Against All Odds

5 September 2017 | The Mara |

James Hendry shares his insights on this madcap mission on what it took to live stream 120 minutes of wildlife drama direct from the Mara into the homes of millions of Americans – not once, but seven times

You probably don’t have any conception of what it takes to broadcast a live wildlife TV show out of Africa to the United States. This is not a slight on your good self – it’s simply that I need to unload in the aftermath of the safariLIVE Migration series of the last seven weeks.

So, if you would indulge me, I’ll lie on the couch while you make soothing noises to show that you are listening.

It all began about two months ago but, no, actually more like five months. The genius/madman we work for thought it would be a lark to come and broadcast the highlights of the Great Wildebeest Migration. We were all busy doing our gentle day jobs generally enjoying the comfortable life. We didn’t pay much attention thinking this latest outlandish vision to be a distant coalescing in the cosmic dust.

Filming-the-action

Quite suddenly a few of those brave souls of the safariLIVE vanguard found themselves in Kenya eating cabbage three times a day with tripe for variety on Sundays and squashed into a room with limited ventilation (not ideal given the diet). The genius/madman insisted on the erection of a camp for 25 staff, the commissioning of three filming vehicles and the design of a broadcast system in about the same time as it takes most people to to boil a kettle.

Allow me to begin with the camp – that’s our home after all. Angama Mara gave us a site with a view that beggars belief – the horizon runs out far beyond the limits of human vision. In the quiet of the midday, you can be forgiven for gazing out from our perch 1000 feet above the Mara floor expecting Meryl and Robert to come whizzing by in a Tiger Moth. Construction was a monumental challenge however – supplies are tough to come by and the vagaries of rural building techniques cannot be found in any manual. Thanks largely to the dedication and Job-like patience of our operations manager, we now have an imminently habitable camp with a view most people would pay millions for.

Control-room-action

So that’s where we live.

JK Rowling could learn a thing or two from the fantastic fictional abilities of the salesman who convinced us to part with money for the Land Rovers that would eventually convey us around the world’s most iconic wilderness. It took seven mechanics, 400 000 welding rods, three broken toes and countless frayed tempers to re-assemble the piles of rattles and rust that arrived here masquerading as 4X4s.

Many said ‘this cannot be done!’. The genius/madman responded, ‘nay, it must be done!’

Understanding the broadcast system and how it was accomplished is well beyond my pea-brain but we have a sleep-deprived Russian, a clever Hollander and an Alaskan for that stuff.

James in Action

Then came the first show to the biggest safariLIVE audience yet. It felt like going 60 minutes in a cage with Conor McGregor. The Russian’s beard fell out, the genius/madman had to be resuscitated with a bottle of bourbon and two of the crew left to live with the local troupe of olive baboons.

On we soldiered until the final episode this last weekend. I’m not sure it would be going too far to describe what we achieved as a triumph. The show went off without a hitch – cheetah hunted in the golden dawn; lions ate a zebra; wildebeest crossed the raging, crocodile infested Mara River; and it all went out live without a technical glitch to Nat Geo Wild in the US. The genius/madman thanked us and behind his teary eyes we saw the seeds of more insanity – this made us smile and raise our glasses a little higher.

If you missed this one, I hope you’ll join us for the next.

James in Kenya

 

Note from the Editor: We love having this crazy crew as our neighbours who share daily the beauty of the Mara Triangle and its abundanat wildlife on safariLIVE. Our guests also visit their studio and are always afforded the warmest of welcomes.

ABOUT: James Hendry

James grew up in Johannesburg and has an honors degree in Science and a Masters in Human Development. After a year as a guitar teacher and sports coach, James moved to the wilderness, where for the next eight years, he worked as a safari guide, head ranger, guide trainer, land manager and lodge manager before joining the team at SafariLIVE. James has a dry, sarcastic wit that reflects the inspiration and joy he derives from observing the human condition and the natural environment. He speaks both Shangane and isiZulu and is the author and co-author of three South African best-selling books.

COMMENTS (28)
Carol wells
September 5, 2017

Well done James !’ And thanks Graham!!

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KKay
September 5, 2017

Thank you for all you do to bring safari drives to us. Glad all worked out in the Mara. Love every minute on widescreen with my family. Thanks

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Lisa
September 5, 2017

As we are visiting the Sabi Sands because of Safari Live in 2018, so we will visit the Mara in 2019. Well done.

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    Nicky Fitzgerald
    September 6, 2017

    And we will be waiting for you with arms open wide when you come to one of the loveliest wildlife reserves on the continent

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Marcus Hooper
September 5, 2017

I cannot wait to one day read your memoirs. They shall rival Mark Twain’s.

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Judy Traulich
September 5, 2017

Thanks to all of you for the wonderful broadcasts. Didn’t miss a minute of it. Where to next?

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sally slick
September 5, 2017

A wonderful essay on the marvel, dare I say miracle?, that happened! Thank you a million times thank you to the crazy visionary, Graham, and to the entire WE crew! I wonder what is next???

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    Nicky Fitzgerald
    September 6, 2017

    Hi Sally
    It certainly was a miracle that we watched unfold – not easy to pull off something of this scale in that time frame out in the middle of nowhere

    REPLY
Dorth Clarke
September 5, 2017

No one can tell a story like James. He is the best. His sarcasm makes me laugh along with all of his facial expressions to go with it. And he is so knowledgeable about so many things that it is so enjoyable to be on a safari drive with him.. I’ll say it again, He Is The Best!

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    Nicky Fitzgerald
    September 6, 2017

    Hi Dorth
    Lucky us to have James as our neighbour – he brightens up every day out here in the lovely Mara

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Sharon Solomon
September 5, 2017

I loved reading your blog! There were many times that I chuckled and laughed, as I could see you saying it, and hear your voice saying each word. I loved that!! Thank you for being you and sharing yourself with all of us WE viewers…and me in particular 🙂

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MJ Bradley
September 5, 2017

I am always in awe of what Graham aka genius/madman and his Merry Band of Sleep deprived give to us his loyal subjects. Thank you seems so little to offer for what you all have done! Can’t wait to see what is next!

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Jackie
September 6, 2017

James Hendry-I love you on this show. I an wheelchair bound, but I still love it.

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    Nicky Fitzgerald
    September 6, 2017

    Hi Jackie
    Delighted you are a Mara addict!
    Thank you for your comment
    Warm regards
    Nicky

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CatnapJo
September 6, 2017

Thank you, Angama Mara, for welcoming the WE team to your neighbourhood. I am awed at how they tirelessly built this home from the ground up and have created a broadcast location and camp from scratch. Their airing of a live and INTERACTIVE feed from three vehicles, roving through remote terrain , amazes me on a regular basis. Very special, indeed.

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Helen
September 6, 2017

l feel so lucky to have met the “madman” a(Mr. Wallington) and Jamie when they traveled to Los Angeles Greet” at the LAX airport, Mr Wallington told the small number of SafariLive fans of his dream of broadcasting from the Mara –the great migration. How exciting it is to see his vision come to reality ! He along with his very dedicated crew have and still do an outstanding job! Thank you so much !

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Vera
September 6, 2017

We stayed in Arathusa in the Sabi Sands 2 years ago and love it. Now my husband and I are planning/preparing for our trip to Kenya. James and WE team made us love Kenya and we can’t wait to see this beautiful country in person. Thanks James and WE team.

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Mia Mykat
September 7, 2017

Thanks for the blog, James, and thanks to Graham and all the SafariLive crew for your wonderful drives in the Mara! Have enjoyed every minute of the shows and hope for many more! Can’t get enough of the beautiful Mara vista!

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