2008 Ash and Aardvarks
2008 turned out to be the year with the event that I had been waiting to experience for 20 years — the eruption of Oldonyo Lengai — the Maasai Mountain of god.
I''ve always had a passion for volcanoes and Lengai, sitting over looking the Salai plains on the eastern side of the Serengeti Ecosystem has always held a fascination. It''s the youngest volcano in the Ngorongoro Crater highland system and is a living part of a fascinating geological history of the area.
The massive Serengeti plains, once an undulating landscape has been filled in with billions tons of ash over the last few million years creating a unique grassy habitat for the spectacle that attracted me to Africa — the great migration. 20 years ago while working with Owen Newman and Keith Scholey on the BBC film ‘The Great Rift Valley’ we were desperate to film even a small puff of ash falling to the plains below to portray living geological history. Imagine seeing the plains growing before your eyes!
The years went by and there were reports of the occasional puff here and there. Then late last year Lengai started to a wake and blast ash out of a small vent. Of course I missed all this as I was in southern Tanzania at the time and wouldn''t be back in the area until February this year. All I could do was hope that I''d be lucky enough to experience it first hand.
Finally driving though the Gol Mountains to our stunning camp at Salai there was Lengai and on queue it blew a massive spout of ash to over 20,000 feet — unbelievable. A dream comes true and that wasn''t the end of it. Over the next 3 weeks we were given the most spectacular display of volcanic activity possible. At its peak it was exploding ash to 35,000 feet every 3 hours coating the area in a spooky white/grey film of alkaline material. An incredible privilege and as we all know Lengai has some pretty strange powers as I was again working with Owen on another BBC film and we were able to watch and film the eruptions together 20 years on!!!
Visit our the slideshow section of the site as I have added a new slide show with many more stunning images of the Lengai eruptions:
As rare as a Lengai eruption is day time viewing of Aardvarks! 2008 was therefore an exceptional year! On the plain near the marsh at Ndutu an aardvark decided 5 pm was it''s time to emerge from underground safety and dig up the plains in search of termites as if it was the middle of the night. Each afternoon, with its confused biological clock it was there at 5 pm for all to see. As you can imagine it become a local celebrity and probably the most photographed animal in the Serengeti. Endless paparazzi observing it''s every dig for over a month.
The green season came to an end and we are now on safari in the west and north of the Serengeti and the aardvark disappeared at about the same time Lengai stopped erupting leaving us to ponder what a remarkable place the Serengeti is. After over 22 years doing safaris there are still many surprises to be experienced.
Lastly for those of you who don''t yet know about the amazing safari style experiences that we are now offering in New Zealand check out the New Zealand section of our website: www.nigelperksnz.com