Ngorongoro - Africa's Garden Of Eden

Trip Start Mar 08, 2013
Trip End Mar 22, 2013

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Flag of Tanzania  ,
Wednesday, March 13, 2013

    Our next destination in Tanzania was Ngorongoro Conservation Area and - more specifically - Ngorongoro Crater...

   The Crater is the world's largest unbroken caldera which was created two to three million years ago when a big volcano exploded and collapsed...until the late 19th century no Europeans are known to had been to the our days it's a UNESCO World Heritage is so unique and so spectacular that it is often called Africa's Garden of Eden and is considered one of the 7 Natural Wonders of Africa...


    The Crater is a self-contained ecosystem - it does not have very pronounced rainy and dry seasons, there is always enough water there and enough grass, and the animals have no reason to migrate in and out of the Crater...there is always food for every animal there - be it a hunter or a hunted...and so - there are lots and lots of animals everywhere in the Crater...and - unfortunately as a "side effect"  - there are lots of tourists, too...but I guess I shouldn't complain - I was one of them, after all...


     The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is bound by the rim of the East African Rift wall (part of Great Rift Valley) in the south and by Serengeti in the north..since our next destination was supposed to be Serengeti - Ngorongoro Crater seemed to be a logical stop...when we were quite close to the Crater and began to see wild animals - zebras and wildebeests - I noticed a peculiar thing: these animals were grazing practically side by side with domestic herds of cows, sheep and goats...I later learned that Ngorongoro Conservation Area is the only area among the national parks of Tanzania that allows human habitation...and so Masai people live right there, and their herds graze side by side with zebras and wildebeests...


    We stayed at Ngorongoro Serena Lodge...the lodge was fine and located in a picturesque place - right on the rim of the Crater...practically all the rooms and common areas of the lodge were overlooking the - it was all nice, but I still regret not splurging on Ngorongoro Crater Lodge - the ultimate in luxury...mostly, because the Crater Lodge was one of And Beyond lodges, and - from our previous experience in Zimbabwe and Botswana -  it seems that all And Beyond accommodations are wonderful...but also because we spent quite a bit of time in the lodge itself (as opposed to being away from the lodge on game drives)...we stayed there for two nights, yet went into the Crater only once...the hours and the time you can stay in the Crater are regulated, and the Crater itself is not huge, so most tourists do only one game drive while there...and it is pretty much sufficient...


    In the Crater we finally saw rhinos - to complete our "Big Five" in Africa (didn't see them in Botswana during our previous trip to Africa), but also - lots and lots of other animals...the Crater is so densely populated with animals that you almost feel like it is a zoo, or rather - one of those self-drive "safari-zoos" that they have in North America...yet there was nothing man-made in the Crater, everything there is created by is truly a place like no other...


    While in the Crater, we saw a pair of mating lions...well, not quite mating - but resting between their mating, our guide Kavishe parked the jeep just a few meters from the lions, and we waited for them to resume...meanwhile, he was filling us with all the information about lions' mating habits - like the fact that a couple of lions copulate twenty to forty times a day for several days in a row, and that it's likely that lions forgo any food during that time...Kavishe also said that once a lioness gets up and starts walking - she is ready to we waited...and finally our lioness did get up and started to walk, and her male got up, too...and our men readied their cameras...but, alas!...the male lion walked just a few steps and then - to our huge disappointment (and to the disappointment of his lioness, no doubt) - collapsed on the ground exhausted...Men!...Kavishe said that the male was not ready, and that it might take a while, so we moved on...Men! :)


    When we were getting out of the Crater, we took a different road up...and to me - it was the most enchanting road ever...lined with flat top acacia trees, gigantic sycamore fig trees and other dense and whimsical vegetation...deep emerald in color...the road was snaking up and up - out of the Crater...and all this spellbinding beauty was slowly and tantalizingly opening is impossible to describe, and it was definitely impossible to make a picture that would do it has to see it to understand...but only then the description "Garden of Eden" rang absolutely true to me...


    After the Crater we moved to Serengeti...on the way there we stopped twice for "cultural visits"...our first stop was Oldupai Gorge - an archaeological site in the Great Rift is a big ravine that - together with the surrounding area - is still a place of ongoing research and excavations as it is believed to contain a lot of information on human evolution...there is evidence that this area was occupied by ancestors of modern humans - Homo habilis, Homo erectus - millions of years seems that Homo sapiens (us, humans) - also occupied this area 17,000 years ago...even though the site was not visually impressive, it was impressive mentally, at least to me...just think of it...the oldest indisputable evidence of modern human origins...we did evolve in Africa, after wonder I am drawn to it so much - back to the origins! :)


    Our second stop was at a Masai village...unfortunately, my dear angel felt sick and stayed in the car with Kavishe while Vicki, Brian and myself went inside the was quite interesting -the Masai people showed us their dwellings, school for little kids...they showed us their dancing rituals, even encouraged us to young lady held my hand during that dance, and I was surprised how very rough the palm of her hand was, especially for someone that - the lives of these people are definitely not easy...and then we walked into a family "house" ...I hesitate to call it "house", because it was probably smaller than my master bathroom...dark dwelling with very low ceiling...and there was fire pit inside with no I was practically suffocating with smoke...and people live see all this and feel very-very lucky...and yet the little kids at school looked happy and cheerful...makes you once again think that happiness and material posessions do not always, it was an interesting experience...


    But I would have enjoyed it so much more if they didn't pressure you to buy their overpriced handicrafts...yes, their bead work was pretty...and yes, compared to western prices it was not awfully expensive...and yes again - you can view your purchase as a "contribution to a good cause", to help these people make their life somewhat better...but I always dislike sale pitches and price it somewhat diminished the whole experience for me...I have 3 bead bracelets to remind me of this, thinking of it, if I had not been pressured - I would have probably bought more!....

On to Serengeti....

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paula decker zelenkovsky on

WOW, this is a truly beautiful place. And so many wonderful animals! I like your story about the mating lions - so funny. Are you ever nervous being so close to the wild animals? I love big cats, but I don't know if I would ever be brave enough to get as close to them as you were. Thanks for these blogs, they are very interesting and informative too. Have a great day!

irenan on

Well, you are in a big jeep with a guide who presumably knows how to interpret animals' behavior...we only felt threatened (slightly) once when we came too close to a group of lionesses...several of them were fine, but one was not comfortable with our presence...she growled, we slowly backed off, and the peace was restored :)
As long as you are not making sudden movements and not getting outside the vehicle - you are fine and safe there...

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