SATURDAY, APRIL 11, 2009 – 93/52 – TANZANIA SAFARI – NGORONGORO CRATER LODGE
Our planned departure time for our crater drive is 7:30AM, so we are up at 6:15AM and heading for breakfast by 6:45AM. George is waiting and we are on the move at 7:30AM, as planned. We must drive 10-15km to reach the one-way descent road. At the control gate, four young Massai selling trinkets accost us. Dick buys a “lions tooth” on a cord. It is nothing but carved bone but we have resisted the vendors of such trinkets all during our trip and this seemed the right time to give in to them. We get the necklace and the young man’s picture. It is not too bad a deal. One of the grandchildren will get a kick out of it.
The road down to the crater floor, 1,800 feet below us, is steep but not treacherous and we make the descent smoothly. George has a plan for our visit and we let him take the lead as we follow the various dirt roads through the crater floor and its herds of animals. He has arranged for us to spend the whole day on the floor. We were originally going to do two half days, but he suggested that we combine the two passes for one full day. We are glad we did, as we were able to go to all the different areas and some more than once. This is a day for watching the animals live their lives and not for great or exciting events.
We see numerous large herds of zebra, wildebeest, impala, Thomson’s and Grant’s gazelles, Cape buffalo and some hartebeestclose up. We see one eland and three rhinos from a distance. We also see maybe ten elephants,one with a handsome set of ivory that almost drags the ground. He walks right across the road in front of us.We see four different groups of lions including one group fo three with a male with a nice ruff and two different groups with of two cubs each. Sharing the grazing land with these animals are groups of warthogs, jackals and hyenas. Today everyone seems relaxed and not too bothered by anything.
The big salt lake is full of flamingos.We watch them as they fly from one side of the lake to the other. Carolyn’s new favorite bird, the crown crane,is plentiful and some put on quite a dance for us. We also see many ostrich beside the lakeWe have lunch with the hippos at their pool and this is truly a gourmet lunch of several tasty salads, roast pork, bread and brownies complete with table, chairs plates and silverware!Crater Lodge does not do anything halfway!
We laugh at a young zebra using its mother’s hind leg to scratch its ear, a pair of zebbra grooming each other and one rolling in the dust. We chuckle at the young warthog using a “scratching rock” to give itself a good going over not ten feet from us. We howl at the antics of two lion cubs as they attack each other and their mother’s tail as she flops it from side to sideGeorge drives us to some remote areas up on the crater wall and even though the floor roads are full of safari vehicles, including many locals in regular small SUVs, we have some special time with the animals all to ourselves in these remote areas. We spot a spring hare by the raod, a small green snake sunning itself, a group of cape buffalo crossing the road after a wallow in the muddy pond more zebbra in the protect your "butt" position and ostrich almost on the road. George says that many of the locals are here because it is Easter weekend and a holiday for them.
It is nearly 5:00PM and we head back to check out the two lioness and the two older cubs that were just sunning themselves when we saw them on the way to the lunch stop. George thinks they might be more active now. Not! They are piled up on top of each other sound asleep. It is a quiet day.
The sun is getting low in the sky and the rain clouds are building in the West. Dick is tired of the bouncing so we head for the ascent road. The road itself is in good condition, but it is something else…straight up on one side and straight down on the other with numerous 180-degree switchbacks…but it does offer some spectacular views heading out
Well, we are back from our all day game drive on the Crater floor. I have had a shower and am sitting on the deck looking out over the most beautiful scene one can imagine. I can see almost the whole crater floor. There is an area of rain showers straight ahead on the other side. The last rays of the setting sun light the lake in the middle. The sky above is blue with a hint of gold. There is some member of the antelope family at the edge of the clearing in front of me. I can hear the Cape buffalo grazing behind the cottage and see the dark spots on the floor of the crater that are the large herds of buffalo we saw earlier. It is breathtaking!
When I planned this trip, I did not realize we would spend Good Friday, Easter Eve and Easter at Ngorongoro Crater. Now, I cannot imagine a better place to celebrate God’s great gift; the gift of his son for our salvation. This is truly a special place that God has created! We are so blessed to be able to enjoy it; especially at this special time of year.
They are having cocktails on the deck tonight and we are meeting the couple from Canada for dinner. It is almost dark so the guide is waiting to walk us through the buffalo to the main house. We have another pleasant evening, made so by a great meal and good company. Our cocoon awaits us.