Alan Root

Name ID 534

See also

Heminway, John No Man's Land: The Last of White Africa
Page Number: 168b
Extract Date: 1950’s

It was just a home movie

During his expeditions into the bush Alan had made an 8 mm film of snakes and charging rhinos. "It was just a home movie." he recalls, but it fell into the hands of John Pearson. an East African Airways pilot and would-be film maker who was so impressed by it that he summoned Alan to the Nairobi Museum and offered him £20 a month to film lily-trotters on Lake Naivasha. It seemed inconceivable to Alan that someone would actually pay him to sit beside beautiful Lake Naivasha. He accepted and a week later he was living in a shredded tent next lo a school of hippos. He rose with the lily-trotters, fretted with their problems and watched the growth of their young.

Extract ID: 4154

See also

Heminway, John No Man's Land: The Last of White Africa
Page Number: 168c
Extract Date: 1950’s

Armand and Michaela Denis

In the late 1950’s few wildlife film makers in East Africa could live without the patronage of Armand and Michaela Denis. Commercial wildlife filming, then in its infancy. had been more or less launched by the Denises' highly popular British series called On Safari. It offered measured dosages of armchair travel, glamour (the extravagantly coiffed Michaela), cuddly pets and wildlife homilies. No one in England could have realized that Armand and Michaela were not in fact the sole camera operators since the film credits noted only their names. In reality they employed up to six wildlife film makers, the entire roster of cameramen in East Africa at the time.

As soon as Armand Denis saw the lily-trotter film he hired Alan and assigned him straightaway to the Serengeti - then a remote expanse of grasslands where the concentrations of game were dizrying. With a sweep of the eye. one could take in several hundred thousand wildebeest, prides of lions often more than thirty strong, creation and extinction balanced against one another with eerie logic.

Alan was one of the first professional cameramen to film here: within a few weeks he hid already exposed the first footage ever of a leopard hauling a carcass into a tree and of a zebra giving birth. "In many ways it was the easiest filming I'd ever done - merely a question of pointing the camera in the right direction."

Extract ID: 4155

See also

Heminway, John No Man's Land: The Last of White Africa
Page Number: 168a
Extract Date: 1950’s

all the bongos the world needed

For years zoos had been clamoring for bongo, but the catching methods of the time, usually involving dogs and bloodcurdling chases, had almost always ended with dead bongos. Alan invented a humane self-triggering enclosure, and within a month, he had collected the first bongo then in captivity. It was sent to the Cleveland Zoo and soon Alan was swamped with orders for more. Apart from the money. Alan's rationale for continuing this enterprise was to establish a breeding pool of bongos in zoos so that the wild bongo population would never again he jeopardized by encroachment. For the next live years, animal catching became Alan's hobby. He collected more than thirty bongos. The breeding stock that today supplies nearly all the major zoos throughout the world. Just as he promised, one day he folded up the entire enterprise. "I'd caught." he explained, "all the bongos the world needed."

Extract ID: 4153

See also

Heminway, John No Man's Land: The Last of White Africa
Page Number: 169
Extract Date: 1950's

Serengeti Shall Not Die

Alan's work with the Denises was interrupted one day by a zebra-striped Dornier aircraft that circled the Serengeti headquarters and landed next to the game warden's house. The plane was piloted by Bernhard and Michael Grzimek. a father-and-son team from Frankfurt. Germany. They wanted to record the movements of the herds of wildebeest and zebra over the course of a year, in hopes that the legal boundaries of the park would one day contain their migration. The first order of business was to hire a cameraman. Did the game warden happen to know one? Myles Turner, a man of fierce loyalties, made it clear that they could do no better than Alan Root, who happened to be filming nearby. Before Alan had even heard of the arrangement. Myles had successfully negotiated his contract.

The film they made with Alan was called ‘Serengeti Shall not die’. Of the few collaborations Alan has made, he can remember none so pleasant. He and Michael were much alike, not only in age. but in their approach to the game. They both were curious about the complex set of debts and promises that connect predators and prey: they both were consumed by the extravagance of life on these plains: and both of them were comics and daredevils.

The fun came to an end one day when Michael, flying alone, struck a vulture in midflight. With the ailerons and flaps jammed, the plane went into a dive. Michael was buried on the lip of the Ngorongoro Crater and the epitaph on his gravestone is simple: "Michael Grzimck - 11.4.1934 to 10.1.1959. He gave all he possessed for the wild animals of Africa, including his life."

