Tanzania: Ngorongoro Crater

I will openly admit that leaving Zanzibar was very sad for me, but knowing that we were headed to a zoological fishbowl was something I could get excited about.  Before leaving Arusha, we had a laundry list of things to do after three weeks on the truck.  First, we had to choose a route to Turkey, especially now that Egypt was “out of the question” (quote from Joshua’s mother…and grandmother…and aunts).  We decided to fold under pressure.  There is always the rest of our lives.  Then we had to purchase medicine in the event that we picked up some parasite passengers in Lake Malawi.  We still had to pack up all of our belongings (these bags have gotten seriously heavy) and say goodbye to the truck…and our tent and our “private tour.”  We ended up reluctantly trading for 9 new travelers and 9 new personalities.

We had to deliver a gift we carried all the way from South Africa to a friend’s Mama…Vicky (who brought Joshua 6 avocados from her tree.  How did she know the way to his heart?)

Joshua had to get a haircut.  Please believe, I did not let him pick any of the fades offered on the wall.

Then we were finally ready to jump into safari-equipped Landcruisers for our trip into Ngorongoro…it was a much smoother ride than we were used to– luxurious, in fact.

At the rim of the crater, we stopped for an introduction by our guide, Amir, and a photo.  Psyched!

This was not your standard volcano crater;  it was like an endless open space.  There was a mist from the dried alkaline lake mixed with the breeze that made it difficult to see the other side.  The herds of animals looked like little ants.  We thought there may be 50 buffalo, but our guide suggested it was more like 10,000.  Who’s counting?!  I was never good at “estimation”…how many M&M’s are in the jar?  The answer is less when I start eating them.

We descended past Masai camps (they live in the National Park WITH the animals) into the depths of the crater where we were welcomed by more animals.

It’s true, we’ve seen plenty on our game drives in Africa.  And while we’ve only seen 3 of the Big 5, we have loved every minute.  When asked by our guide what we wanted to see in the crater (and of course they can’t promise anything) we said things like a  rhino, a leopard, a rhino giving birth to a leopard or a rhino eating a leopard baby…really it doesn’t matter.  It’s nature.  It’s awesome.  It’s unpredictable.

Highlights from Ngorongoro included the usual suspects, plus:

A phantom rhino spotting that turned out to be a rock.  Not uncommon, we learned.

Lazy, lazy lions, like feet in the air, stomachs all over the place, “I just ate a pint of ice cream (or zebra) AND am watching a marathon of trashy MTV reality shows.”

Wildebeest dodging the truck and some not dodging the truck.

My favorite food eating their favorite food.

Zebras.

And zebras…

and zebras…

and…

and…

The interesting fact we learned about zebras is they like to travel with wildebeest herds.  The zebras act as the navigators during migration, leading the wildebeest through the long grass and sensing predators along the way.  The wildebeest then act as the bait, filling up hungry crocodiles waiting anxiously for a meal on the riverbanks and creating a safe path for the patient zebras to cross.  True companions.

And our game drive was complete with a few special birds.

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