Ngorongoro Conservation Area

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September 26th 2016
Published: October 7th 2016
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After 1 night in the Lake Manyara Area we traveled to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. But we did make some stops along the way. Our fist stop was to meet an Iraqw family and learn about their culture and way of life. Next we stopped at a local school. It was a Sunday so no students were present but we did get to speak with two teachers. The school was a small rural grade school that had 700 students enrolled. Average class size was anywhere from 50 to 70 students. Imagine what that classroom must be like! Hats off to two young teachers we met.

After school we moved on to Gibbs Farm where we had a garden tour and then lunch. All of our meals were very good in Tanzania but this one really stood out. The restaurant at the farm uses the produce and livestock grown on the farm. They even grow and roast their own coffee. Everything was delicious and the view of the valley was spectacular.

After lunch we headed for the Ngorongoro area which is a UNESCO world heritage site. And once you get there it's easy to see why. The are animals everywhere. The main attraction in the area is the Ngorongoro Crater - which is sometimes referred to as "the cradle of life." This crater was formed 2-3 million years ago after a volcano erupted leaving a vacuum under a mountain which then imploded thus causing this crater to form. It is 19 kilometers in diameter and 600 meters deep. Even elephants disappear once you get to the top of the rim and look down. The wild life who live inside this pretty much stay put. It's a fantastic area for viewing game. Only thing that seems to be missing is the giraffe.

Of "The Big 5" the Rhino is by far the most elusive, and Ngorongoro was our best chance of spotting this prehistoric beast. Luck was on our side as we saw two walking together way off in the distance. They seemed to be hang'n with a dazzle of zebra. We needed some good binoculars to get a good peek at them, and the zoom lens on our camera was strong enough for us to snap a few lower resolution pics of these two before they walked off completely out of range. Despite the distance, we were very excited to see these two and it was a great start to the viewing that day. In case you have been keeping track...we are now at 4 of "The Big 5," my friends. Only one left to go; the leopard. Did we see one? Guess you'll have to keep reading these posts to find out.

Ngorongoro was the first area where we had some up close encounters with lions. Shortly after seeing the rhinos, and on our way to enjoy a bush breakfast, we found a young male lion. We watched him drink from a stream and then move on. Later that day we came across a pride of females on the side of the road. There were lots of jeeps in the area to view them and the cats seemed to like getting up close to the vehicles (or even under them) to enjoy a bit of shade. It seems many animals in the crater have become quite used to the safari traffic. We had three lions curl up together next to our jeep which made for some great pictures and videos before moving on.

As mentioned earlier, our travel provider had also prepared a "bush breakfast" for us. The set up was fantastic and we had a huge choice of hot foods including fresh made omelets. The only hitch was that as we approached our eating area there was a lion sunning itself on a rock no less than 200 yards from our breakfast area. The locals and our guide didn't seem to to be concerned so we just went with it. While they didn't seem nervous we can't say we weren't looking around fairly often in between bites.

Although we had seen hippos earlier in our travels, Ngorongoro provided us with our first up close look. There was a whole pool of them wallowing in some muddy water. And just hanging out on the edge of this pool were two female lions, aloof and relaxing in the sun watching, wildebeest and zebra off in the distance.

This next part may be disturbing for some readers...reader discretion is advised.

As we were filming and photographing the hippos a bit of excitement began off in the distance behind us where a herd of wildebeest and zebras were grazing. A hyena decided it was meal time and a wildebeest was it's meal of choice. We watched the chase and were even able to get the final painful take-down on video (not posted here). We thought we'd seen all the action but what happens next was fascinating. It seemed hyenas started to pop out of the grass everywhere, making their way to the downed wildebeest to take part in the feast. And the vultures showed up too. Remember the lionesses lounging by the hippo pool? After letting the hyenas do all hard the work the cats got up and made their way over to the dead wildebeest. And proving that lions are kings of the kingdom all those other animals moved out of the way and let those lions feast on the wildebeest uninterrupted. The hyenas hung around for a while but realized this meal wasn't going to be for them despite doing all the work. It's a lions world, apparently.

We stayed right on the rim of the Ngorongoro crater at the Ngorongoro Serena Lodge. What a view!! Not to mention, we had game coming right up to the lodge. Before dinner one evening an elephant came right up the wall of the bar patio and helped himself to the vines growing on the walls. It was an exciting cocktail hour that night and we could have reached out and touched him (but once again we thought the wiser).

More pictures below!

Next up...The Serengeti!

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Our Crew!Our Crew!
Our Crew!

Selemani, Chris, Andra, Pramela, Basil, Ken

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