Extract ID: 4156

See also

Heminway, John No Man's Land: The Last of White Africa
Extract Date: 1961


In 1961 Alan married Joan Thorpe, the daughter of a coffee planter and herself a safari guide. Alan had noticed her on several occasions but had never been able to cut through her shyness until one day he heard she was bringing up a small orphaned elephant. Elephants under six months are usually impossible to raise. Joan had been more successful than most people, and Alan, in his own words, "liked winners."

A master of the deadly pun, Alan recalls: "Before we were married, she wore a monocle and so did I. Together we made quite a spectacle. " On the first night of their honeymoon, for instance, Joan was stung by a scorpion. They were camped next to the Tsavo River Bridge, where in 1898, the rail-laying crew had been terrorized by two man-eating lions. The Roots sat up until dawn, he comforting her, both listening to the howl of the passing trains and to a lion, perhaps a descendant of the maneaters, roaring nearby. It was the beginning of an accident-prone but very happy partnership. "I don't know what I'd do without Joan," Alan admits today. "I'd probably have to marry three women at the same time."

Extract ID: 4158

See also

Smith, Anthony Throw out two hands
Page Number: 154a
Extract Date: 1962

Towards the Crater

Alan, Joan and Kiari travelled in the Land-Rover. Douglas and I followed in the Gipsy. We filled up at Mto-wa-Mbu, shook hands with the ground crew, talked with the two Indian storekeepers, and finally sped off up the escarpment road. We then drove over the Karatu plain, well stocked with Wambulu farmers, before accepting a lower gear, and driving up towards the crater area. Mosquito River was 2,000 feet above sea-level. The crater rim was nearer 7,000 and the two trucks pulled steeply up that twisty, well-surfaced road. At the so-called Wilkie's Point we had our first breath-taking view of the Ngorongoro Crater, and stopped at once.

Extract ID: 3745

See also

Smith, Anthony Throw out two hands
Page Number: 177
Extract Date: 1962

Tobogganning

What we hoped to do was to push off from the rim, with as little lift as possible, and then sink down quickly to the crater floor. 'More like tobogganing than ballooning,' said Douglas, and stared down at the crater 2,000 feet below.

Perhaps it was, but the intention was that the toboggan should cover those 12 miles and then climb up again over the other side to disappear in the general direction of the Serengeti. Anyway, we thoroughly prepared the balloon, attached the ropes inside it, put on the valve, put the net over it, and then loosely rolled it all up in case hyenas felt like chewing it experimentally during the night. We also linked up the cylinders so that, once again, it would just be a matter of turning on the gas in the morning. Most of the Wambulu went off, carrying many complex instructions about bringing more people early the next day as additional ground crew. At this stage John Newbould, pasture research officer for the Ngorongoro district, who had been acting as 'our man' in the area, became firmly sucked into the expedition, and had been offered a place in the basket instead of Alan Root, who had had to go off temporarily to Nairobi. Also Bill Moore-Gilbert, local game warden and sudden balloon enthusiast, was cooperating in every way possible, and most effectively. In short, about twenty-five people would be on hand at the take-off. I did not consider this an excess by any means.

Extract ID: 3753

See also

Turner, Kay Serengeti Home
Page Number: 195b
Extract Date: 1962

Alan Root

Alan, who was a frequent visitor to the Park, with his wife Joan, had been one of the Grzimeks' team in 1957, and was among the world's finest wildlife photographers.

Extract ID: 878

See also

Smith, Anthony Throw out two hands
Page Number: 199a
Extract Date: 1962

Who had reported our explosion?

Alan and Joan were due back any day, but they had not arrived when I set off. Douglas took me to the crater top, and from there I got a ride into Arusha. The driver was in a hurry, and there was no time for stopping. We hurtled round the Wilkie's Point bend, neglecting the road to the rhino and the take-off site, and then twisted down the curves leading to the Karatu plain. On going through the scattered and drawn-out village of Karatu itself, I longed to know who it was that had reported our explosion. Was it that man wearing the bright blue track suit with a tie round the neck? Or that one wearing a sort of mustard coloured jacket with purple trousers, or him with a white toga, or that one just in a ragged pair of shorts? I longed to know. I swivelled round to have a last look at an exceedingly gaily dressed lot, but they gave me no due. In the dim distance, half hidden in the haze, was a thin blue line of hills cut out against the sky. How that man had picked out our balloon among those Crater Highlands I do not understand. Perhaps he imagined the whole thing! Perhaps a blob swam across his vision, as blobs sometimes do. Whatever it was, he had told his tale and, what is more, he had been believed. So good luck to him, whether his clothes are mustard or purple, white or ragged grey; I, at least, shall not forget him.

