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Safari: Day Two, Ngorongoro Crater, December 28th, 2012

Hello:  If this is the first time you have come to my blog on my trip to Tanzania, you might find it more enjoyable if you scrolled down to the bottom of the blogs.  That way you will read the material (and/or just look at the photos)  in the time sequence in which the trip occurred.   Just a thought.

The primary reason for my trip to Tanzania was to attend the wedding of Martin and Grace Maliyamkono.  I met Martin several years ago when he was a student in one of my classes.  He and some members of his family became good friends.  He returned to Dar es Salaam four years ago where met the lady of his life. The family invited me to the wedding.

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We had no idea how spectacular this day was going to be.  Our experience, yesterday, in the Manyara Lake National Park was so exciting, we couldn’t imagine how it could be bettered.  And, in way, it wasbecause the first day of being introduced to so many beautiful animals in a natural pristine environment was both heart opening and spectacular.

However, the Ngorongoro Crater itself is so dramatic that the collection of amazing animals and Crater match each other’s intensity.  We were up at 5 am.  Our hotel gave us breakfast at 5:30 am and had a box lunch ready for us.  We set off in our jeep.  The early morning in Karartu (altitude approximately 5,000 ft) began with this amazing sunrise.

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The road continued to climb up the outside of the Crater.  The journey to the entrance was a brief twenty minutes.

We waitied for the paper work to be completed
We waitied for the paper work to be completed

There were several jeeps already at the gates to national park that surounds the Crater. Frustratingly, it took the park officials 3/4 of an hour to process us before we could gain entrance to the Park.  Baboons were everywhere.  They are not shy.  We were told to make sure we kept the jeep doors closed.  They love to go after food.

Baboon hanging out in a tree watching our every move
Baboon hanging out in a tree watching our every move

A bit about the Ngorongoro Crater. Per Wickipedia it is a large, unbroken, unflooded volcanic cauldron discovered in the late 19th Century.  It was formed when a giant volcano exploded and collapsed on itself some two to three million years ago. The crater is 2,000 ft deep and its floor covers 100 sq mi.  There is an estimated 25,000 animals within the crater.   All of this is quite daunting.

Rube is busy already in the AM taking photos
Rube is busy already in the early AM taking photos

Finally we are ready to take off.   The road becomes dirt again, but not filled with pot holes.  We have the top of the jeep up so we can stand, not wanting to miss anything. I would guess, at this point we are 6,000 feet up.   We turn a corner and the crater is revealed. I was astonished at how expansive it is. The varieties or greens and blues wove gently into one another.  Yes, and inside is another alkaline lake.

Our first glmpse of the crater.  The sun has not risen high enough yet to flood the space with warm light.
Our first glmpse of the crater. The sun has not risen high enough yet to flood the space with warm light.
Rube and Karakusha and I are allowed to exit the jeep for better views.
Rube and Kaashu and I are allowed to exit the jeep for better views.

 

I kind of wished I had a wool hat.  It was cold!
I kind of wished I had a wool hat. It was cold!

We continued.  I was fascinated by these trees, their shape is very much like the Monterey Pine Trees that populate the Carmel and Monterey areas in California.

I wonder if these are Acacia trees?
I wonder if these are Acacia trees?

I asked Chester, our guide, if I could get out and take more pictures.  No, he said empatically.  There are lions about. Sure enough.  Look what happened, not two minutes later!

We crested over a hill and this lion was walking towards us
We crested over a hill and this lion was walking towards us.
The lion got closer
The male lion got closer
And closer.  Have you ever seen an animal so beautiful (and serene!)
And closer. Have you ever seen an animal so beautiful (and serene!)

Our day has certainly begun and we haven’t reached the floor of the crater, yet.  In fact, we are just beginning to weave our way down.

The sun is just beginning to peek into the crater
The sun is just beginning to peek into the crater. Morning mist was rising from the land.

The first animals we pass are zebras.

A zebra on the move.
A zebra on the move.

I suddenly realized how horse-like a zebra is.

Zebras eating up their breakfast
Zebras eating up their breakfast

These beautiful beings are less than a block away from us. In the distance are herds of buffalos.

As we descended into the crater this huge collection of buffalos were grazing.
As we descended into the crater this huge collection of buffalos were grazing.

I was fascinated by the light in the crater. As you can see in the picture above only part of this vast space has been illuminated by the sun.  This contrast continued throughout the day.  The areas enjoying a direct hit from the  sun gave us lots of light to view the terrain and the various species of animals.  The hills often remained very dark and mysterious.

