Ngorongoro Crater

We stayed for a few days in Karatu, a small, dusty town 40 km south of the crater. The crater is the world’s largest volcanic unbroken caldera, formed from an eruption some 3 million years ago and is now a conservation area. We took a one-day safari and were absolutely amazed by the sunning beauty of the setting, let alone the diversity of wildlife. 

Within minutes of arriving, we very nearly lost my camera bag by the massive baboons when we signed in and left the safari vehicle’s door open for a matter of seconds. Rookie error. They were huge and once safely in with the doors closed, I managed to take a photo of one of them as they strode past, making sure we knew who’s boss.

The landscape within the rim of the crater formed by the volcanic eruption is very flat and the vegetation consists mainly of acacia thorn or umbrella trees.

Umbrella trees dyed red by the earth

Weaver bird nests in the umbrella trees

View from the rim of the salt lake within the crater

 We saw a troop of baboons once in the crater making their way across the rocky part near the rim.


One of our favourites, pumba the warthog greeted us as we got to the bottom of the caldera as he trotted by on his daily business.

Fantastic scenery throughout and very different vegetation to Kruger.


We saw plenty of wildebeest – more wildebeest than we could count! And also plenty of zebra – mountain zebra as opposed to the Burchell zebra we saw in South Africa.



Birdlife was pretty amazing too, my favourites being the Grey Crowned Cranes and the ostrich, which were huge!

Kori Bustard having a preen

Crowned Cranes


Secretary Bird


The salt lake was full of flamingo which the children had never seen before in the wild.


And then we saw a pair of lions! They were lying out in the middle of the short grass just fifty metres or so from the track. The lioness was on heat and they mate every 20 minutes or so, for all of five seconds, then the lion, exhausted by his efforts, flops back down next to the lioness to gather his strength for the next round!

 






We drove on to Hippo Pool which was aptly named, and the bonus of another lion, this time on the hillside behind. He was absolutely majestic, and kindly got up, turned around a couple of time, as cats seem to do the world over, before settling back down again for a midday snooze. 




We stopped for lunch at an open picnic site by another hippo-inhabited pool. Our safari guide assured us that, although lions could come down to the picnic area, they were unlikely to due to the high number of safari vehicles and noise. And there were a lot of vehicles there. 

Lucky those hippos are herbivores!



In the afternoon we saw more hyena. They can be really mangy and are nearly always are very smelly! Especially when they’re in their den, sweltering in the African sun.


A pair of jackals were also enjoying the afternoon sun.


Then we saw more lions! This time a pride of about twelve lionesses and cubs (there was also a male lion a little away off in the long grass). They were lazing about, sometimes getting up to change position and one got up to remind the wildebeest and zebra in the distance that they were on the menu for dusk, and at one point, they obviously heard or smelled something off in the distance as they picked up their heads and pricked up their ears. Wonderful to see! 







On the drive home, we were rewarded with much more, including a bull elephant off in the distance. Despite his size, he was dwarfed by the tall trees.





A wonderful backdrop for amazing wildlife!

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