Extract ID: 3767

See also

Smith, Anthony Throw out two hands
Page Number: 203
Extract Date: 1962

Tanganyika jack

After a while Alan turned up having been given a, lift in a passing Land-Rover because his own had become partially engulfed in the mud over by the landmark known as Fig tree Kopje. Hugh took off, circled like any pelican to gain height, and then disappeared over the crater wall while we collected the Gipsy from camp. Afterwards, in the most magnificent brown light of the evening, Alan and I drove out to the beleaguered vehicle.

On the way, apart from the normal hazards of driving through the place, we had been delayed by a family of lions. A scraggy old male looks scarcely more interesting than a scraggy old animal of any species, but a lioness in good condition is a seemingly perfect piece of creation. As she walks about, being nudged by some cub, being moved by an unknown impulse just to get up and plump down five yards away, her muscles work with exquisite finesse. As a piece of engineering, and of colouring, and of grace, a lioness can scarcely be matched. Perhaps her rhythm and power tend to be high-lighted by the fact that, in almost any group of lions, one or two of them are not in such excellent condition. In a system of predators and prey, particularly when the carnivores exist communally, it is possible for some of them to survive in a weakened state for far longer than the prey on which they feed. A visibly sick wildebeest or gazelle has only a few more hours to live, unless some remarkable recovery is effected rapidly. An aged lion can survive for years provided he is with a community prepared to kill for him.

It took quite a time to extract the truck. On arriving there I had removed my Nairobi-polished shoes, and my new socks, but my Nairobi-pressed trousers had to suffer as I stepped out into a foot and a half of water. It seemed difficult adjusting the two lives. Despite the fact that we had two winches, and one unstuck truck, all of us splashed around for a couple of hours before the mud gave way. A vital bit of equipment on these occasions is the Tanganyika jack. This is no ordinary jack, as its name implies, but a barely liftable contraption of wood and iron that has only one role to play. Under almost any conditions, provided it has another block of wood to stand on, it can lift any bit of a truck. Its hook is strong, and the method is to lift up each wheel in turn. In the cavity these wheels have dug for themselves almost anything other than mud should be interred, and they will then have something on which to grip, even momentarily. Without the invention of the Tanganyika jack the number of man-hours stuck in the mud would increase immeasurably. Without ours on that occasion we would have been sucked dry by insects. I have never known the air so thick with six-legged forms as it was at dusk that day. They flew everywhere, into mouths and into eyes, and those with a suitable proboscis drank well. Fortunately they were a local manifestation. On driving back towards camp we left them behind.

Extract ID: 3771

See also

Smith, Anthony Throw out two hands
Page Number: 249b
Extract Date: 1962

The herds?

Alan and Douglas came back after midday bewildered by the herd's behaviour. The animals had been thundering through the country near Lake Lagaja and moving very fast. The 30,000 of them were still together, but much more closely, and there was now nothing like 15 miles between the front and the back. Admittedly, any transect across the Serengeti would mean flying over animals, but it was imperative to go over a packed herd as well. We ate a meal, and then left camp with the essentials for one night's stop and with the balloon in its customary trailer. The two 5-tonners trundled along behind.

Alan made a detour on the way, to look for the herd again and was no less perplexed. It had entirely left Lake Lagaja. [Lake Ndutu] However, it was still moving in the same direction, and we chose a camp site 10 miles south of that 0l Doinyo Gol range. Four lions slunk away from the spot as we approached, and they did not wait to watch us start the preparations. We laid out the balloon on its tarpaulin, arranged it correctly, and attached the cords. The net was then draped over the fabric, pulled symmetrically, and finally anchored with one sandbag to every four meshes. We removed the cylinders from the trucks, unscrewed their caps, joined ten of them to the ten-way filler, and attached that to the inlet pipe. The balloon's valve was put in place, the basket was made ready, and for the last time it was only a matter of turning on the gas.

