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To the south and west of Nairobi, lie the vast plains of the Serengeti, reaching far into Tanzania.  Its a world of animals where humans are in the minority. The centerpiece to this region is the Ngorongoro Crater.  Here in the caldera of an extinct volcano, a huge population of animals lives in relatively unmolested natural harmony, which includes the expected cycles of violence and death.  Ironically, the most powerful movie treatment of this teeming world is found in the opening vistas of Disney’s animated film, The Lion King (1994), the dignity of which is marred only by the low comedy of flatulent warthogs. 

The most thunderous and memorable experience in this territory is the year-round migration of the wildebeests. In a great and perpetually revolving circle, thousands of these buffalo-like animals move across Tanzania and up into western Kenya. If you are lucky enough to be taken in a Range Rover out into the midst of this migration, it will live forever in your deepest recollections. Once again, the only representation of this event on the Hollywood screen is a brief animated sequence in The Lion KingThere are no large apes here. They are found further west toward Rwanda and the Congo. See Central Africa.

On the Serengeti, the lore of the Masai tribe is prominent. The story context for The Lion King borrowed heavily from this source. A far more true-to-life legend of the Masai people can be seen in Masai: The Rain Warriors (2005) – see Killing the Lion: African Tribal Movies below. Tales of white hunters and adventurers arriving in this expanded area are plentiful. Highlights include Mogambo (1953) and King Solomon’s Mines  (1950 / 2004).

 The family of Louis and Mary Leakey used Nairobi as headquarters for their expeditions out to Olduvai Gorge at the heart of the Serengeti Plain in search of early human remains.  The senior Leakeys lacked the glamour for a movie of their own but Louis, the patriarch, can be glimpsed briefly in the opening scenes of Gorillas in the Mist, see Central Africa. It was Mary who made the important discoveries. After these finds, dating to about two million years ago, the world imagined this area as the starting place for human migrations around the world.


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