Life on the Rim!

Trip Start Aug 26, 2013
Trip End Sep 10, 2013

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What I did
Wild life

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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Q: How do you know when there are two elephants in your refrigerator?
A:  You hear giggling when the light goes out.

From Lake Manyara National Park, we headed to Ngorongoro Crater, staying at the Ngorongoro Serena Lodge.  It's right on the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater (how many times do you think I can put Ngorongoro in same paragraph?).  As I said, the Serena lodges are themed.  From its website: "Hugging the contours of the jagged Crater rim, the lodge takes its inspiration from the so-called 'Cradle of Mankind', the prehistoric site of Oldupai Gorge, which lies close by.  Linked by arched stone passages and timbered decks, its walls are decorated with stylized prehistoric cave paintings and lit by flaring torches."  It was quite a place, sitting on the rim of the Crater at about 7500 feet, some 1600 feet above the Crater floor.  As it was a bit chilly at that altitude, turndown service included placing a hot water bottle in the bed.  Life is good!

The Crater, I am told, is the textbook example of a caldera.  According to Wikipedia (I love you, Wikipedia!), it is "the world's largest inactive, intact, and unfilled volcanic caldera. The crater, which formed when a large volcano exploded and collapsed on itself two to three million years ago, is 610 metres (2,000 feet) deep and its floor covers 260 square kilometres (100 square miles).  Estimates of the height of the original volcano range from 4,500 to 5,800 metres (14,800 to 19,000 feet) high.  The elevation of the crater floor is 1,800 metres (5,900 feet) above sea level."

The crater floor beckons, both at night and in the morning when the rising sun is reflected in the lake below.  But you are surprised when you finally get in a Land Rover and drive down to visit.  From above, it looks almost barren.  But when you arrive, it is teaming with wildlife in a variety of topographies - forested, open plains and swampy marshes.  It's also teaming with visitors like us, but what can you expect?  As I said previously, safaris are big business.  We were here just past the high season, but the Crater floor was still packed with Land Cruisers doing exactly what we were - trying to catch a glimpse of the abundant wildlife.  There is such a thing as safari courtesy.  When you catch glimpse of a good sight, you stop, take some pictures and then move on so someone else can see.  I am not sure that was always the case here, but it may have just been the large number of vehicles that gives you the impression that such courtesy is lacking.  In any case, it wasn't a major problem.

The view from the floor is spectacular, with the clouds pouring over the rim like frozen waterfalls (full disclosure - I stole that phrase from one of our traveling mates).  While we did not see the vast herds of animals you see on the National Geographic specials, we saw plenty of wildlife - Zebras, Cape Buffalos, Baboons, Wildebeest , Hippos, Ostriches and more.  It was quite an experience. Ostriches seem to have joined the 21st century, as least in regard to the division of work between the sexes. The black males share egg-sitting duty with the brown females.  The females sit in the day, while the males sit in the night.  But, to be honest, I don't know which duty is more onerous. We got a few shots of the hippos also, but mostly of their eyes riding above the water as they seem to lie submerged all day in any water that is available. 

Given the long bumpy ride down to the Crater, rather than drive back up to the Lodge, we were supposed to have a box lunch on the Crater floor.  When we arrived in a small wooded area to eat, we were greeted by a full barbeque lunch, with table clothes and cloth napkins, along with a selection of beer and wine.  That's what I call a safari!

On the way to the floor from our lodge, we also passed some traditional Maasai villages and homes. Again, this is Maasai territory. Apparently, the Crater was once part of the Serengeti National Park.  Then the Government, in order to protect the wildlife, decided that it did not want native peoples living in the parks, which is strange since the Maasai don't even hunt. However, the Maasai objected. How they did this is a mystery to me as they live in many independent villages scattered across a vast area. When we visited one village, which I'll discuss later, I asked if there was some sought of federation that spoke for the Maasai but I really didn't get a good answer. In any case, the Crater was broken off from Serengeti and turned into the Ngorongoro Conservation Area in which the Maasai were allowed to remain. 

When we entered the Lodge the first evening, we were entertained by dancing Maasai.  I had very mixed emotions about the whole thing, as I did when visiting the Maasai village a few days later.  The Maasai seek to maintain their traditional way of life, but they can't escape the modern world. So, they entertain it.  It reminded me of the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show where the proud Plains Indians (or should I say Native Americans) were turned into circus exhibits. That included the great Sitting Bull, victor at the Battle of the Little Big Horn.  Sitting Bull "earned about $50 a week for riding once around the arena, where he was a popular attraction.  Although it is rumored that he cursed his audiences in his native tongue during the show, the historian Utley contends that he did not." (From Wikipedia.)   Such is life!

Next, the Serengeti!!
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