Extract ID: 3780

See also

Herne, Brian White Hunters: The golden age of African Safaris
Page Number: 340
Extract Date: 1963

A turning point

At Albert national park, Alexander introduced Dian to a Belgian biologist named Jacques Verschuren, and he told Fossey about the gorillas' on the Virunga volcanoes straddling Rwanda, Uganda, and Zaire. While camped high on the Kabara Meadow, Alexander and Fossey encountered friends of John's, well-known wildlife photographers Alan and Joan Root, who were filming gorillas. The Roots took Dian out in search of her first gorillas. Although no contact was made, it was a thrilling experience and Fossey said she had "smelled them." It was certainly a turning point in her life. Fossey, by profession an occupational therapist, ultimately became famous as a dedicated gorilla preservationist.

Extract ID: 3842

See also

Douglas-Hamilton, Iain and Oria Among the Elephants

Alan Root

helped Iain Douglas-Hamilton establish his camp at Ndala River.

Extract ID: 879

See also

Heminway, John No Man's Land: The Last of White Africa
Page Number: 176
Extract Date: 1970~

I knew I needed a balloon for filming

Before returning home, Alan was invited by his ballooning friend, Anthony Smith, to test the latest toy in the field of wingless aircraft. It was a hot-air balloon - far less dangerous and expensive than the hydrogen version he and Tony had flown over Africa. Alan made his first ascension from a village green in Hampshire: "As we lifted off I created a camera shot by cupping my hands around my eyes, limiting their field of vision as if they were a lens. I began by focusing on a daisy growing next to the basket. As we began our climb I could see people's legs, then all the village green. Pretty soon the entire village came into view and, after that, all of England. Before we landed I knew I needed a balloon for filming."

The difference between humdrum and interesting camerawork is often a matter of perspectives. Alan is always trying to find the novel angle, not just to be arresting, but to heighten the truth of the action. To film a herd of animals moving across a plain by holding the camera at eye level would have abused all the magical opportunities of Africa. Instead, Alan would bury the camera in their path to film their progress from a snake's point of view. In Alan's films, flowers are not just in bloom; they begin as petals and bloom before one's eyes. Similarly a bird's nest does not just appear; it is built on the screen, twig by twig, in a mere thirty seconds. The technology of this process is known as time-lapse photography, and it is a hallmark of Alan's films. Hot-air ballooning would add still another startling perspective to his Africa. It would also be the most hair-raising fun he had had in a long while.

Alan was to obtain the first hot-air balloon license ever issued in black Africa. His training period at Naivasha had not been all that easy: On several occasions he had performed "underwater" flying in the lake, once he had snagged around the telephone lines beside a road and on another occasion he had even "gift-wrapped" a thorn tree.

Extract ID: 4160

See also

Heminway, John No Man's Land: The Last of White Africa
Page Number: 178a
Extract Date: 1975

"The Year of the Wildebeest" - "Brave Gnu World"

"The Year of the Wildebeest" - "Brave Gnu World," as Alan liked to call it - appeared on CBS in May 1975 and was rerun by NBC in July 1976. Almost all of Alan's film colleagues consider it his finest film. Throughout, there is pounding energy, hammered onto the screen by the wildebeests' hooves, heightened by the terse, sometimes ironic script. By the film's end one is cowed by the wisdom of death. The spare language is often so good it draws attention to itself:

"The white-bearded gnu - an animal apparently designed by a committee and assembled from spare parts."

"Whenever there is a creature behaving strangely on the plains there are always other animals alert to wonder why."

"The wildebeest haven't changed in two million years. They haven't needed to; for, though they may choose some bizarre ways to die, they have found a fantastically successful way to live."

"There is a saying in Africa that somewhere there is a place where the grass meets the sky, and the name of that place is 'the end.' "

Extract ID: 4161

See also

Heminway, John No Man's Land: The Last of White Africa
Page Number: 178b
Extract Date: 1975

Verbal badinage

In Kenya, a country not noted for its verbal badinage. Alan's plays on words have become passwords to his life.

His pet aardvark is named Million. Why? Because "Aardvark a million miles for one of your smiles!"

On the front of his car the Range Rover lettering has been changed to read "Hang Over. "

When asked by a Walt Disney producer if he liked the name of their new film about bongos. ‘The Biggest Bongo in the World’, he was quite abusive. "Awful," he said. They challenged him to come up with a better one and in a second he solved their dilemma: "Last Bongo in Paris."

On another occasion, he was drinking with his friend, Dr. Mary Leakey, who was pondering what to name her exhaustive monograph on the stone tool cultures of the Olduvai Gorge. Alan advised her to call it: "I Dig Dirty Old Men."

