Before we had gone to bed the evening before we had decided that we would met up early in the morning to try to beat the other tourists to the Ngorongoro crater. First thing I did when I woke up was to walk out on the platform that the tent camp, Nature Haven Campsite, had built up to raise some more luxury tents on. As they were not finished yet it worked as a good viewing platform over the Lake Manyara valley which was below the camp. I greeted the morning by standing watching and listening to the country waking up as I snapped off a few shots with my camera off the colors that filled and shifted the sky.
We finished breakfast early and jumped into the car to drive the near hour it would take to get to the entrance gate of Ngorongoro national park. As we reached the entrance we managed to come across a flock of baboons again on the road. Rasta parked the car and advised us to lock the doors and don’t have any windows open because the baboons would get into the car and steal anything they could. We jumped out of the car and Rasta went to pay the park fee which is 200 USD for a car plus 50 USD per person in the car. That made our case a neat deduction of 400 USD on the prepaid card that the park has. Only one problem though. The parks card machine was out of order. Fail.
Rasta had to drive back to the nearest bank and pay the money onto the parks account and bring back the receipt. Now mind that we were at the park gate at 8 in the morning so Rasta had to drive back, go to the bank and come back to the entrance were all of us had decided to sit and wait. As time passed by we saw more and more safari cars come up with more and more tourists walking around. Some cars turned back, I guess they also only had the park card to pay with and some drove through the entrance as they were paying cash.
Time was moving slowly and our German female companion decided to start building small towers of stones that was lying around. I informed here that it looked a little bit like a Jewish cemetery as Jews places small stones on a gravestone when they visit as a reminder to the deceased person that they have been there. As she was building the small towers here and there a group of four tourists came up to us. The larger woman in the group who I judged was in her late 50´s looked at the piles and told us that she really liked them. She presented herself as a sculpture and of course the question of where we came from came up. We replied Germany and Sweden and when we returned the question her answer was Israel. I guess I don’t need to further explain what an odd situation it was for me.
Rasta finally came back after being gone for almost two hours and we jumped into the car to be transported the 30 minutes it would take to drive all the way up to the rim of Ngorongoro crater – The circle of life.
Ngorongoro crater was formed when a giant volcano exploded and collapsed on itself some two to three million years ago forming an unbroken caldera that is 610 m deep and its floor covers 260 km2 .The crater contains almost every individual species of wildlife available in East Africa and is populated by an estimated 25 000 animals within the crater.
After reaching the crater rims viewing point we started the drive to descend into the crater which would take another 30 minutes while passing through some amazing landscape situated on the side of the volcano. We passed a couple of Maasai villages on the way and as we finally came to the entrance into the crater we were all yet again excited on what we were gonna get to see in the next few hours that we would spend inside the Ngorongoro crater. The decent down into the crater was very steep and when we had finally reached the floor of the crater the first animals we saw were zebras.
The crater was already full of other safari cars but as the crater is so big there is a lot of space and a lot of animals that everyone can see. We drove on and soon encountered some wilderbeest which are, in my opinion, a pretty ugly animal. The Tanzania legend is that the wilderbeest was created by God using the leftovers from all the other animals that he had created and it could be true. Its ugly.
We saw flocks of Wilderbeest and Zebras and it was all very exciting for a few minutes until we saw a new animal and the excitement level raised again. A couple of warthog with piglet running around and eating. The small ones were running after what I expected was the mother and the father kept a bit of distance probably to spot and dangers. As we drove on towards the lake we encountered a pair of the old water buffalos just standing and grazing as the world and tourists passed them by.
As we got closer to the lake which was not close enough unfortunately we could see that the lake had a pinkish color to it. It was in fact a couple of hundreds of flamingos that were standing in the lake giving its strange color. As it was the dry season the lake had retracted as well so we could not get any closer.