A continued surprise is how easily these animals co-exist.
A continued surprise is how easily these animals (in this case zebras and buffalos) co-exist.

Co-exist until one or other needs to eat.  Hmmm.  It is a metaphor for humans, I thought.  Fortunately, we don’t eat one another, but we do battle for a point of view!   I guess you could say that the animals battle for food, for existence.  We, humans, really, are battling to satisfy our ego’s needs.  Maybe our challenge is to grow beyond this individual and/or group selfishness.  When I experienced the peace in this Crater, I sensed a message to us humans.

As we reached the Crater floor, the buffalo were nearby.
As we reached the Crater floor, the buffalo were nearby.
I found the placement of these zebras amusing.  The design of the coats integrates one to another no matter what position they are in.
I found the placement of these zebras amusing. The design of the coats integrates one to another no matter what position they are in.

Suddenly, we came upon a flock of birds.  They moved very quickly but I caught this photo.

Searching for the name of this bird on Google images, I think this is a Kori Bustard - Ardeotis kori
Searching for the name of this bird on Google images, I think this is a Ardeotis kori.
Rube takes a break from her pursuit of animals.
Rube takes a break from her pursuit of animals.
A scrawny lion sulks about
A scrawny lion sulks about.

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And, then disappears.

We had been told previously that sometimes the herds of animal migrate from one side of the crater to the other. Well, to our amazement this happened with the buffalos.  (A reminder, when you see blue background, it’s because there is no sun on that area – which is one of the qualities that makes being in the crater so extraordinary.)

Buffalos enjoying their breakfast
Buffalos enjoying their breakfast
We noticed that some of the buffalos started walking in a one direction.  Others not yet
We noticed that some of the buffalos started walking in a one direction. Others not yet

 

Then, they all got serious and the treck began.
Then, they all got serious and the trek began.

We decided this must be happening because the scawny lion was a threat.

Oh no,  we think we are incorrect.  For to our left is a hyena somewhat hidden in the ground.  See you he eyes us.

They are slippery types, hiding away (kind of)
They are slippery types, hiding away (kind of)
If you look to the left, in the dirt you will see the baby (kind of)
If you look to the left, in the dirt you will see the baby (kind of)

We continued our journey.

This beautiful gazelle was resting.
This beautiful gazelle was resting.
This beautiful gazelle paid absolutely no attention to us.
This gazelle paid absolutely no attention to us.
Hippopotomus enjoying his privacy by hiding from us
Hippopotamus enjoying his privacy by hiding.

 

Becoming a little more adventurous
Becoming a little more adventurous joining another behind the reeds.

 

I take a break while we journey on.  It's necessary to hang on at times.
I take a break while we journey on. It’s necessary to hang on at times.

 

We passed a few trees. I believe these are figs.
We passed a few trees. I believe these are figs.

 

Anyone know its name.  I had no luck with Google images
I think this is a Yellow Billed Stork.

 

There were a flock of these birds.  Name?
There were a flock of these birds. Name?

 

I continue to love the dark earth that one sees in Tanzania.  And, if you look carefully into the distance you will see the lake and the shimmering flamingos
I continue to love the dark earth that one sees in Tanzania. And, if you look carefully into the distance you will see the lake and the shimmering flamingos

 

I love this photo of a zebra in front of the lake filled with flamingos
I love this photo of a zebra in front of the lake filled with flamingos

Another  bird says hello.

In looking on Google Images I wonder if this is a Histurgops Rficaudus.  It certainly is an alert species.
In looking on Google Images I wonder if this is a Histurgops Rficaudus. It certainly is an alert species.

And another bird.

Crowned-Crane, I believe
Crowned-Crane, I believe
Saddle-billed Storks (Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis)  ??
Saddle-billed Storks (Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis) ??
Close up of what I think is a Saddle-Billed Stork.
Close up of what I think is a Saddle-Billed Stork.
Into this bucolic scene comes a lion
Into this bucolic scene comes a lion.
She decides to settle in for a while.
She decides to settle in for a while.
In the distance we view an elephant.
Meantime, in the distance we view an elephant approaching.
I comes closer.  Today we only see this one elephant.
It comes closer. This is the only elephant we see today.  Such a magestic species.  (The lake is shimmering in the background.)
We get closer to the lake and the mass of flamingos.
We get closer to the lake and the mass of flamingos.

I keep being amazed at the fact that every turn our safari jeep takes we see another species.  Next up?

A herd of wart hogs are nearby
A herd of wart hogs are nearby

 

The Wart Hog babies are thirsty
The Wart Hog babies are thirsty
Many Wart Hog mothers were busily feeding.
Many Wart Hog mothers were busily feeding.