Extract ID: 4162

See also

Heminway, John No Man's Land: The Last of White Africa
Page Number: 178c
Extract Date: 1975

Ballooning for the public

Ever since Alan had learned to fly a balloon, nothing gave him greater pleasure than offering his friends joyrides: a dawn departure from the lawn in front of the house to the strains of "Up, Up and Away," a climb into clouds, a descent onto the roof of a neighbor's house to wake its occupants with a few bars of "Born Free," out across the lake to surprise a sleeping herd of hippos, up again to search for plains game and to open a bottle of champagne, and a finger-barking landing in an onion field just as the rescue crew, driving a Land Rover, sped into sight.

These flights were so successful that Alan decided to go public with lighter-than-air travel. For years he and Richard Leakey had been partners in a photographic safari company, and when it was disbanded in 1976 because of personal differences, he formed another partnership with the leading hotelier of the country to take tourists across the Masai-Mara Game Reserve in his balloon. "The fun was getting Balloon Safaris going - convincing the local aviation authorities that it was okay to have regular charter flights to a destination never certain until you got there."

Extract ID: 4163

See also

Heminway, John No Man's Land: The Last of White Africa
Page Number: 179-181
Extract Date: March 25, 1976

Balloon Safari over Kilimanjaro

Looming above the business enterprise was an even greater challenge. Kilimanjaro, at 19,340 feet, was the highest point in Africa; ergo, ballooning over the peak would represent the highest physical achievement in Africa, the ultimate seduction. Most people could have tossed aside this challenge but Alan presumably was taunted every time he saw the silver dome floating above late-afternoon clouds. By now he was a living reminder of other such dares. The index finger on his right hand was missing because of an indiscretion with a puff adder. A portion of his right buttock had been deeded to a leopard in the Serengeti, and most of the cartilage in his right knee was missing because he had once tried to set a Kenya record for motorcycle jumps. Now whenever he entered the Nairobi Hospital he was greeted as an old friend.

None of Alan's friends was terribly surprised to hear that he was preparing to be the first to balloon over the top of Kilimanjaro. Now that the wildebeest film was finished Alan had given himself four months before his next production. He gathered together some friends who were eager to serve as the ground crew and readied his balloon, Lengai, for the assault. From the lower slopes of the mountain, Alan calculated he would have to head away from the peak because of the winds, and then at about 24,000 feet, hope to catch an alternating wind that would carry him over the top. There the winds would be treacherous and the air nearly one-quarter its density at sea level.

The "shakedown" was spent test-flying the equipment, purchasing special gear and dickering with the meteorological service. One day the flight was off, another on, and much of Nairobi joined in speculating whether or not the madman would make it. In a society that warmly takes heart from others' misfortunes and rarely admits to heroes. Alan's apparent death wish had captured the imagination.

On the morning of March 25, 1976, the ground crew inflated the balloon on a farm to the west of the mountain. The clouds were down to the ground and nobody was laughing. Until the last moment there had been a question whether or not Joan could accompany Alan. It was generally agreed because of the load factor only one passenger could make the ascent. Joan had not said a word but it was clear that she would gladly have amputated an arm to meet the required weight. By now Alan was inside the basket firing the burner. He looked out at her. "You ready?" he asked, seconds before the balloon lifted off.

For the first half-hour of the flight Alan and Joan flew through dense cloud, never certain where they were bound. Just before they saw sunlight the flame on the burner blew out and for a frightening second Alan fumbled with matches to relight it.

Alan has coined an expression, "The Root Effect," to describe the illusion of the sides of the basket lowering, the higher the balloon climbs. At five thousand feet the basket's walls are at waist level, but at twenty thousand feet they seem little higher than one's ankles. Now as the balloon drifted over the top of Mawenzi Joan was behaving strangely. For a second Alan considered "The Root Effect." She was uncharacteristically snappy and clumsy. "What's the matter?" Alan asked. "Nothing," she shouted back. Suddenly he noticed the tube from her oxygen supply had gotten fouled. As fast as he could he reconnected it and soon she was her placid self.

Borne by a friendly monsoon, and with hardly a ripple, the basket sailed across the roof of Africa, its two occupants Phineas Foggs of a new sort. The altimeter registered 24,000 feet and directly below was the broken cone of Kilimanjaro. Old glaciers and the remains of last season's snows lay in pockets along the rims. Alan looked for climbers, but at nine on a March morning the mountain was deserted. The mountain and the sky made the balloon seem very small. When he and Joan had successfully flown over Kilimanjaro, they were forced to make a landing in then hostile Tanzania. Minutes after their moment of triumph, both Roots were arrested as "astronaut spies."

