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Light Mobile Camping


12 Jun

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Last Thursday (4th June 2009) - 8pm. It’s dark and I’m sitting under canvas in a wilderness area in the northern Serengeti. Game driving isn’t allowed here, in fact there’s not so much as a track, let alone any roads for almost 1000 square kilometres. What’s more, I can virtually guarantee that there are no people other than myself, my guide Jean and the three camp members who are here with us on this safari. Until now it’s been virtually impossible to walk in the Serengeti, but this is exactly what I’ve come here to do. For the next 3 days as we slowly explore this virgin area, the only way we’ll be getting anywhere is on our own two feet. As I write, it’s night, the moon is a sliver of light in an inky, star-filled sky and I’m contemplating the African night soundscape. 21st century noise pollution is conspicuous by its absence, but despite this, it is far from quiet. Interestingly there is an unmistakable structure to the noises of the bush. It’s composed of layers; at the top a high-pitched orchestra of crickets; soft but clear, and seemingly omnipresent. This layer is punctuated by another; the intermittent calls of birds – night jars, the crescendo of a pearl spotted owl and the chirp of a scops owl. Behind my tent and not too far away, is the insistent call of a cicada or maybe it’s a ground cricket. The call is so loud that it almost sounds like someone blowing a football whistle. Suddenly to the south is the unmistakable roar of a lion, and it’s answered almost immediately, by another to the north. They aren’t particularly close, but they’ll be on the move now, so they’ll likely get louder in the night. This could get exciting. But beneath all the layers of sound is one that makes my hair stand on end; a low rumble, a very large sound, but so low and continuous that after a while your ears become habituated to it and tune it out. It sounds a little like the noise an oil fired boiler makes, or a far away jet engine. But this is no machine, this is the sound of 10’s of thousands of wildebeest massing in the rolling plains around our camp, and beginning their migration north. Not everyone would enjoy the simplicity of these little camps, but there are few ways in which you can immerse yourself in the wild to such a degree. If you’re interested in these camps, you can take a look at a few short videos which explain what the camp is like, where the Serengeti Wilderness Area is and why the camp is so lightweight.