As we often did on this trip, we were up quite early, around 5:30AM for a 6AM breakfast so that we could pack and leave for the crater by 7AM. (Most days, we all got up around this time; sometimes we were able to sleep an hour later – and no one ever complained, I must say.) Our early departure allowed us to enter the crater soon after it opened for the day; access to the crater is tightly regulated and limited to certain hours of the day, so we wanted to get the most of our experience.
Ngorogoro Crater is an amazing place. It is a volcanic cauldera approximately 2 million years old. What remains is a large flat depression about 12 miles across, with a 2000’ ridge circling the edge. This creates a natural terrarium containing a vast array of wildlife. Here are some shots from two different lookouts that give you a good sense of the site. You can see a large lake in the center. Its size changes drastically depending on the season. When we visited, a few weeks after the end of the rainy season, it was at its largest diameter (but still fairly shallow).
We drove into the large flat plain at the center of the crater. We were able to observe vast herds of animals of many species:
We had many close interactions with animals, including foraging elephants, sparring zebaras, thundering wildebeest, and ostriches snacking among huge patches of yellow and purple wildflowers:
We observed the central lake, which contained huge flocks of (maybe 10,000?) flamingos:
We stopped for lunch at a rest area. There, we saw a pair of hippos lounging the water:
Ngorogoro is a truly amazing place. After driving up and out, we visited a local souvenir shop that featured paintings, wood carvings, tapestries, and crafts, all locally produced:
Satisfied that we had properly stimulated the local Tanzanian economy, we drove to Eileen’s Trees, our hotel for the night. Many of us felt that this was the nicest hotel during our visit. It was the first one that had both power and hot water always available, as well as Internet and a nice pool for lounging. This was also the first time during our trip that we had a few hours of down time, so we all appreciated some leisure:
We enjoyed a dinner that included some local dishes (such as curried chicken in coconut milk, and cabbage in peanut sauce). As we did most nights, we talked, played games, and joked, but all wound up turning in early.
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