What if I told you that several million years ago a volcano exploded, throwing massive rocks for miles and leaving a massive crater in what is now Tanzania? Then, what if I told you that volcanic crater is now filled with animals? Over 25,000 of them? By now you are probably thinking I’ve been hitting the Spanish wine a little too hard, but this place really does exist and it is as amazing as it sounds! It’s called Ngorongoro Crater and it was a must-see on our once-in-a-lifetime safari to-do list.
We visited Ngorongoro on our last day of safari in Tanzania. We camped on the rim of the crater the night before so we were able to make the descent down right after sunrise. It took us over 30 minutes to drive down a very steep and winding road, and I immediately regretted sitting in the front seat. I had to keep reminding myself to look out at the beautiful scenery instead of down the stressful road ahead.
With the sun shining down in that golden light and the lush green grass inside of the crater, it really did look like paradise. Everywhere you looked there was wildlife. Zebras, wildebeest, buffalo, elephants, warthogs, ostrich, antelope, lions, elephants — all just hanging out, grazing, napping and wandering together.
As we drove around we witnessed a pack of hyenas napping in the grass, fat from whatever they had scavenged the night before; a pool full of hippos jostling for the best real estate in the watering hole; and a heard of water buffalo with calves that were less than 24 hours old, their eyes squinting at the sun.
One of the most memorable moments we witnessed was a pride of around ten to fifteen lions lying in the sun on a small hill in the middle of a field. There were animals grazing all around, keeping a watchful eye and their distance, but still continuing with their business. While a safari jeep was parked and observing this beautiful scene, a female lion decided she liked the shade of their vehicle and came and took a nap behind the front tire. Needless to say that jeep stayed put until she decided to move on.
Throughout our safari experiences, it amazed us how the animals completely ignored us, like we weren’t even there. In our safari planning impact was a huge concern of ours – we didn’t want to go on a safari where we felt like we were intruding on any of the animals or hurting the environment in any way. Our tour guide explained that vehicles had been driving through there for so long that the animals didn’t even acknowledge them anymore. To them, we were the same as a tree as long as we stayed quiet and inside of our car. Our guide also explained that from a human safety perspective, as long as we kept ourselves and our limbs inside of the car, we were one big object to the animals and were not in danger. Needless to say I wasn’t sticking my arm out to test this theory and we are both here so we’ll just have to trust him on that.
I hope you’ve enjoyed our third part in our virtual safari series. I’m working on a video compilation for our final and most exciting safari, the Serengeti, and I promise that it will be very worth the wait.
Love from Spain,
Cathleen & Christopher