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Into the Ngorongoro Crater

January 26, 2016

The day dawned mostly clear, with a few cottony clouds as we descended to the park entrance near the crater floor. Rutted dirt roads made for an extremely bumpy ride — I’ve started referring to it as the Tanzanian Back Rub! The great thing about getting out so early was that we had the park to ourselves for the better part of two hours.

Ngorogoro Crater at Dawn 2

Daniel had cautioned that we’d be tempted to beg our drivers to stop at the first sight of a distant animal, but that if we were patient our guys would make sure we saw plenty of wildlife up close. A bit about our vehicles, tough Toyota Land Rovers: we are four participants, the driver and a guide or instructor in each, so they’re pretty comfortable, with a good vantage point for each person. They have the roll-back canvas tops you’d expect, and we can stand up (preferably while we’re not moving) to capture good shots.

 

The drivers are unbelievable. While they negotiate the deep holes in the road, some water-filled, they scan for animals off in the distance. It took the four of us forever to see the first rhino Edson spotted, which must have been a half-mile away — and he knew it was a black rhino.

Edson also told us that the crater got its name from the Maasai who settled here in the 19th century with their herds of cattle. The cows wear bells that make a “ngorongoro” sound, hence the name.

It’s nearly impossible to describe the experience of seeing these exotic animals up-close. We spotted wildebeests, zebras, rhinos (9 of them!), buffalo, warthogs, lions (including a proud male with a striking bushy mane), gazelles, elands, elephants, hippos, hyenas, jackals and ostriches.

Male Lion Ngorongoro 2.jpg

Countless varieties of birds abound, some, like the white egrets, perching on animals’ backs. Others range from a type of guinea fowl to various cranes, to the Kori bustard, kind of a plain Jane of a bird whose mating (or maybe defense) ritual includes puffing up his neck and tail feathers.

We stopped for our picnic lunch beside a small lake where at least a half-dozen hippos were bathing, huffing and snorting as they surfaced.

Hippos-2

Back at the lodge we had a group photo review session, downloading three pictures onto a jump drive (so hard to choose) for critique by the instructors. It’s a valuable part of these expeditions, as I find I learn as much from the assessment of others’ photos as I do my own.

I’m behind in my blogging, as the past two days we were without internet altogether, and the day before that it was spotty. I’ll be catching up over the next few days.

One Comment
  1. Katherine permalink

    gorgeous shots! what an experience!

    Like

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