on April 12, 2007
Traveling in the dry season, we quickly crossed the vast Serengeti Plain, a flat brown expanseof shriveled grass lands with sparse animal population. The vast migrating herds that populate the Serengeti in the rainy season had moved north and dispersed around the shores of Lake Victoria, where they find reliable water in the dry season. After a stop at the Olduvai Gorge, successfully promoted by the archeologist, Richard Leaky as the place where man was born, we moved on to arrive later in the afternoon at the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, perched right on the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater. Stepping out on the balcony of our room gave the impression we were hanging in the air, high above the floor of the vast caldera. The only disappointment was that, nearly 2,000 ft above the crater floor, we were too far away to make out any of the myriad of animals grazing or hunting or just resting in the afternoon shade below. The Crater, the world’s largest intact unflooded volcanic caldera*, about 12 miles across and 2,000 ft deep, is located in highlands, and the weather was cool, almost cold, and cloudy, looking like rain was due any minute. The frequent showers generated by the Crater top’s high attitude provides a year-round supply of water to the Crater floor whose streams and lakes are fed by rainfall running down the interior walls of the Crater. All this water supports lush grasslands on the Crater floor, and the grass supports a large number of animals, the most concentrated animal population we saw on any of our safaris. The animal population is estimated at 25,000-30,000 and includes the rare black rhino, which our driver found easily enough.Next morning after breakfast, we piled into Jeeps to descend the steep, rough road to the floor of the Crater and spent the morning driving among the animals. Unlike the previous evening, with its clouds and drizzles, the day of our trip into the Crater was sunny with blue skies. While rainy season visitors to East Africa’s plains may see a larger number of animals, thanks to the great migrating herds, nowhere else did we see so many animals of so many different species in such a small area. The most unusual animal we saw were baby rhinos, the only place we saw them. The Ngorongoro Crater was the high point of our East African safaris. This is the one place you should be sure is on your itinerary.After a lurching trip back up the crater wall for a late lunch at the lodge, we transferred to nearby Lake Manyara National Park, home of the tree climbing lions, for the night. * A caldera is the pit left behind by a big volcano that blew its top. Compared to true calderas like Ngorongoro, Crater Lake, and Yellowstone, the dent in one side of Mt. St. Helens is a mere pot hole.
©Travelocity.com LP 2000-2009