconnect, in favour of what these spaces have to offer you if you allow them. There is also an indescribable purity to being immersed in a wholly natural setting. Clean air, unspoilt and untamed, and animals that are truly wild: it’s an unconditional environment that we are lucky to touch, and yet is untainted by our fingerprints. If you immerse yourself in it, osmosis begins to take effect, and the quietude and the beauty quietly infuse your being. In the company of our guides, you are among people innate to the place, who can unveil this way of life to you. They are attuned to its essence and can translate it by showing you to see through their eyes.
The open plains of the Lamai Wedge are incredibly beautiful and abundant in game. The landscape is reminiscent of scenes from Out of Africa, and there is plenty of freedom to roam and explore. The camp is situated opposite Crossing Point 4, midway among all crossing points along the river – and is perfectly positioned to spectate the wildebeest river crossings. Away from the river, this area of rolling savannah, boulder-strewn hillsides and fig-tree groves, is littered with inconceivably enormous herds of wildebeest, topi and zebra – as well as all the predators that gorge on this movable feast. Needless to say, the game-viewing we have access to is world-class. Cheetah, lion and elephant especially make for fantastic sighting, but it’s not unheard of to see the Big Five in a day.”
We said our goodbyes to the amazing staff at Namiri Plains and were driven to Seronero Airstrip. It was another great game drive. We flew Seronero Airstrip to Lamai Airstrip. We were a little confused and got off at Kogatende first. The ground personal called our camp and we were told our guide was on the other side of the river at Lamai Airstrip. So we hopped back on for the 5 minute flight across the river. We were met by our guide and spotter, Michael and Jololo. We drove about 45 minutes to the camp.
Once we settled in, we had lunch, with Alex, and then we were off on our adventure. We had commented to each other that we had had outstanding sightings on every previous game drive. Our first game drive at Serian did not disappoint. Within minutes we spotted a mother lion and three cubs dining on a fresh kill of zebra. We watched this lion family for over an hour. The mom relaxed and the cubs ate, played and napped. We also saw hyenas, foxes, an ostrich and her chicks, and another amazing sunset.
We arrived back at camp to hot bucket showers. Then Sundowners, a stunning sunset, amazing stars, good company and a delicious dinner. There were several other couples and guests. so and so from bbbbb. This is the camp that Alex Walker calls home. And he made it feel like home to us during our four night stay.
The next day Allan and Clifton slept in. I got up early and was rewarded with my first wildebeest crossing. One would have sufficed, but I saw 5 over four days!! We went back to the camp and picked up Allan and Clifton, hoping we would be lucky in the afternoon. We were! We saw an amazing crossing. Miles and miles of wildebeest. We also saw a wildebeest snatched by a crocodile. The croc had him by the leg. He put up a good fight, but in the end lost. Michael told us that he would not have survived had he managed to escape the jaws of the croc. His leg would have been too injured.
As the sun set on yet another epic day we returned to camp for welcoming bucket showers, sundowners around the fire and another dinner with amazing food and company. Alex surprised me with Campari. I had asked for Campari and soda the night before. The perfect host. I wanted to try my hand at astral photography. Alex was very knowledgeable and helped me get set up. Perfect end to a perfect day.
The third day and night were just as amazing as the first two. We had planned to go flycamping, but because of rain, we changed our plans. Allan decided to relax. Clifton and I went out early. We had a delicious picnic lunch on the Mara river, watching the hippos do their thing. After lunch we saw signs of another crossing. So we waited as the herds gathered. We were the only vehicle. However, within the hour the word was out and a number of vehicles with excited guests waited in anticipation of what promised to be an epic crossing. Once the wildebeest start crossing the river drivers jockey for position. From 0 to 60 (well maybe 20) in seconds. Indescribable drama on an epic scale. Clifton used the Canon 80D and the 400 lens. I used the 40D and 28 -300. We used the Sony A1000 and Iphone to capture amazing video. We returned to camp for lunch and while I relaxed, Clifton and Allan went on a walking safari in search of The Little Five, the Rhinoceros Beetle, Buffalo Weaver, Elephant Shrew, Leopard Tortoise, and the Ant Lion. They were accompanied by our guide and a ranger armed with an AK47. Standard procedure. Allan returned early as he was still recovering from his knee replacement. Clifton got a taste of real of camp life when one of the camp trucks got stuck half on and half off the bridge. A team effort righted the truck, but not until after the sun had set.
Our wake up call on our fourth day was at 4:00 AM for and 4:30 pickup for transportation to our Hot Air Balloon. We launched as the sun rose over the Serengeti. Magical. I did have a fleeting concern after the tragic balloon accident in Lockhart the month before. However, there are no power lines, fences and few roads in the Serengeti. It’s not that easy spotting wildlife from above, but the view as you skim over the acacia tree tops is absolutely breathtaking. The thrill is the flight itself. The wicker basket was divided into four compartments, each carrying up to four passengers. After an exciting landing where we dragged across the plain and the balloon ended up on it’s side, we gathered for a champagne toast and breakfast overlooking the Mara River. After breakfast we were met by our private guide and had another great game drive back to camp. Dinner, Sundowners and great conversation put the finishing touches on another perfect day in the Serengeti.
Food is sourced from local farms and is very good. Dinners, following Sundowners, are usually taken in the main tent which also has a small library and a number of sofas. It rained one night so we had cocktails in the library. One night it rained, so we had cocktails in the library. Another great meal with great company.
As with most camps, you are not allowed to leave your tent after dark without your own Maasai Warrior for protection. It is almost always dark when you head to dinner. Instead of walkie talkie you wave your flashlight and your escort arrives. The Maasia stand guard all night.