Ngorongoro is the largest volcanic caldera on earth – with walls 2,000 feet deep and an area of 102 square miles. It is famous for the richness of animal life. Richard has wanted to visit here since he was 10. We made it!
From the rim the crater is an archetype from the “Lost World” saga. The floor is shrouded in mist. Strange bird calls echo and everyone speaks a little more softly than they have to.
We’re 10 minutes into the drive along the Crater Rim (it’s about 20 kilometres to the Sopa Road which descends into the crater itself) when the welcoming committee shows up. A pride of 9 lions is perched on the side of a road cut. This means that the ground they are sitting on is at truck window height. We are not looking down. We are looking across at 300 pounds of Mom, who has cubs, about 10 feet away – and we’re alone with them.
Following are photos from the first of our many cat encounters
Here’s Mom, at eye level:
And the juvenile male – just starting to grow a mane
And the intensely cute cubs, and we still cannot believe that the Tanzanian government would not let us take one or two home
And our memorable encounter ended when Mom got pissed off…. she considered smacking us, but decided to hustle the pride off into the bush.
The descent down to the crater floor takes us through a series of climates. We particularly love the heath altitudes.
Once we hit the valley floor we have confirmed what we suspected – Felix has better radar than any modern navy. Does he see them? Does he smell them? Does he feel their vibrations through the ground? Is he the spotting equivalent of Wayne Gretzky – he looks where the animals will be, not where they are? Who knows, but animals just get served up for our viewing pleasure.
The spectacle opens with two rare black rhinos. They’re at a distance – in fact we think they’re rocks. Felix knows better.
In one corner (it’s a circular crater, Dickie) of Ngorongoro Crater is a lovely pool with hippos and – yes – other tourists (there is also a very clean washroom). But other tourists do not have Felix, who has a picnic table and chairs hidden under the back seat of his truck and he has a “bush breakfast” from Plantation Lodge – and (Liz’s heart flutters) a french press and hot water to make fresh, hot coffee. We dine in Eden watching the hippos and the birds
Liz discovers a new favourite animal – the warthog. The Disney people are right – this inherently ugly beast is cute, perky and much fun – especially when they have young
After lunch Felix finds more lions – they’re hiding in some scrub brush, occasionally peaking at some approaching wildebeasts. It is amazing how these big cats can disappear into cover no more substantial than a suburban garden. They eventually decide that we’re in the way of a successful hunt and leave in a huff. We saw a lot of lions and they generally looked annoyed by our presence.
More in part 2………….