A Lord of Eden: In The Footsteps of Stewart Edward White

Bologonja Campsite

Perhaps the best way to experience the African wild is to camp simply, under the stars, with the sounds of the night lulling you into dreams that cannot compare with the reality of your waking hours out on the trail. Up at 5am, breakfast before dawn, out of camp by 6. Back into camp at sunset, dinner, download the day’s reference photos, make notes in journal, off to bed.

Sleep on safari, at least for me, is just a necessary passing of the hours before sunrise. With dawn, the sweetest dream–encompassing a world of wild creatures at every turn– begins anew.

Edward and CA Moru Breakfast

Moving the camp around as desired is a practical way to experience the best that each East African ecosystem has to offer. One of my favorite places–Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park–embraces a spectacular array of different landscapes: golden endless plains, fascinating kopje rock castles, rugged hills, and meandering rivers cloaked in woodlands. All there waiting to be explored…

Bologonja Flow

I journeyed to the northern Serengeti’s Bologonja region (not far from the Kenya border) in order to retrace the steps of Stewart Edward White, an American hunter who wrote the first detailed account of the Serengeti in his book The Rediscovered Country, published in 1913.

Of this area of the Serengeti, White wrote:” Never have I seen anything like that game. It covered every hill, standing in the openings, strolling in and out among the groves, feeding on the bottom lands, singly, or in little groups. It did not matter in which direction I looked, there it was; as abundant one place as another. Nor did it matter how far I went, over how many hills I walked, how many wide prospects I examined, it was always the same. During my stay at the next two camps I looked over fifty square miles. One day I counted 4,628 head! And suddenly I realized again that in this beautiful, wide, populous country, no sportsman’s rifle has ever been fired. It is a virgin game country, and I have been the last man who will ever discover one for the sportsmen of the world. There is no other available possibility for such a game field in Africa unexplored. I moved among those hordes of unsophisticated beasts as a lord of Eden would have moved.”


Stewart Edward White (right) & R J Cuninghame (left)

_M2U1378-001 Lord of Eden! As my Tanzania driver-guide Edward and I made our way along the front lines of the Great Migration 100 years later at Bologonja, I knew exactly how White must have felt. The dust, the tumult of tens of thousands of mammals on the move, the cacophony of grunting wildebeest and braying zebras: experiencing a glimpse of the still-living Pleistocene will rock your world forever.Incidentally, many more wildebeest are alive today than in White’s era. The great herds had been decimated by rinderpest in the 1890’s and were only just beginning to recover by 1913. Now is perhaps the greatest time in history to wander among the migration– so get there, if you possibly can! As for White’s assertion that he moved among hordes of “unsophisticated beasts” while in the Serengeti, I can only say that he must not have been well acquainted with elephants! But those were the times that he lived in…

Bologonja Tent Lantern
I never saw another vehicle in the vicinity of these remote Serengeti camps. And wildlife was everywhere in astonishing profusion. Lanterns are set about the perimeter of camp by night in order to discourage nocturnal predators.
Bologonja CookChegge, cook at my mobile Serengeti bush campa, excelled at whipping up excellent meals under the most basic conditions. Food somehow tastes better cooked in the open.
Digital Lab Bologonja
My land rover doubled at night as a digital photography studio, the all-important space where I downloaded the day’s photo reference to my laptop–all powered by the cigarette lighter. It is important to make sure that your land rover has a working lighter…
Edwards Morning Tea
Edward was quite a proper gentleman, but had a keen sense of humor and an endless array of funny stories. Few people on earth know the African bush as well as he. Without his keen eyes and decades of experience, getting good shots of hard to see animals– such as leopards–would have been a very different prospect indeed. I learned so much about the bush from Edward. Here he’s enjoying his morning tea. I love a mug of tea as prepared in camp: the water is boiled with milk over an open fire, tea is added, then strained. Add raw sugar to taste.
Bologonja Omelet Cooking
Edward has been going on safari for 30 years– and had never camped at Bologonja before we went there. Here he is putting the sign back up at the campsite. The site was so remote and little-used that the sign had fallen down in disrepair.
Bologonja Sign Edward
  • ” I can’t believe we are camping here!” he shouted wryly as I snapped his photo. ” Next time, Ndutu Lodge!!”

Listening to Lions Canvas Edition Print In Production

Proofing “Listening to Lions” leopard print samples this afternoon. The print edition numbers 295 and will be printed on canvas the same size as the original piece pictured here: 30 x 42″. Price: $450 plus shipping.

