If it gets any better than this, I don't know how
Trip Start Jun 12, 2007
129Trip End Ongoing
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If it gets any better than this, then I really don't know how. Today has been completely awe inspiring, if I see nothing else from now till we leave, I will go home incredibly happy.
I awoke this morning to dramatic views over the Ngorongoro Crater, down in the crater was clear, but up around the top of it was encircled in mist.
We met Stanley at 8am and started making our way to the track to get into the crater. At one point, we must have been driving along the edge of a rain cloud because on one side of the jeep it was raining and on the other side it was sunshine - and there was a big rainbow too. Soon we reached the track and started the descent down the steep, rocky and dusty track onto the crater floor.
It was incredible, before we even reached the crater floor we could see zebra and wildebeest grazing, warthogs, gazelles and various birdlife. I'd waited so long for this, I was smiling inside and out, trying to take everything in at the same time.
The morning was spent watching buffalo, hippos, jackals, zebras, wildebeest, hartebeest, ostriches, vultures and a den where a mother hyena lay feeding her babies.
We came across an unbelievable scene, it was like a picture - brown grasses in front, a large green swamp area behind, mountains peaked with clouds rising in the background - elephants, buffalo, zebra and wildebeest grazing in the grass and swamp and a lioness quietly watching on, we assumed there were more lionesses lower in the grass that we couldn't see. The wildebeest and buffalo have young with them and they have an extremely keen eye on the lioness, they are grazing, but in between each and every mouthful, they are looking her way - they know she is there and that at some point one of them is going to be dinner - the lioness is just surveying the menu. We sit and watch the scene for quite a while, nothing changes - the lioness is patient and obviously not ready to make any moves.
We go on and see some more lions, further in the distance this time and also a cheetah with a couple of cubs - again in the distance and needing binoculars to see them properly - it was still wonderful to see them though.
We pass by a soda lake and observe flamingos before making our way back past the lioness scene - now we can see four lionesses there, low to the ground - keeping their eyes firmly on the panorama in front of them. Again we watch them for quite some time before moving on to a place where it would be safe to eat our packed lunch. The place where we had lunch seems to be where all the safari vehicles meet up to eat - safety in numbers I guess, but we are allowed to get out of the vehicle and stretch our legs.
By the time we have eaten lunch we swing back past the lions and the lionesses are now busy eating a kill, Stanley tells us that the male would be close by and would have eaten as he always eats first and now the lionesses are getting their turn. We sit watching them eat and after a while they stop eating and move away. One of the lionesses goes and joins the male lion and they rest a while. Suddenly the lion and one of the lionesses get up and start heading in our direction - I couldn't believe it, my heart starts beating faster - racing, come this way I'm whispering to myself, come this way, and they do, they were heading straight towards our jeep - I was totally bowled over, they were heading our way. Yep, straight towards us - so lucky - the lion and lioness came so near, she literally walked right next to our jeep, I could have reached out and touched her, I felt so emotional, she stopped and looked up at us, I could feel the tears start to roll down my face - yes, I'm not ashamed to admit it, it made me cry - now wasn't the time to take any more photographs, now was the time to put the camera down and absorb every last delicious, wonderful moment of what was happening right in front of my own eyes, absolutely amazing.
The lion and lioness still had blood round their mouths from the kill, but it didn't make them any less majestic, it was the most awesome sight I have ever had the privilege to witness. Wild distant eyes, golden mane, huge great paws, we watched on as they rolled in the mud and washed - definitely a moment in time that I wanted to freeze and never end - this is something else that will be with me for the rest of my days.
Eventually they get up and stride off into the distance; I watch them disappear out of sight and am completely speechless. "Paula, are you happy?" Stanley asks, I nod yes to him and eventually thank him around a million times. "How many lion have we seen today?" he laughs "I don't know" I reply, "I'm not counting any more after that". It's so early in the week and I just can't think that anything will compare to this, it's my wildest dreams and more come true - amazing, just amazing.
We drive on and there is silence in the jeep for a while, I think everyone was just trying to take it all in. We drive around for a while watching life in the crater and next we see 2 adult rhinos with a baby - we need the binoculars to see them properly, but it's a good sighting. The day ends on the way out of the crater seeing a Serval cat. Stanley tells us that we are quite lucky to see this as it is usually nocturnal - to be honest, really that sums up the day for me, lucky, lucky, lucky.
I have an eye problem that requires drops from Moorfields Eye Hospital, I have some with me just in case - with all this dust and grit flying around, I feel sure that I am going to get a flare up - I don't care, I'll deal with that if it happens.
Tomorrow we are moving on to the Serengeti.