We used our break from cycling in Arusha, Tanzania to do a 2 day safari in the Ngorongoro Crater. Our guide referred to this Unesco World Heritage Site as a “natural zoo”. In that category, it falls 2nd only to the Galápagos Islands in our experience. Ngorongoro is a world of singular beauty that stands apart in our tour from Cairo to Capetown so far.
We loaded a subset of our stuff (George Carlin reference) into a ubiquitous Toyota Land Cruiser and set off to camp overnight at the rim of the crater some 180 km west of Arusha in the Crater Highlands area of Tanzania. This set us up for a sunrise safari.
The blue-green views from the rim are almost worth the trip itself. At 19 km wide, Ngorongoro is one of the largest unbroken calderas in the world that isn’t a lake. Its steep walls soar to 600 meters and are a backdrop for virtually every photo (especially because we are not equipped with the requisite safari telephoto camera lens).
Animals graze and stalk their way around the open grasslands, swamps and acacia woodland on the crater floor. Minutes into our sarfari we came upon a lion napping next to a recently killed buffalo – temporarily satiated we assume. The victim was still largely intact. In the periphery, hyenas and feisty jackals were patrolling, waiting for their turn at the carcass. We were witnessing a well established heirarchy.
Over the next hours we saw wildebeest, zebras, black rhinos, hippos, elephants, warthogs, flamingoes, secretary birds, Thomson’s gazelles, Grant’s gazelles, Sacred Ibis, Crowned Cranes (the national bird of Uganda) and many other species. Ahead of us in another vehicle, fellow TDA riders saw a group of lions bring down a zebra – an event very few get to witness.
In 13 years on the job, our guide Ezekiel has seen an increase in the number of animals in the crater, thanks to better management and the eradication of poaching. Nice to hear some positive environmental news for a change.