Home from Ethiopia

Well, that was certainly one of the more weird trips of the last 10 years. First off, the baboons were fantastic, they gave us the run around, disappeared at rather inconvenient moments and lead us on some pretty hardcore forced marches, but they behaved beautifully. My main job was to film as much behaviour as possible to complement the more observational documentary material that Rob Sullivan was getting. The Holy Grail sequence (with the offer of a bottle of Champagne if we got it) was a big fight between two neighbouring bands – something that Matt, the scientist we were working with, has only seen a dozen or so times in five years in the field.

I’m delighted to say that the Champagne was claimed, and drunk (thanks Rob). We filmed the most amazing fight I’ve ever seen – 400+ baboons facing off against each other, the noise was unbelieveable – it was one of the most incredible pieces of behaviour I have ever seen. Very difficult to film in a coherent way as the battle lines between the two groups were constantly shifting, and it was dusk, but I think we got a pretty exciting sequence.

We got some great stuff with my Jimmy Jib up on the baboons favourite sleeping cliff, and field tested my new panning / tracking timelapse rig with some really lovely results.

The shoot was tainted slightly by some very peculiar goings on – having to evacuate our tents in the middle of the night due to the attentions of a spotted hyena (probably with rabies, even shots fired at point blank range didn’t deter it), then we had a 6ft spitting cobra in the kit tent (miraculously spotted by Matt, and dealt with by Nick – well done chaps) and finally the gruesome sight of an eviscerated, but still live, donkey in the camp one morning – attacked by hyenas the previous night and rescued by park scouts.

It was all rather strange, the kind of trip that will stay with you for a while; waking up to see the moonlit shape of a hyena nose to nose with your tent and ┬áhearing it brush along the fabric a few inches from you knowing that it is intent to get in – then to hear the bolt of a rifle being pulled back and a shots being fired only for the hyena just to keep coming back for more was not exactly conducive for a good night’s sleep.

The strangeness was offset by the brilliant people I was out there with – thanks Nick and Matt. I’m not sure if any of us will be heading back there for a holiday any time soon…