The Big Crater

Tanzania III 003Our trip in Tanzania started at Lake Manyara, and proceeded to the Ngorogoro Crater.  The crater was spectacular, and I’ll start with our time there.  Ngorogoro is an amazing place, and a must for anyone traveling to Eastern Africa.  You can see all sorts of great wildlife, all in a confined space, and enjoy beautiful views of this fascinating geology.

Tanzania I 403 Ngorogoro’s crater bed is about 110 sq. miles in area, and from a technical geologic perspective is a caldera, not a crater.  Geologists estimate that some 4 million years ago, the mountain here blew its top, leaving a steep approach, a crater rim, and a big, flat, open area at the bottom.  Small streams flow down the craters sides into the bed, creating accessible pools of water.  The sides of the crater have lots of shrubbery and trees, and the area is a protected national conservation area. 

Tanzania I 006 What’s astounding about Ngorogoro Crater is the abundance of wildlife in a large enclosed area, offering great viewing opportunities because it’s flat and open.  We got great looks at lions, the very endangered white rhino, various types of antelopes (Eland, Thompson’s, Grant’s), Zebra, Wildebeest, Buffalo, and Warthogs.  The area is also teeming with birdlife, and is physically beautiful.

Tanzania I 180 The one morning we spent at Ngorogoro started on an exciting note.  We encountered two prides of lions.  One group earlier in the morning had brought down a baby Buffalo and several of the lions were feeding on it in a shrub-covered area by the side of a stream.  Meanwhile, another pride were on the prowl, clearly wanting to keep up with the Jones!  We watched the mother  and a cub lay an ambush for an Tanzania I 304unsuspecting warthog.  As the warthog ambled into our view, the two lions took positions behind trees on opposite sides of the warthog’s path.  The mother pounced, a few seconds too soon, and a short chase ensued.  Against the odds we would have posted, the warthog escaped, and the lions returned to their napping.  But it made for a great start of the day!

Tanzania I 473 We also got some great looks at the endangered Black Rhino.  The ones we saw look light in color because they had been rolling in the mud earlier that day.  Ngorogoro has a number of these rare animals, which have been hunted to the point of extinction by poachers looking to use the horn of the Rhino, either for Chinese medicinal purposes or as dagger handles (popular in the Middle East).

Tanzania I 381 In all, we spent an afternoon and the following full day exploring the crater.  It’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen or experienced, and we’d highly recommend it to anyone in the area.  It’s a must for a trip to Africa for anyone interested in wildlife.  Check out our Ngorogoro photo album for lots of great wildlife shots from this remarkable part of the world!

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