The Ngorongora Crater
We feel so fortunate the morning we visit the crater. The skies are clear with no low lying clouds or fog , both common in this area. Our view is spectacular as we descend the breathtaking 610 meters to the crater floor.
The Ngorongoro Crater, is the world's largest unbroken, unflooded volcanic caldera . The crater, was formed when a giant volcano exploded and collapsed on itself some two to three million years ago. It is 610 m deep and its floor covers 260 km² .We’re told as many as 25,000 large animals ,along with the highest density of predators in Africa,live in the crater.
On our way we see some Maasai taking their cattle down the narrow and very steep descent, in search of water. Once again their tough hard life astounds us and we silently count the blessings of our easy life.
Each vehicle is permitted a maximum of 6 hours in the crater. This is in an attempt to control the safari traffic, which would be otherwise out of control especially during peak times. As it is when we visit ,traffic is light and we only see between 6 or 8 vehicles at any one time.
As soon as we arrive in the crater we see our very first wildebeest. We took numerous pictures ,only to see huge herds a short while later. Also there were herds of zebra. We took quite a while trying to catch them in just the right position. Their stripes fascinate me. So exotic.
We then drove for quite a while without seeing much of anything. This surprised us as we wrongly assumed animals would always be here in large numbers, but the crater is huge and during the time of drought the animals rest out of the hot sun. When we reach a jungle area we spot a spectacular Ayres Hawk Eagle. He’s perched on a small branch above a stream, an ideal location for fishing. We also see many Grey Crowned Crane. They are quite comical looking with bright blue eyes and fuzzy heads.
The highlight for us was seeing the endangered black Rhino. They were quite far off but we had a pretty good look with binoculars. They are the reason many come to the crater. At the beginning of the 20th century their numbers in Africa were estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands. The Black Rhinoceros has been pushed to the brink of extinction by illegal poaching for their horn and by loss of habitat. The horn is used in tradional Chinese medicine and is said by herbalists to be able to revive comatose patients, cure fevers, and aid male sexual stamina and fertility. The purported effectiveness of the use of rhino horn in treating any illness has not been confirmed by medical science. In the Ngorongora Crater they are said to number not more than 20 and park rangers heavily guard them.
Before we leave the crater we watch large herds of Cape Buffalo making their track directly in front of our jeep. We’ve seen them in the Serengeti but they are in larger numbers here.
Eventually we make our way towards the lake where flocks of pink flamingos wait for us. It is sort of like the icing on the cake to watch them wade in the shallow waters of the soda lake.
By now our six hours is up and night is falling. Our guide urges us to finish our last photos as we have to make the steep climb out of the crater before the gate closes at 6PM.The climb is more hair-raising than the descent. We drive a rough, zig-zag and narrow road to the top. No guard rails here! I know the view is incredible but I couldn’t see with my eyes closed.