Ngare Sero: Place of Dappled Water

Kilimanjaro from the air– taken as I was arriving on a late afternoon flight from Nairobi to Arusha, Tanzania. First stop before the long drive to Serengeti: a relaxing weekend at the Ngare Sero Mountain Lodge on the slopes of Mt. Meru.

Fireplace at Ngare Sero, a former German farm during the colonial era– now one of my favorite getaways in East Africa. The food, staff, accommodations: all superb and highly recommended. The lodge only has ten rooms, ensuring that every guest gets plenty of personal attention.

Bougainvillea just outside the door of my garden cottage. Thousands of blooms and huge old trees– home to troops of Syke’s monkeys and the Kilimanjaro race of black and white colobus–are everywhere at Ngare Sero. The name means ” Place of Dappled Water” in Masai.

The dining room/main building of the lodge as it appears today.

The same building when it served as a farmhouse during the German colonial period at the turn of the 20th century.

German settlers at Ngare Sero farm, early 20th century

Male Scarlet-chested Sunbird (Nectarinia senegalensis) feeding in the gardens. Over 200 species of birds have been identified on the grounds of Ngare Sero.

Black and white colobus, part of a troop feeding in flowering jacaranda trees on the lodge grounds. The Kilimanjaro race seen here has the longest coat and thickest tail of any colobus. More of my wildlife shots can be seen on the lodge website: http://www.ngare-sero-lodge.com/Lodge_tour.htm
Just beyond the gate of the lodge grounds– a path leading to a local village. These women have come to the springs in the vicinity of the lodge to collect water.
View of lodge from the bottom of the steps that lead down to the water’s edge.

New Leopard Painting: Close To Finish Now

Still working– but nearing completion now! My Maasai Mara leopard painting as of this evening. Building up those paws at the moment. I will continue to work for three more days on this piece– destined for auction Oct 5 to benefit the Gladys Porter Zoo Youth Education Fund-before finally relinquishing it to the framers on Monday.The story behind the painting:This piece was researched in the Musiara Marsh in the Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya, East Africa. I spent a month in the Mara, hoping to find just the right leopard– and luckily spotted this big fellow one evening, just as the colors of dusk and rising curtains of mist were at work transforming the landscape. When my Kikuyu guide Moses and I happened upon him, he was sitting out in the open on what I imagine to be his customary high perch, listening intently as a lion roared in the near distance. I say customary as he looked so at ease and at home up there in his element, totally attuned to every nuance alive in this corner of his home range. I found it interesting to note how his front paws were resting in that just-perfect depression in the branch.The cat allowed us twenty minutes of his time as darkness approached–apparently unperturbed by our presence– then slipped quicksilver-fashion to the ground and vanished instantly into the bush. A herd of impala were on the alert nearby, frozen in place as communal ears and eyes scanned the shadows for any sign of their covert nemesis. We went to check out the lions– and found the famous Notch of the Marsh Pride walking close to the forest edge, intent upon a languid lioness.Moses and I felt incredibly lucky to have been granted an audience with such an elusive cat. It is always a privilege to observe a leopard living free, especially one so close and so unconcerned as to allow a glimpse into its normally secret life in the African wild.Thus, the concept here is an almost literal translation of Job 41: 34: ” He beholdeth all high things: he is a king over all the children of pride.” The pride, in this case, being a collective of very real and very close lions. If given half a chance, lions will kill any leopard they come across. Clearly, watchfulness, intelligence, and stealth are essentials in the leopard’s daily survival game.

Mountain Gorilla Juvenile With Left Hand Missing

Detail of “Mountain Gorilla Juvenile With Left Hand Missing”– This is the state of the (upper half of) the painting at the moment. I’ve been working on the piece for a while, one of those paintings that just seems to hang around the studio in order to get resolved at some point.

I encountered this youngster on one of my gorilla treks in Rwanda. His hand had been caught in a poacher’s snare– the hand shriveled as the wire cut to the bone. Eventually, the withered hand fell off. This little guy– quite young, but somehow seeming very very old to my eyes– was lucky to escape with his life. He also has a “lazy eye”–strabismus– a condition exacerbated by inbreeding. The mountain gorillas live on a literal island in the clouds– a small postage-stamp remnant of the natural world completely surrounded by humanity in one of the most densely populated regions of Africa.