Ngorongoro Crater: Way Beyond the Rim

In Tanzania’s Ngrorongoro Crater, we saw some things that to us were absolutely incredible…

…but to the Crater itself, were just part of the neighborhood.

On our first day in the Crater, we were alerted (along with everyone else in the vicinity) to a pride of lions feasting on a wildebeest carcass and rushed off to watch the circle of life at work. Once the family’s two cubs had finished eating, they wandered slowly into the midst of this huge crowd of safari vehicles and lay down in the road, causing the most unusual/adorable traffic jam we’d ever seen.

We were amazed by the stretching, gauzy vistas, slopes dotted with Maasai boma (thatched huts) and tribesman herding along precious cows, donkey and goats to the clip-clop clanging rhythm of an iron bell.

We saw a lot of animals, but the most exciting was the barest outline of a black rhino, one of the rarest creatures in the world; the Crater is home to only 28.

Way off in a deep green marsh, we saw a large, old elephant alone and asked our guide if there was an elephant graveyard in the Crater. Turns out this is an erroneous concept altogether: elderly elephants hang out in marshy areas where food and water are easier to find, and are consequently more likely to die there, leaving behind their skeletons. Mystery solved.

At the Crater’s Hippo Pool, we saw a hippo, all right: belly up, legs akimbo and sadly dead as a doornail, bloated to twice its size. It floated silently away from its former companions, who had gathered together in a raft formation, playing host to a flock of white herons and snorting from just below the water’s surface.

We pointed out ragged round bundles of twigs and leaves hanging from an acacia tree, which our safari guide said were “giraffe lunch boxes.” They’re actually the nests of busy little birds called Speke’s weavers, though. Safari-guide humor is endlessly creative.

The forested areas in the Crater are a mix of acacias (which are covered with thorns, and sometimes macaques) and fever trees, which glow yellow green in the late afternoon.

We loved the birds in the Crater, especially the ostriches. Turns out, they are enormous and silly-looking.

A lion kill can teach you a lot about family dynamics. Maybe not so much for the buffalo in the equation, but then again…maybe.

There are just about more zebra in the Crater than any other animals. And that was just fine with us.

A group of zebra are called a “dazzle” because of their well-striped ability to visually confuse their predators. In the Crater’s grasslands, though, they’re extremely easy to spot.

The Crater is about 22 miles across, but seems like it might take a lifetime to see in full.


See also
Ngorongoro Crater: Africa’s Amazing Hobbit Shire
Ngorongoro Crater: Survival of the Fittest

My Botswana: Dreaming on the Delta series

Off to (a Birthday Safari in) Africa
Africa: Turns Out, It’s Really There
Logistics of an African Safari

TWT Travel Binder: Tanzania


Romantic Vacation
Ngorongoro Conservation Area

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