One of the advantages of touring the Serengeti with a guide is the running commentary about the animals.
As well as pointing out where that animal is any guide worth his salt with tell you about the animal in question in detail. And a good guide can really bring the animal to life. Such was the case with Impala . These stunning little antelopes were everywhere on the Serengeti. The big herds of zebra, Thomson’s gazelle and wildebeest had headed north in the dry season but these gorgeous antelope stayed behind due to the abundant grazing in the middle of the vast park.
Impala truly are one of the best looking animals – especially the bucks. They are so elegant with the males having burnished coats and a magnificent set of antlers. One afternoon we had a herd of forty dance across the road. The stragglers in the herd literally sprang in front of our vehicle to reach the other side. The herds are generally female ruled over by a dominant male. This is his "harem" and he generally only keeps it for approximately sixteen days due to rushing about fighting off other interested males. At the end of the sixteen days he is generally too tired to defend himself from any usurper and dies of stress and exhaustion.
Male Impala live in bachelor herds, living their lives with other males until an opportunity presents itself to take over another "harem". They are not the only ones who do this in Africa – zebra, buffalo, elephant, Grants gazelles, rhinos and even lions live this way as well. There seemed to be abundant Cape buffalo in the Serengeti. Our guide was very wary of these and would tell us to "Sssshhh" as we approached. They were very skittish and the bachelor herds had a reputation for aggression. The last thing a safari guide wants is to go back to his boss with his vehicle staved in by an angry buffalo.
Then there were the Giraffes which were quite a sight as they hoved into view above the acacia trees. There were more than I thought there would be. They seemed to be in family groups often protecting their young. The young themselves were at least 12ft tall and were dwarfed by their 25ft tall fathers. A giraffe knows that you are no threat to him and will stand and observe you in your vehicle. His head soaring above yours, peering to get a good look at you. On our way to the Serengeti we saw two male giraffes fight, they did it by bashing their necks together. It was like two construction cranes taking blows at each other.
Finally, there were the hippopotami. I saw a pond of these in each of the game parks I visited. But the one in the Serengeti, the Seronera hippo pool, was quite a sight. First of all we visited in the pouring rain and to get there you had to leave the vehicle and descend a slippery track down to a wide rock encrusted pool. The pool was being tapped by incessant afternoon rain but the inhabitants didn’t seem to mind. By inhabitants I mean hippopotami – about fifty of them.
The pink/grey hippos were submerged under the water with just their ears and nostrils showing. They were crammed together letting out grunts and occasionally as you watched fights would break out – they’d try and intimidate each other with those enormous teeth. A movement caught my eye on the far bank and I got a glimpse of a Nile crocodile slide into the water.
Is it the rain that is making me shiver or sharing my space with a crocodile?