09 April 2013

safari day 2
Ngorongoro park
back to lodge

Off to Ngorongoro Park today.  This is where we are supposed to see the “Big 5” animals.  Buffalo, Elephant, Lion, Rhino and Leopard.  So named, as they are the most difficult animals to hunt, but not necessarily to take photos of.
Ngorongoro is a large park that has been created around an old volcanic crater.  There is another smaller crater lake in the park, and although we wanted to go there, we would not be able to on this trip.  It used to be part of the Serengeti National park, but the government realised they could make more money if they created a new park and charged extra for it.

With the now usual push start, we headed off.  Up further into the hills and to the park entrance.  Here there was a troop of baboons, but they were heading off down the road we had just come from.  With all the paper work sorted out, we set off.  Winding our way up to the crater lip,we managed to spot a hyena.  As we didn’t know if we would see another, we watched it cross the road and disappear into the shrubbery.  Occasionally stopping to watch us.
At the lip there is a viewing point that is under construction,but offers a fantastic view out over the crater.  IT is massive, and with the low lying clouds and rain,at times it was difficult to see the far walls.  The volcano must have been close to 6000 metres high at its peak, and now the plains in the middle cover 260 km2.

Driving around the rim, we came to another point where we would start the 600+m decent to the floor below us.  This was an interesting road after all the rain, but not too bad considering.  As we got closer,the dots on the grasslands started turning into herds of animals, there were thousands of wildebeests grazing along, and these were the first we came across.  There were the loners on the fringes of the herd keeping watch and Zebras mixed in.  Apparently they make a good combination as the wilderbeests can smell well (not sure how over their own scent) and the Zebras can see well, so they work together to protect both herds.

Passing these, we made our way towards the large lake in the centre.  This is a salt lake, but not as bad as Natron, but still had a large population of Flamingos.  There is no deviation from the set roads, but with a good zoom on the camera, we got to see them in all their pink glory.  This is an important water source for the entire region, and has water all year round, making it the perfect haven for animals.  Passing more wildebeests and Zebras, we came across a small herd of water buffalo.  The occasional hyena scrapping over the odd dead bird.  Deer, such as Eland, Impala and Thompson’s Gazelles were scattered around,then we came to another small family of Elephants, with the massive old buck off to one side.  The poor fellow had lost half a tusk, but this didn’t seem to worry him so much as he munched his way along the plains.  Stopping for another pretty bad packed lunch in a nice place on the edge of the crater, then off to see more.  Eventually we found lions,but due to the restrictions,we could not get that close to them, and just got to see them lounging around in the grass from a distance.  You must be very lucky if they decide to camp beside the road, and who would with the stream of vehicles going past.  Apparently it is off season, and there are not that many cars at the moment, but everywhere you look there are convoys of two or three cars.  I had to imagine how busy it would be during peak season.  Although the grass would be dry and shorter, so easier to see the animals than it is now.

The highlight however was seeing a couple o Black Rhinos.  These guys were a long way away, and you could only tell when they lifted their heads from the grass, but we were still blessed to see them, as there are not many left, maybe less than 20 in the entire area, and still prey poachers.

Back out of the crater a different way, and then to the entrance, where there was another couple of baboons, although they showed no interest in us at all.  Just another bloody tourist, was the look before they wandered off.  We had made it.  Although not stressed here, the weather opened up occasionally,and more often than not, when we stopped the engine continued running (Making long distance photos near impossible) or we were push started by passing vehicles, so it was a bit of a relief to not be stuck down there.

The others still had to go out to the Serengeti, but that was our trip.  The drive back to the camp site, where they stayed again.  We transferred into a taxi that had been sent out from Arusha for the long drive back.  Seeing Mt Meru approach is brilliant.  This old volcano just grows up from the ground and gets closer and closer.  As it is so close to town, it looks a lot larger than Kilimanjaro, even if it doesn’t have the snow.
Day done, we were dropped back at the lodge.  Still no internet, and still everything didn’t work properly.  A major disappointment after a very expensive couple of days.
Reflecting on it, I think I would have preferred to spend the money at Dubbo’s Western Plains Zoo!  Still,we were there, it is the thing to do, and we got to see Elephants!  As well as quite a few other wild animals.  It is just a pity that the necessary restrictions make it all seem zoo’ish


(photo’s coming later)


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