We use cookies to give you the best possible experience on our site. Click here to find out more. Allow cookies

arrow Register here

Forgotten password?

Pole to Pole

Day 99: The Masai Mara to Seronera

Michael Palin - Pole to Pole1.20 p.m. At the Bologonja border station. Set between solid stone posts topped with massively horned buffalo skulls is a gate with 'Tanzania' written on it. This is the first country I've seen with a gate and makes me rather warm to the place. It's 140,000 square miles bigger than Kenya, though a minnow compared with Egypt, Sudan or Ethiopia. Once part of German East Africa, it became the independent republic of Tanganyika in 1962 and merged with the People's Republic of Zanzibar to form the name on the gate in 1964.

We have a three-and-a-half-hour wait at the thatched bungalow that is the border-post, and we are still there, having all our permits laboriously described in longhand, when the overlanders catch us up. The truck has had no further mishaps, but they have to keep its engine running as the starter motor's gone.

Once through the gate, we appear to be in a Garden of Eden with trees, lush green grass and streams bubbling through, but this soon gives way to the Serengeti proper, a 57,000-square-mile expanse of scrubland. Unlike the Masai Mara, it is a park set aside for wild animals only. There are no cattle or herdsmen here. We pass more lion, this time about ten of them at a kill. A wildebeeste is the victim and by the time we arrive the male lions have already fed and are lying panting in the shade, while the females dismember what's left. A macabre chorus of thirty or forty quarrelling vultures and marabou storks stand some yards away waiting for the pickings.

Finally a very young lion approaches the stomach, which has been left intact. Though I will him not to, it's all that's left to him and he picks it up. Half-digested grass spills from the gut as he drags it along between his front legs, away to his own private place.

The altitude dial on Basil's watch reads 1750 metres (5500 feet) as we cross the Seronera river into a green cover of mahogany, fig and umbrella acacias, amongst which are set big smooth boulders of the sort that John Wayne chased Indians through. Our hotel is built around one of these outcrops, and offers the serious pleasure of being able to stroll across the rocks at dusk and watch the light fade over the Serengeti as a colony of hyrax - rabbit-sized furry creatures that look a little like draught excluders - scuttle about in the background. A full moon slowly rises as the immense plain merges with an immense sky.
Choose another day from Pole to Pole


  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 99
  • Country/sea: Kenya
  • Place: Bologonja
  • Book page no: 221

Bookmarks will keep your place in one or more series. But you'll need to register and/or log in.