All our attention has been to the left.  Suddenly Kaashu said:  Look to the right.  There before us were a herd of cows.  Rube and I were astonished.  Chester said these belong to the Masai Warriors.  They are allowed to bring their cattle into the Crater each day to drink the water from the alkaline lake.  They, must however, be out of the Crater by 6 pm.

An invasion of cows brought into the Crater by the Masai
An invasion of cows brought into the Crater by the Masai

 

Looking closely we discovered there are two herds
Looking closely we discovered there are two herds
We were startled to see that those tending the cows are young - like 10 - 12 year old, Masai tribe members.  Two of them came over to our jeep and asked for water.
We were startled to see that those tending the cows are young – like 10 – 12 year old, Masai tribe members. Two of them came over to our jeep and asked for water.

At this point a leader of another safari in a similar style jeep drove by reporting he had received  a message that a hyena was attacking a baby buffalo.  Chester asked:  Do you want to go and watch?  Rube and I said an emphatic no.  Kaashu said yes.  The ladies prevailed.

I have become intrigued with zebras.  So, I am adding another photo of them.

This intimacy of two Zebras is so special.
This intimacy of two Zebras is so special.

As we move into fertile land ostriches begin to play part.

This female ostrich is sitting quietly.
This female ostrich is sitting quietly.
She decides to move along.
She decides to move along.

Now that we are far away from where we entered the Crater – the other side.  It is becoming easier to see the terrain of the cliffs of the Crater.

The red earth, once again, becomes dominant
The red earth, once again, becomes dominant
Looking towards the Crater hill, the coloring remains very dark.
Looking towards the Crater hill, the coloring remains very dark.
We take a different road which gives a different angle and the srubbiness of the Crater hill becomes more evident
We take a different road which gives a different angle and the srubbiness of the Crater hill becomes more evident.
The view becomes almost tropical.
The view becomes almost tropical.

At first I thought that dark brown mound was an animal.  Nope, it’s a stack of wood!

Two ostriches came into view – playing the dating game, we surmised.

Keeping an eye out, he is
Keeping an eye out, he is
He makes a move,
He makes a move,

 

She makes a move.
She makes a move.
The pursuit is becoming serious
The pursuit is becoming serious
She reaches the road in front of us
She reaches the road in front of us
He is close on her heels.
He is close on her heels.
He is closing in on her and they disappear.
He is closing in on her and they disappear.

Another bird appears.

Perhaps this is a Helmeted Guineafowl (Numida meleagris).
Perhaps this is a Helmeted Guineafowl (Numida meleagris).

We are beginning the end of our journey in the Crater.  Stopping for lunch on the edge of the alkaline lake we are admonished to eat inside the jeep.  There are scavenger birds that dive at people eating food.   We paid attention.  However, others did not and we watched these scavengers become very aggessive. Needless to say the picnicers soon retreated to their jeep.

We got out to stretch our legs hoping we might see a rhinocerous in the lake.  We saw a bit of the water ripple but not the animal.  Oh well, we have had an extraordinary day.

Chester relaxes after we arrive at the lake for lunch.
Chester relaxes after we arrive at the lake for lunch.
Rube and Kaashu after lunch
Rube and Kaashu after lunch

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Rube & Kaashu return to our jeep.  As you can see this is a gathering place for many taking a safari
Rube & Kaashu return to our jeep. As you can see this is a gathering place for many taking a safari

The end of our time in the Crater has come.  We have a four hour drive now back to Arusha.  We are all surfeited with images and experiences.  How lucky we have been!

After our journey back to Arusha and dinner at the Kitine’s Mrs. Kitine presented me with a Masai Warrior cape.  That was a very kind gesture.

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Then she, her husband and children, Rube and I sat about and chatted.  It was a fun family evening.

Othman Kitine and Ann chatted long into the night.
Othman Kitine and Ann chatted long into the night.
The youngest Kitine hung out with us.  He's a sweetheart.
The youngest Kitine hung out with us. He’s a sweetheart.

We left Arusha at 7am the next morning.  And, wonderfully the mist, fog and rain had lifted.  From the bus I was able to grab a couple of photos of Mt. Kilimanarjo. It’s huge, speads a long distance (wide) and was covered in glistening snow.

Mt. Kilimanjaro
Mt. Kilimanjaro
Mt. Kilmanjaro with the early morning sun shining on it
Mt. Kilmanjaro with the early morning sun shining on it.

 

 

 

 

 

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