Driving around in the Ngorongoro crater is done on roads that are already available. It is not allowed to divert from the roads and you also have to be very careful and not speed on the roads as animals cross your path all the time. And would you manage to hit an animal when driving in the crater you are in big problems. If you manage to hit an animal so bad that it dies you are in a very difficult situation if not economical. A dead animal is counted as a big economic loss for the Ngorongoro park and an estimated value of the animal, calculated on its age and remaining life times the money that the animal would give the park from paying visitors, will be imposed as a fine for the driver to pay. This can reach a huge amount and the driver will not have a very rich life for the next couple of years.
I was still hoping to see an elephant bull up close but all I could see are these zebras and wilderbeest everywhere with a few dashes here and there of ducks or warthogs. I was losing the interest a little bit and as we drove up to a minor pond od water we spotted the first hippo on our visit in Ngorongoro. The place was packed with safari cars and all tried to get the best spot for their clients to be able to take photos of the hippo. The hippo didn’t care and walked on while taking a dump spreading his shit all over the place with his tail. For those of you who have no clue, a hippo uses his tail and moves from side to side very quickly when taking a dump which provides the shit to fly everywhere. If you don’t believe me, go to YouTube and look at the videos. It is quite funny.
A new phenomena that i see more and more when travelling and that I simply can’t understand is these people who takes photos with their iPad instead of having a camera. It really looks so silly when someone pulls up a iPad and starts photographing. At least that is my opinion. is a camera to advanced to use for people or is this what we can expect in the future to come?
We drove around in the crater for a couple of hours watching different animals like water buffalos, hawks, eagles, more zebras and wilderbeest. Suddenly we saw a whole bunch of safari cars standing on one spot and as we got closer we saw what it was. Five lions, four females and a young male, were walking along the road towards some shrubbery to get away from the heat which was burning my skin pretty good.
As it was almost midday we headed to one of the designated lunch areas and as we descended into what seemed to be a smaller crater within a crater we saw the magnitude of this tourism. The small lake which had toilets as well were filled with maybe some 40 cars already and all people were sitting around eating or walking. We opened our pre-packed lunch boxes and found a chicken leg, a banana, a piece of sweet potato, some cookies, a muffin, an egg and a tetra pack of juice. A pretty nice and tasty lunch, maybe not the dry muffin, that filled us with some energy. I walked up to the lake to have a look and saw a familiar sight. They were watching us and several people were standing along the shore and took pictures of them.
When we all had munched down the food we started to feel som heavy drops falling from the sky and pretty fast there was some heavy rain hitting us. Elephant was mentioned and a long line of safari cars were standing along the road. We saw the elephants on a long distance. Just as previous day they were hiding in some bushes and all we saw was a piece of ass or a big ear. Not very interesting I was afraid but the others used a pair of binoculars to get a closer look. The food had some mysterious sleeping effect on me and I started to doze off while we were driving.
We had spent a few hours in the crater already and we needed to soon start heading out as you are only allowed to be in the crater for six hours for some weird reason. Probably so that everyone will fit into the Ngorongoro crater which is open for visit during eight hours a day. As we were driving along the road suddenly a lone hyena started to run close to the car. I managed to snap a few shots before he decided to change course and run away from us.
We made another round by the little lake inside the crater and came across a large group of zebras and wilderbeest who didn’t seem to behave like the previous ones we had seen. These seemed more lively and playful and ran around here and there chasing each other. Specie by specie of course. When we almost had passed them all something happened. One started running and suddenly everyone was running but from what? We could not see anything so probably it was just a flock mentality. If he is running I better run to because there is a reason but why? Just run! Flock mentality is interesting sometimes as it also applies on humans even though we think we are “higher” as we use oiur brain for more complex thinking, but we are still animals.
We exited the crater and drove back towards the entrance. On the way we encountered a jeep that had flipped on the road and the driver was bleeding heavily from a wound in his arm. He was alright though and alive but we were informed by Rasta that any car accidents happening inside the park was fined with a 200 USD fine no matter the reason. This so that the people would be careful and keep the speed limit with Ngorongoro. We reached the exit almost an hour late but Rasta had no problem getting us through and we headed again towards the Nature Haven camp and our beds.