The Open Plains of the Serengeti

Posted: April 12, 2016

Last week we went to Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti National Park on our final expedition. It was an absolutely amazing four days. Each moment seemed to take my breath away more than the last. I spent my childhood dreaming about visiting the Serengeti, captivated initially by movies like “The Lion King,” and later by academic pursuits in animal behavior research and wildlife conservation efforts. The Serengeti far exceeded every high expectation that I had developed over the years.

To give you a sense of an expedition morning, imagine a safari car crammed with sleepy college kids, coffee mugs and clipboards in hand, bouncing down a dark bumpy road, only to glance back and see the horizon of the Serengeti explode into a brilliant orange sunrise over the acacia trees in the distance. It was magical. I would never describe myself as a morning person, but if anything could convert me into one, it would be the sunrises in the Serengeti.

As we drove through the expansive, open plains of the Serengeti, we watched massive herds of wildebeests continue on their annual migration. Many of them were only a few days old, yet still managed to keep up with the rest of the herd, putting their best effort into not tripping on their wobbly newborn legs.

I never imagined that I would see so many lions in one day. It seemed that there were lions hiding behind the tall grasses at every turn, waiting to saunter down the road majestically, taking advantage of us as their captive audience. Despite all of the beautiful lions that we encountered in the Serengeti, looking back, one of the most memorable things for me was watching a baby hippo cuddle up against its mother. I was not expecting to find such an adorable creature snuggled up among about 100 adult hippos happily wallowing in their own excrement.

Our campsite was located within the park, without any barriers, so we saw lots of wildlife pass nearby our tents, including olive baboons and elephants (and evidence of many other recent visitors was scattered around the camp ground). At night, listening to the sounds of various animals going about their nightly activities outside of our tent was truly incredible, and a little bit eerie.

We’re all getting settled back into life at Moyo Hill and preparing for final exams. And now, sitting on the porch, single-handedly finishing a can of BBQ Pringles (a Moyo Hill favorite), I can’t help but let my mind wander back to the Serengeti. We were all reluctant to leave the park after an incredible expedition, and we’ll be day-dreaming about our time there for years to come. Visiting the Serengeti has strengthened my desire to pursue research in wildlife conservation so that future generations of humans and wildlife will be able to experience the beauty of this special place.