Day two of
our safari saw us heading up over the Escarpment above Lake Manyara,
heading west to Ngorongoro. Ngorongoro promised to be even more spectacular
than Lake Manyara. Ngorongoro is an ancient caldera, and very very
famous for wildlife-viewing. It is designated a World Heritage Site,
which basically means that it is extremely scenic or important in some
way or another, as I was soon to find out!
An amazing stretch of road
The drive to Ngorongoro was quite scenic. Above the scarp, the land was cooler and extensively farmed, and very hilly. The highway here was absolutely superb (a joint assistance project from Japan funded it).
Arriving at Ngorongoro park, the nice road ended and the rough gravel roads began. The first glimpses of the crater itself were awe-inspiring. It was a huge and somehow had a grand but gentle quality at the same time, like seeing something through soft-tinted glasses. Surrounding the crater were gently rounded, richly vegetated volcanic highlands (this area had been an active volcanic area in the Great Rift Valley).
Ngorongoro Crater Panorama
Vinh at Ngorongoro crater
Caroline and Peter at Rim
Our second campsite of the safari, Simba camp, was situated in an amazing location on the top of the crater rim. A single huge tree towered over all of the tents in the campground, and a meshed-in thatched-roof structure off to the side served as the dining area. Again, we arrived at the campsite, had our stuff unloaded, and we were off into the crater for our safari drive.
Video: Journey to Ngorongoro
A video clip of the wonderful ride from Lake Manyara to Ngorongoro, including our first glimpses of the crater itself. (3 minutes, 00 seconds)
Want to see a detailed accounting of the fascinating Maasai? Click Here
to go to the Maasai 'In Focus" section, featuring a visit by Pu to a Maasai Village.
On the drive down into the crater, we noticed many Maasai in the open hilly grasslands above. There were maasai villages in the distance, near and far, and occasionally some of their herds of cattle. As part of a land agreement, Maasai are allowed to live freely here; they stick with cattle and do not harm the wild animals of the area.
We reached the road leading down into the crater itself and authenticated ourselves with the guard there. The drive down into the crater was steep; the vastness of the crater was even then not apparent to me. It was not until the bottom of the crater that I saw my first natural wild animal - a Thompson's Gazelle. And, as we drove around, I understood just how magical this place was.
I saw countless upon countless wild animals in the crater. Elephants, Ostriches, Warthogs, Gazelles, Antelopes, Zebra, Wildebeest, Hippopotamus, Rhino, Lions... and not just some, but in some cases, hundreds, thousands of them. I would look out and see a sea of Wildebeest ; or herds of Zebra. It was, quite simply, amazing. It was very "Lost World" - Like you had been transported to some prehistoric time before man where animals ruled the world. Or something like that, anyway.
The fringes of the Lerai forest
Giant Tusker Bull Elephant
In all, we spent probably about 5 to 6 hours in the crater. It was at all times interesting. We did not get to see every animal we wanted to, but certainly we saw most of the "biggies". By the time Robinson started up on the steep, switchbacking trail out of the crater, I was quite tired.
Safariing in Ngorongoro Crater
Video: Ngorongoro Crater
Ride with us through a world of amazing wildlife in Ngorongoro Crater! (4 minutes, 47 seconds)
Want to see many more pictures of the animals and scenery of Ngorongoro Crater? Click Here
to go to the Ngorongoro Crater 'In Focus" section....
Back at the campsite, I took in a beautiful sunset from the crater rim, and ate a now-standard dinner with the gang. Patrolling our campground were rangers (I think) armed with long rifles (I think). Pu had a bit of a fright when a couple of Cape Buffalo decided to graze next to his tent, much to the amusement of the guard-rangers.
At 7000+ feet, it was much
cooler here than at Lake Manyara, a fact I was muchly grateful for. I slept much better, although I still had an annoying hacking cough from my cold.
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