Of all Alan's films, the one-hour special about his balloon exploits seems the most flawed, possibly because he was dealing with humans (particularly himself) instead of animals. The humor that abounds in his life seemed out of context in the film, and at times the commentary runs to unmitigated conceit: "Flying a balloon takes a bit of getting used to - but Alan Root is one of those naturally well-coordinated people who gets the hang of this sort of thing very quickly. . . ." On television ‘Balloon Safari’ seemed an uneven pastiche, but when it is shown at the farmhouse on Lake Naivasha it is colorful and very funny. It seems to be an indulgence, an amusement for his friends. "Precisely," Alan admits today, "it's a home movie."

Extract ID: 4164

See also

Ziesler, Gunter and Hofer, Angelika Safari: the East African Diaries of a Wildlife Photographer
Extract Author: Nigel Sitwell
Page Number: 10

Introduction

There was another thing that made him less eager to work in Africa than in some other places he had been to: There was another German photographer, Reinhard Kurkel (sic), who had spent ten years in Kenya and Tanzania. 'There were Alan Root, the Bartletts, Hugo van Larwick, and others - and they had taken some of their best pictures when it was rather easier than it is now.'

Extract ID: 3133

See also

1996 Publishes: Root, Alan & Scott, Jonathan 24 Hours in the Serengeti


Extract ID: 3237

external link

See also

Claytor, Tom Bushpilot
Extract Author: Tom Claytor
Page Number: 18d
Extract Date: 1996 July 03

Kilimanjaro International Airport

I take off and fly along the slopes of Kilimanjaro before the clouds appear. Beneath me is the mine where all the Tanzanite comes from. If I ever find a wife, I will design her a ring with Tanzanite. I don't think there is a more beautiful stone in the world. It is sometimes referred to as a 'blue diamond' and the liquid blue stone reflects three different colors - purple, blue, and gray - as the light passes through it. It is much brighter than a sapphire, and it is only found here.

I descend low and follow the lush green forests past Kilimanjaro International Airport. This is one of the places where they could get me. I remember when the wildlife filmmaker, Alan Root, sent me to Kilimanjaro to pick up his plane some years ago. He handed me a fist-full of $100 bills and said in his normal understated way, 'Here, you may need these.' I was deposited at Kilimanjaro Airport and walked over to collect his recently repaired Cessna 180. The men in the office laughed at me. It appeared, I was about $400 short of what was owed. I spent a very long night inside of the plane being eaten by large mosquitoes. When that became too unbearable, I crawled out and lay on the tarmac beneath the plane. Then large rhinoceros shaped beetles would hit me full force in the face as they tried to fly in ground effect towards the bright lights illuminating the apron. The next morning, I was a wreck. It was time for my captors and me to make a deal. I suggested that if we reduced the number of days that the plane had been parked here on the receipt, there would be several hundred dollars left over that would not be accounted for. I think a proposal like this can raise some interest in a land where $2 a day is a good salary. I was soon on my way.

Extract ID: 3648

external link

See also

Claytor, Tom Bushpilot
Extract Author: Tom Claytor
Page Number: 19a
Extract Date: 1996 08 Jul

Oldupai

All across this land remain the names of places that the Maasai have given them.

Ngorongoro means the place with mountains and gorges.

Oldupai is the wild sisal that grows in the Olduvai gorge, and Siringet is the Maasai word for a vast place.

From the northern edge of the Ngorongoro crater, I follow the 90 meter deep and 50 kilometer long Olduvai gorge west into the Serengeti. The first time I ever came here, I didn't have a map. A bush pilot and filmmaker named Alan Root drew me a map on a piece of scrap paper. There was a bump on the horizon and a line for a road. He put a dot where the road intersected a river, and that he said was where I would find the airstrip.

This place is not so different from his map. It is simple. There is a sea of yellow, and a sky of blue. Perhaps, it is because the colors are complimentary to each other that makes them so powerful together; the one magnifies the other in a surreal way that makes me feel like I am floating between heaven and earth. Amidst the endless tawny yellow below are the distinctive island kopjies of the Serengeti. These little rock islands are mini ecosystems with birds, lizards, hyraxes, and sometimes, a resident leopard. There are no trees, and you can see the wind flowing like waves across the grass.

Extract ID: 3656
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