A nearby eagle, probably hoping for scraps from a kill, looks equally displeased by our arrival
The lions’ primary food are the herds of wildebeest and zebras – there are thousands of them
The wildebeest is a strange animal. It’s not a type of cow; actually an antelope. It looks like it was made from leftover parts of other creatures. It’s not particularly fast or smart or fast breeding. It’s the lions favourite prey, but for some strange menu of criteria it is an evolutionary success. There are over 2 million of them in Tanzania
But strange as they are, a new born calf can still charm you. He/she is delightful, gambolling in the sun. Felix points out that the young wildebeest actually look a bit like hyenas (as protection against hyenas) but still there’s a 3 in 5 chance he/she will be lion food in the first year
They can also be very photogenic when prancing in front of the thousands of feeding flamingos
We love the zebras. They look like they’re dressed for the opera and have a bunch of fun traits. Note the one on the ground in the following pic. He is not dead. He’s just having a rest while the other guys watch. Their favourite place to flop down appears to be in front of the truck when rolling across the plaine.
They also like to stand neck to neck – this way they can see in 4 directions and one zebra’s tail keeps the flies out of the other’s face.
And of course their young are appropriately cute
There is a lot of other wildlife in Ngorongoro – elephants considerably larger than the forest elephants at Lake Manyara.
Plus Eland and Thompson’s Gazelles, and more warthogs and ostriches
We met an animal we’d see a lot more of later – the spotted hyena. Here’s one cooling his butt off in a mud hole, only to have a warthog move him off so the hog could have the full spa mud bath treatment
We’ve not yet talked about the African Buffalo. All animals we’ve met so far turn and leave when man arrives (hence our growing photo collection of wildebeest and zebra butts). Even the lions walk away – pretending that they’ve other more important things to do. But two species turn and face you when confronted – elephants and buffalo.
Based on experience and conversations the African Buffalo is up to a ton of extremely grumpy disposition, with a pair of scimitar horns and and armoured skull that would stop an anti-tank round.
The favourite Felix stunt in days to come – when Liz and Dick were getting cocky – was to suggest we see if he could get the buffalo to charge the truck. The even better one was setting up our safari lunch within range of a buffalo her. Dickie suggested we eat in the truck.
And one of Dickie’s favourite ground hunting raptor-like birds – a bustard
As we’re leaving there was a sad encounter. An aging male lion, alone, possibly driven from the pride by a younger contender. Note the wound under his left eye (not very discernable in the photos) – and he had another on his left haunch. The Lion King redux – long live the king
At the top of the crater Felix decides we need a cold beer and lunch – Felix doesn’t drink – we love Felix. Marabou Storks arrive (more dinosaurs with feathers). They are our favourite Serengeti horror movie creatures. They are big (note the size compared to Liz), delightfully ugly and aggressive. We seem to be learning how to deal with aggressive storks.
And a quickie in closing – the storks that traditionally brought the babies and lived on the chimneys spend the winter in Africa – here they are
A wonderful day at the Crater!