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Published: September 19th 2016
Ngorogoro Crater was our destination today. Early on Babenga said he had no words to describe the crater. That it was something we would have to experience for ourselves...
Ngorogoro was created when a large volcano exploded and collapsed on itself two to three million years ago. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978 and is the largest intact volcanic caldera in the world measuring 2,000 feet deep. Its floor covers 100 square miles and it is home to some to some 30,000 animals. Due to the enclosed nature of the Crater it has virtually formed its own ecosystem.
Babenga wanted us to leave as early as possible for the crater, so we arrived for breakfast promptly at 6am
which was the earliest we could eat and left by 6:30a
. We arrived at the main gate and he went inside to retrieve our tickets, but not before giving us a reminder warning about the baboons. He had told us some crazy stories on the first few nights about how aggressive the baboons are here. They will jump (literally) at any opportunity to get into a vehicle and take whatever food they can find knowing that most of
these cars are packing picnic lunches. Stories include half a party choosing to use the restroom and when returning and opening the door to get in, Baboons racing and jumping in with the other passengers still in there!! Holy moly! Luckily there were just a few around and they were quite a distance from where we parked so we were ok.
We started our climb up to the rim sitting at 9,000 feet. Again the landscape felt completely different and had almost a rainforest quality to it. All of us felt like Gorillas should be in there but we were assured they're not. Once we were close to the top of the rim, Babenga told us to close our eyes and kept saying "I'll tell you when to open." When he did, there it was....the crater. We were lucky to have a clear morning for the view we had! It was then time to descend to the bottom which sits at around 2,600 feet.
Again the landscape began to change with Canopy Trees dominating the road (a member of the Acacia family) and then leading into nothing. By nothing I mean no trees (or very very few). The
floor of the bowl is largely flat, open and covered in grass. This is why you will see no giraffes, impalas, and just a handful of elephants (primarily only the Bulls)...there isn't enough food to sustain them without trees. Speaking of elephants, Ngorogoro is home to some of the oldest as it's very well protected with heavy security so poachers have not been as successful here.
The abundance of tall grasses does attract large herds of zebra and wildebeest, buffalo, Thomson's gazelle, and Grant's Gazelle which we saw immediately. We had been driving for around 15 minutes at the floor when we saw our first male lion sleeping on the bank of a small stream. He was pretty darn magnificent and we were lucky enough to see him not only sit up, but get up and move closer to his brother who we didn't initially see as he was sleeping too.
We drove to an area called Hippo Pool to see, you guessed it...Hipppos! What funny creatures!!! They all huddle together in the water in a tight circle formation and grunt, grunt, grunt....then roll over in the water (which is adorable)....then repeat! SHORT VIDEO: https://youtu.be/LM1NAASXPd4
the lakes in the crater is actually salt water so we were able to see some flamingos WAY out in the distance which was interesting. Flamingos in Africa??? We left the lake area and then came upon a very short tree with another male lion sleeping underneath. He was not the least bit interested in the cars beginning to stop for pictures!
It was then that Babenga heard over the radio that the infamous black rhino had been spotted. To see this would mean we would be able to complete us seeing "The Big 5" (Lion, Cape Buffalo, Elephant, Leopard, and Rhino). Our only opportunity was here as there are no Rhinos at any of the other parks. Very endangered as humans are their only enemy, and an enemy they are. Sadly, poaching is nearly wiping them out. We raced to the site and in the distance you could see the line of cars along the road to get there as well....this created huge dust cloud walls that towered out of the crater. The Black Rhino was way out in the distance, but through Matt's camera lens and Tom's binoculars we were able to see him.
the crowd and ended up seeing two female lions laying out in the grass. We were the second car to arrive and before we knew it they were walking down the hill to seek shade under our cars. One of the ladies just plopped herself right down and lazily stuck her paws under the car....ummm now what? We waited a bit and more cars arrived. Babenga turned on the engine and revved but she could care less, LOL. In the end Matt had to call instructions to Babenga as he slowly backed up and moved forward inches at a time before we could get out of there. I think she was just onto the next parked car honestly!
Our last sighting on the way out of the park were two mating lions. When in heat, a male stays with a female for 24 hours and they mate every 20 minutes in that period. (Say what??). Anyway it didn't take us hanging around long to see the action that was literally over in a matter of seconds. The female then lays on her back so that you know...the stuff gets where it needs to go. Lol!
We climbed out
of the crater and it was amazing to look around and see the landscape of the crater....brown grasses, salt & freshwater lakes, then climb into lush green. What a unique place in the world!! We headed back to the lodge where we discovered just how bad the dust was today. When I took off my sunglasses I literally had white goggle marks as my whole face was covered with dirt and so was everything else we had with us. Needless to say our showers felt like a million bucks!
We are the only guests at the lodge tonight so the staff is fussing over us and bringing us so much food...too much! This place has been very nice and we're enjoying a relaxing evening. Posted some short videos mentioned in previous posts of interested (make sure to select HD)
Matriarch Elephant Warning Charge: https://youtu.be/qfiJ5yT4EO8
Matt & Tom dancing with the Maasai: https://youtu.be/wjoBfDCI-CY
Watering Hole Spook: https://youtu.be/T_-6gRTdxsc
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