Monday, June 26
After a breakfast buffet in Rhino Lodge we packed up and Abass started our drive into Ngorongoro Crater, 1,000 sq miles of crater floor from volcanic activity long ago. It is a gigantic natural crater floor surrounded by steep mountain walls with all the African animals that we love to see in pictures and in videos like Planet Earth. Laura and I were thrilled to see the first set of zebras and Abass, knowledgeable about all things taught us lots. Things like ...Zebras are white animals with black stripes, not the opposite and this keeps the animal cooler. Zebras have great eyesight but poor smell- wildebeest are the opposite so they often hang out together for safety reasons.
Abass grew up in the area and started learning about these animals from his father who was also a safari driver. During the course of the day, we saw and learned about the Grant gazelle, Thompson gazelles, hippo, black rhino, elephant, lion, bushbuck, ostrich, baboon, crown headed crane, hyena, jackal, Cape buffalo and many more that I can't remember. It was an amazing day.
Open topped safari trucks made a safe system to see these animals much closer than I expected. We watched a lioness with her kill sharing with jackals but keeping hyenas at bay. Later the bushy haired male showed up to dominate the eating of the carcass. Many safari trucks were lined up for this spectacle. We could hear the chomping of bones and the dragging of the poor old wildebeest. When the king of the jungle finished he sauntered toward us, cut through the trucks right in front of us and urinated loudly on our neighbors back tires. I happened to be videoing this. We were amazed to be so close to him. Another time we watched a female lion crouching and looking as if she were hunting. We saw gazelles locked in battle, clanking their horns and pushing against one another until finally there was a victor and the other hightailed it with giant leaps out of that area.
The day started out very cold , wet with sprinkles and windy. We wore down jackets and leggings under pants but as the day wore on the sun came out more often and it warmed. When we finally left the park as the light was changing we got an unforgettable view of the crater as we drove the steep exit road. Baboons continued to entertain as we left for our drive to Bougainvilla Lodge to spend the night outside of the park. We were met at this beautifully landscaped hotel by young staff with warm washcloths on trays ringed with marigold flowers. Another fabulous day in Tanzania!