Close to nature

Trip Start Nov 19, 2002
Trip End Dec 13, 2002

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Flag of Tanzania  ,
Tuesday, November 26, 2002


My most anticipated stop of the safari.  Why?  22 square kilometers of the highest concentration of wildlife.  The Ngorongoro Crater is actually a collapsed volcano.  The nutrient-rich environment has produced animals that are measurably larger than those outside the crater.  Water and plant life are abundant year round which leaves little reason for migration.  The only animal not found here is the giraffe, which can't scale the steep walls.  Another reason I like the crater - over 6,000 feet in elevation.  Much cooler temperatures :)

One of the first things I noticed was the close proximity of the animals.  Even prey animals like bucks can be seen within easy range of predatory animals like hyaena.  Millinga said that animals can read each other.  A buck can sense when a hyaena is hungry and when it's not.  Most animals were comfortable enough that we could drive within a few feet.  Even the more timid wildebeest and zebra, which ran away in the Serengeti, just watched us.

The animals here seem to be more expressive too.  I saw two zebra fighting...two gazelle fighting...three different pairs of lions in mating season...a jackal attacking a dying hyaena...and a solitary hippo kicked out of its family.  For me, the crater evoked more emotions.  I actually felt sorry for the hyaena.  The Serengeti may be sheer awe.  But more exciting in the crater.

Late in the afternoon I saw my first rhino.  The closest we got was 600 yards.  They're pretty solitary and anti-social.  Maybe just a blur to the camera.  But still a thrill to find one of the most evasive animals.

Just before dusk, we ascended the crater.  As we drove up the wall, we passed an adult male elephant.  He was grazing just a few feet above us on the interior wall.  Enough to take my breath away.  Further along, there was a full sized African buffalo.  Face-to-face with some of the largest animals in Africa...incredible!  I love Ngorongoro!

We pitched camp at dusk along the rim of the crater.  I helped Dowdi with the tents.  And stepped in proof of these large animals.

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