The Serengeti: Varied Landscapes

The first impression of the Serengeti was of vast plain. Indeed, the name itself is Masai for “endless plains”. In some places, it seemed as if the world was as flat as what some of our distant ancestors must have thought. But as we travelled through the Serengeti, we found it surprisingly varied. Our camp was on the side of a series of hills separating the Serengeti from the Lake Victoria area. It afforded us beautiful dawns and dusks with the tops of the acacia trees artfully silhouetted against the purple-mauves brightening to red then yellow.

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The slopes were filled with scrub. There weren’t any roads up the hills (no reason since the Serengeti is an uninhabited reserve). Sadly, we weren’t able to enjoy the privilege of views from the hilltop. But we did chance across some dusty brown female ostriches picking their way through the low grass of the shrubland…

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… seemingly shunning the more prettily plumed male. His black and white feathers were a waste on them.

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Away from the hills, there were some primeval-looking landscapes. Shrubs gave way to water and in the form of a pool surrounded by tall, large-fronded palms. It seemed like something straight out from a dinosaur movie, just that the animals in the pool were large hippos enjoying a good wallow. They hid themselves well from the heat of the noon-time sun.

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Some hippos strayed out of the water and in groups, they were quite happy to snooze on dry ground in the afternoon. Still, they stayed fairly close to the water…

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… even when a crocodile perched, motionless, in the pool.

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And the shrub started moving back towards open plains, but not without first allowing the acacia trees their time to stand tall in the sun. Cape buffaloes enjoyed the intermittent shade from the small leaves…

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… while the littler creatures preferred to stay in the scrubland where the low bushes came together to form a thick growth where it was hard for a big cat to pounce. This was where we spied the very shy dik-dik, the smallest antelope in the African savannah. It was impossible to spot on our own and only after detailed instructions from our guide Muba on where to look did we finally spot it.

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When talking about the Serengeti, one talks first about the plains and then about the strange rocky outcrops seemingly appearing out of nowhere. These granite outcrops are the result of ancient magma bubbling through fissures in the softer bedrock and later being exposed through weathering. They give shelter to plants and animals and there is generally something interesting to see on a kopje. We saw hyraxes (think giant hamsters), monkeys and even a leopard on them.

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