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

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!!”
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1 reply »

  1. Charles I’m so very glade that you are back in the Great Serengeti Mara for the Migration -it is fitting that you are there in the first year of our retirement – in our stead! I know time is always short but you are welcome here at the end – we have an empty but clean and simple cottage you are welcome to as long as you like you can reach me via your guides phone at +254 722 101 236, by the way if you want to come over and camp in the Mara Triangle I have paid 40,000/ kes for private booking of Ndovu camp in the Mara Triangle and made this announcement on my fb site yesterday:

    “I’m still looking for persons willing to take over my booking for Ndovo camp @ 1/2 price i.e 5000/ per week for any or all of the following dates September 1-7 (out am 8th), Sept. 8-14th (out am 15th) Sept. 22-28th (out am 29) Sept 29th – 5th October ( out am 6th) I paid 40,000/- for all 4 weeks last year but then decided to retire.

    This is a brilliant camp and opportunity if you are interested send me the dates you want and I will send you my m-pesa number where you pay me only 5000 per week and I will inform the KAPS Mara Triangle Booking office.”

    Have a look and let me know if you want it and when and I will tell Kaps office that you have taken over my booking:

    http://maratriangle.org/visit/conservation-fees/camping/

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