Published: January 10th 2011December 23rd 2010
The Ngorongoro Crater National Park is a dormant volcano with 240 square km of a flat treeless bottom that is an ideal grazing ground. Because of the ready availability of water, the animals here don't migrate. The only large animal that is absent is the giraffe. Either the steep crater sides or the lack of trees at the bottom probably explains why this is the case.
The area west of the crater and east of the Serengeti is now a National Conservation Area. There are large herds of gnu, zebra, Tommies mixed in with Masai cattle, goats and camels in that in-between area. This is also the location of Olduvai Gorge, where the Paleoanthropologists / Wunderkind Leakey family uncovered the Lucy skull. So, in effect, this is the birth place of homo-sapiens. Well, from here up to Ethiopia along the Rift Valley. The Leakeys are an amazing family, but no time for that here.
After spending the night at the lodge on the crater rim, we went into the crater at sun rise to beat all the other safari trucks that were parked over night at the crater rim lodge. The park gates open at 06:00 and we were
in before 06:30.
The light was magical for photography and for the first couple of hours we felt like we were the only people present. The animals in the crater have never been hunted. So, they are fearless of people and don't automatically turn away when a safari truck approaches.
Later in the morning, we had breakfast with the hippos at the hippo pools when another safari truck appeared. After setting up a picnic chair and table, the lone occupant of that truck took off with the driver like a Tommy being chased by a cheetah. We were thinking that they must have heard about a cheetah on the prowl on the radio. Soon after we found out where they went in that great hurry.
There was a black Rhino ... ok, the pictures show a white rhino. But, that's because it was covered in dried mud and seemed to be attempting to masquerade as a white rhino. Seriously though, black vs. white rhinos are distinguished by their mouth shapes and not really by their colour. Anyway the rhino was "zero distance" away from the track according to the driver's terminology. All the safari trucks in the
crater were jammed around this same track looking at the rhino. After a while our driver spotted another rhino and soon realized it was a mother with a calf. Wow! 3 rhinos within a few meters of each other. The mother and calf were mostly hidden because they were lying down, but the male was chomping away ignoring the spectacle of paparazzi safari trucks. Yes, due to the constant poaching, rhino are truly rare. There are only 18 rhino in the crater, and we got to see 17% of them.
A great end to the safari. Oh yes, there's tons of pink flamingos in a soda lake at the bottom of the crater too.
There are more photos below