The bellow of blue wildebeests are heard a thousand strong across the Serengeti. Their hooves kick up a fine mist as they move in large drifts on their migratory paths. Sometimes they follow each other in arcs of three or four abreast, skirting a solitary giraffe standing like a chequered sundial under a white sun.
Onward they push along River Grumeti’s black silted banks where zebra appraise the right moment to drink and skitter away as an empty-eyed crocodile erupts from the surface to snatch the unwary.
And somewhere in the distance, at the heart of a warrior holy site, Ol Doinyo Lengai occasionally rumbles and blows clouds of white like a blessing into the sky. Such is the light in the Maasai Mara that the Mountain of God’s lava, rich in carbonite, flows like black gold and turns to ashen white.
Some would say the volcano’s voice is Bumba’s and was heard every decade or so across a landscape like nowhere on earth. But now he complains more often in a land where white minibuses crest the horizon in droves, like vertebrae bones, while a cheetah lies up-head held high in an ocean of golden grass.
There’ll be no kill today for the mother, no supper for her cubs while her prey and she shies away from the spectre of man. And still the spectators come, hyena like— mooing and whooping at monkeys playing with crisp packets or chewing rubber from the tyres of motorised beasts.
At day’s end the safari party passes an ancient acacia tree lying slain beside the road. It has fallen prey to the charcoal trade, a way to supplement Maasai income. And where Acacia trees once stood impervious to drought, invasive plants start to appear like the lodges built for those with cash to burn.
As evening falls the savannah is alive with roars, whoops and the thunder of hooves, competing with the incessant drone of cicadas and suddenly, when the sky turns from iridescent indigo to a rich tapestry of night hues and silver strands, it seems as if the world has fallen asleep.
Yet under an occluded moon, along the river bank and away from clicking camera eyes, elusive hippos with hides as dark as Serengeti’s native man begin to congregate and commune. Tender are their moves in their approach to each other and although they seldom speak of the day’s news their eyes seem to say ‘Oh you with young of your own. We walked this land long before you arrived. This is our home. This is our land. Why can’t you understand some footprints will never be filled when we are gone?’
Image from ArtTrak Tribal Art
©Talia Hardy 2014.