The lion sleeps tonight
Trip Start Sep 04, 2009
16Trip End Sep 20, 2009
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The lion sleeps tonight.
Our wake-up call came at 5:15. We had a buffet breakfast at the hotel and departed at dawn (about 7 am) for the day's adventure. Our travel mates were Barcy and Anne, of course, along with Mike and Mary Ann Schuermann, from – get this – St. Louis. Our guide/driver was Omari.
We headed down 2000 feet into the Ngorongoro Crater (a caldera similar to Santorini, Greece, except not filled with water). The rim of the imploded volcano is readily apparent as you descend. The crater is an eco-system unto itself and the animals here have food and water throughout the year because of the lakes
1. Our initial encounter was a pack of baboons who greeted us at the first pit stop.
2. Next were gazelles … the little Thompson gazelles (they call them Tommy’s) and slightly larger Grant gazelles.
3. Then came the hyenas … ugly, mangy things, almost exactly as Whoopi and the other characters in the Disney movie "The Lion King" portrayed them.
4. The highlight of my day came when we ran across a pride of lions basking in the sun. Several lionesses and several cubs. There was a very cute male I’ll call Simba, who was a show off. He just can’t wait to be king.
5. His mom went off stalking a zebra herd and we tracked her. That was an adventure, where she used our vehicles to hide herself. But in the end, she decided in favor of a nap.
7. Next came Pumbaa and the other warthogs. Man, are they ugly. I don’t need to see them again.
8. We then traveled to a lovely oasis, filled with pretty blue water and bright green watercress. Many animals congregated there … hippos, Cape buffalo, white pelicans and many other species of birds. It was fun to see them all together at this gorgeous gathering place. There was a mother hippo with a small (ok, not really small, but small for a hippopotamus) infant. Fun to watch her protect her young.
9. We then headed for box lunches (or at least we were told that), but our guides took us to a lovely shaded parklike setting where Tauck and the Serena hotel staff had set up a full hot lunch, complete with covered chairs and tables, china service and cocktails. Quite a surprise to have such an elegant set-up in the bush.
10. Following lunch we found two elephants … one who was coming out of the wetlands, tossing dust and dirt on himself with his trunk, to dry off and keep the bugs away. Another was an elder whom we were told was retired by his herd.
11. We then ran across herds of wildebeests and zebra, cohabitating in the open grasslands. The wildebeests, which migrate over much of the continent if they live outside the crater, are some hairy beasts. Makes you realize how closely they resemble primitive animals.
12. We finished our day with a highlight … spotting a reluctant black rhino, which brought us 4 of the Big 5 animals that hunters come to find in Africa. Only one missing now is the cheetah.
13. We returned to the lodge with very little time to relax. I went and bought items from the Maasai people in the lobby area … a colorful shuka (red tribal cloth) which I intend to use as a table cloth in Florida, a necklace and a beaded Christmas ornament.
Early evening, Rachel did a briefing on Olduvai Gorge, the cradle of mankind, which we will visit tomorrow. It is a steep-sided ravine in the Great Rift Valley, and is one of the most important prehistoric sites in the world in furthering understanding of early human evolution. Excavation work there was pioneered by Louis and Mary Leakey beginning in 1931 and continuing for 5 decades.
Following the briefing, some acrobats performed and then we had dinner. Chefs in the Serena Hotels continue to disappoint. The properties are elegant but the food doesn’t live up to the reputation. It matches the comfort of the beds.