As we eagerly made our way to the entrance of the Ngorongoro Crater National Park, we had no idea what beauty we were about to witness.
The drive to the crater’s entrance is an absolute tease… You drive through beautiful dense jungle along and above the crater’s edge. However in the early hours of the morning, due to being at 2200 metres above sea level, your view of the Promised Land below is hampered by dense white mist and cloud. Fraction of a second glimpses from minuscule breaks in the cloud show blue sky shining down onto a beautiful landscape, but before you can realise what you are seeing, the cloud has covered it up again. The crater slopes are for the most part covered in dense green jungle with the occasional clearing. These clearings are home to grazing zebras, wildebeest and buffalo, with the odd elephant spotted wandering through the jungle
As we reached the descent point, the clouds began to clear. The view that lay before us was just breathtaking. Its beauty I found was impossible to capture with a camera and I am yet to see a photo of the landscape that does it justice… Vast pastel coloured plains, interrupted with the occasional green patch and intersecting blue lines of the rivers.
As we descended 600 metres into the vast plains that are the Ngorongoro crater, there were animals everywhere… Dazzles of Zebras, Warthogs, Gazelles, Ostriches, Wildebeest, Buffalo, impala.
Off in the distance there was a large blue lake with a hazy neon pink line in the middle of it, which on further inspection turned out to be hundreds of feeding flamingos.
First spot on our crater tour – The Hippo Pools. I had never seen a wild hippo before so I was quite excited. When planning our trip, we had hoped to spot a few over the time we were in Africa, but we were not prepared for what we saw. Less than 20 metres from the road, over 20 hippos were lounging and rolling around in the water. They were entertaining to watch, grunting, sleeping, pushing and shoving and making bubbles in the water, the origin of these bubbles of which could have been from either end ;) As we followed the pond around, we were entertained by a large male hippo who was proudly in the process of making baby hippos.
After leaving the hippos to continue in peace, we spotted a family of hyenas fighting over the remains of a large carcass. Clearly not the original attackers we scanned the plains and sure enough behind us was 3 lions basking in the morning sun after a hearty morning meal.
Although not seeing huge numbers of elephants, we did see some and the ones we did see had absolutely beautifully impressive tusks. We spotted a rhino, but it was so far off in the distance that you could only just appreciate the outline. Praying we see some more later on our trip
We approached a tourist of trucks (made up collective noun) on the side of the road to find a pride of lions relaxing in the long grass – two lionesses, two adolescents, two juveniles and one large male who was lying on his back feet in the air like a cute little kitty cat playing dead.
As we observed these beautiful creatures, a group of 4 quite hearty buffalo began to wander in the direction of the pride… Things started to get tense. Lion’s heads slowly emerged from the camouflage of the long grass, alert and attentive… They started to spread out forming a trap for the buffalo to walk into. The buffalo were oblivious to the impending danger that lay ahead. Slowly closer and closer… You could feel the anticipation in the young lions, still excited about a hunt. Then just before the situation got messy, the buffalo realised their position and quickly changed direction… The lions made the call not to pursue and the whole situation fizzled out. Still exciting to witness the plays and tactics of the pride…
We ventured over to the lunching grounds passing an exciting ‘Hippo Pool Party’ along the way.
The lunch area is situated along the shores of a beautiful waterhole, which just 10metres of shore is inhabited by a bloat of hippos bobbing up and down in the water. What a great place to have lunch!!!
After lunch we continued to drive around this extraordinary large caldera spotting hundreds of beautiful animals living in this aptly nicknamed ‘Garden of Eden’. Spanning almost 18km in diameter Ngorongoro crater is actually quite enormous. Despite the abundance of wildlife we came across – jackals being chased by impala, hyenas stalking a warhog, and ostriches getting frisky, we didn’t spot any more big cats or rhinos today. There are reportedly less than 20 rhinos in the crater and 65 left in all of Tanzania, I guess we were lucky to see one even if he was extremely far away.
As we ascended the crater walls, a beautiful rainbow came out to wish us good luck with our ongoing journey…
Ngorongoro Crater… You were absolutely breathtaking, I am already planning my return trip.
A little bit of background