Day 5, May 19th: Ngorongoro Crater
Our first full day on safari. Up at 6, wonderful hot shower, breakfast, pack our own picnic lunch from a selection of items presided over by a helpful chef, and then check-out ($11:00 USD for drinks the night before).Good-bye Ngorongoro Farmhouse!
To the Ngorongoro Crater - breathless stunning view from the rim and then - breathless stunning view while descending to the crater floor. We then drove around on red bumpy roads for four hours, animals everywhere. And wildflowers everywhere - patches of purple, yellow and white. Sand patches where zebra like to hang out. More vehicles than you can shake a stick at. The animals intermingle - zebras in with gazelles, wildebeest in with everybody.
We saw: elephants, zebras, Thompson's gazelles, wildebeest, Grant's gazelles, warthogs, flamingos, lions, cheetahs, Black Rhinos, hippos, buffalo (and birds on buffalo), Guinea fowl, Bustards, Crested cranes, hyenas, eagles, blue starlings (they will steal your food), Eland, ostrich, baboons, and a great little black bird with a long fluttering tail and a dipping flying pattern.
This was our first experience with using other vehicles to find animals. We saw several vehicles stopped on a road in the distance, and went to see what they were looking at. To our utter astonishment, it was a large male lion, sitting in a very awkward position on the side of the road. I thought something must be wrong with him – why was he alone in such a strange place? Some vehicles departed, and we edged up a few feet, and we suddenly noticed two other lions, a male and a female, sleeping right next to the other side of the road. I felt better then. The sitting lion got up and began wandering in amongst the vehicles, heading our way. Finally he came right over and settled down in the shade of our jeep. You can imagine the photo taking! I was so excited I texted his photo to my parents, at a cost of approximately half the children’s inheritance (as Nick helpfully pointed out)
We had lunch by a pond full of hippos, and enjoyed their loud bull-frog like sounds, the splash when they roll over and the sudden glimpse of their huge toothy mouths.
Other great events that day: a cheetah just sitting in a field, occasionally pacing and lying down. Another female lion, just lying sleeping a few feet from the track, (Gerry uploaded a picture of this one to Facebook, thereby disposing of the other half of the inheritance). And finally, something that amazed Thadei more than us, because it is apparently very rare, we saw ten black rhinos over the course of the day. The first was alone, the second sighting in a group of four, and the third in a group of five. They were pretty much seen in the distance, but it's very thrilling to see the classic silhouette.
On our way to the Ngorongoro Wildlife Lodge, up the steep winding road, Gerry and I discovered that we preferred to stand in the vehicle, bracing ourselves against the bumps, with the wind in our face, and the spectacular view of the forest surrounding the crater. Bliss.
The Wildlife Lodge was exceptional. Every room has a crater view, and there is a long verandah where you can sit, perhaps have a cold beer or two, and watch the sun going down over the magic place (that would be the crater). The décor is wonderful, mid-century modern, beading on all the chair arms, and amazing huge stone and glass mosaics built into the walls of the lounge and the dining room. The rooms were very comfortable, the water was more or less hot, and we were delighted to be there.
Supper was again buffet style, but probably the best buffet food we encountered. We had a great sleep.
Photos from this day at: