Saturday, November 07, 2009


Scenes from the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge

[Kyle]Descending into the crater, we immediately came to a standoff between buffalo and a pride of lions. One of the lions had managed to injure one of the buffalo calves and the big bulls in the herd were alternating between forming a defensive perimeter and charging the lions to run them off. The bulls managed to hold off the lions until the rest of the herd was a safe distance away and then they went off to join them. The lions had taken over all of the territory around a watering hole and were clearly more interested in having their food come to them than chasing it all over the crater. So the buffalo win that round. A little later on, we came upon a lion finishing off a kill from the day before, so they didn’t seem too motivated to hunt again just yet. They normally eat only once every four or five days.

Lionesses on the hunt

Lazy, lounging (male) lions

We left the area and came upon a traffic jam of safari vehicles. One of them had stopped to look at three male lions. The lions then came over to the truck and plopped down in its shade, effectively immobilizing it since the vehicle would have had to run over them to leave. Well, this gave everybody else a chance to get some good close shots of the lions and it all balled up from there. As soon as one vehicle would gingerly extricate itself, they’d go over to another one looking all drowsy and plop down, thus repeating the process.

Black Rhino

Once we were out of there with our fill of lions, we drove a bit further and found a lone Black Rhinoceros warming up in the sun. It didn’t really do a whole lot, just stood there warming up, but it was cool to see since they’re so rare. Our guide told us that participating in a rhino hunt, no matter how small a role, carries a life sentence in Tanzania. I don’t imagine anyone survives very long in a Tanzanian prison.

Hyenas feeding on a dead hippo

From the rhino, we went to a hippo pool, where a pack of about five hyenas was in the water eating the carcass of a hippo that had recently died. There was about twenty more of the pack sitting on the bank waiting to get at the carcass. Once the hyenas on the hippo had their fill, they’d swim off and would be replaced by new ones. The new arrivals had to run a gauntlet of swimming past hippos, which are very, very territorial and not happy to share their water with others, to get to the carcass. The hippos didn’t seem to mind when the hyenas were eating, but they were not happy to let them pass.

After the hyenas, we drove toward the forest at the edges and looked for more of the 30 rhino in the area, but were unsuccessful. Instead, we saw lots of ostrich, zebra, gazelle and baboons.

Beautiful Crater Scenery

It was getting late in the day and we started heading back to the ascent road on the other side. Along the way, we passed through large herds of wildebeest and zebra, which hang out together. We also saw several elephants grazing and cooling themselves off in the reeds at the edge of a pool.

More animals in the Crater

On the way out, snoozing right in the middle of the road, we found the same three male lions that had caused the traffic jam that morning. Since we were one of only two vehicles by then, they decided that we would be their shade for a while. They were close enough that if we were dumb enough to try it (which we weren’t, by the way) we could have pet them through the windows.

Lions resting, still; tough life

As we drove out of the crater, I stood up with my head out of the pop-top, facing backward, lost in thought as it receded below and into the distance. What an amazing place.

Later on, as we were brushing our teeth for bed, I heard a strange noise out the window. I went to the solarium and saw two huge buffalo grazing outside barely over arms length away. Buffalo are famously ill-tempered, always ‘with the angry faces’, as Juma put it. The thin floor to ceiling glass of the solarium seemed awfully feeble protection. Fortunately, they seemed more concerned with trimming the lawn than us.

Since it gets a little cold at the crater rim, the lodge places hot water bottles in the beds when it does the turn-down service during dinner. Maryanne especially loved this. The bed was nice and comfy warm. We were so tired at the end of the day that even with those behemoths munching right outside, we were both asleep within seconds.

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