13 June 2009

Ngorongoro Crater

After yesterdays marathon journey we still had another 185km to go to get to the Ngorongoro Crater. The 3 hour drive was again through some stunning scenery. We crossed through the Rift Valley and skirted the alkaline lake at Manyara before ascending to the crater rim at an altitude of 2200m.

The Ngorongoro Crater was formed about a million years ago when a volcano collapsed leaving a 23km diameter, 600m deep caldera. The lush grass and lake in the crater floor attracts many of the plains herbivores to graze there. This in turn attracts a lot of the predators. It's like being in a big bowl full of animals.

We stopped for lunch at a watering hole on the crater floor and were joined by a few feathered friends.

The yellow ones are weaver birds and the blue ones, the rather fantastically named, superb starling. At one point there were so many flapping about the jeep it was like a scene from Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds.

Things were quite pleasant until 3 massive kites swooped down and started to terrorise the picnicers.

We decided to make a hasty exit to resume animal watching on the crater plain. Some of the more unusual critters that we saw included; the black backed jackal, augur buzzard, spotted hyena, kori bustard and a cerval, which looks like a domestic cat on stilts.

We were again very lucky to see another black rhino, although this time it was only at (very) long range!

We stayed the evening at the Ngorongoro Wildlife Lodge which was perched right on top of the crater rim and gave stunning views of the caldera floor below.

We ended the day watching the sunset over the crater with a gin and tonic or two . . . Perfect! Or it was until the sun had actually set, then because of the altitude, the temperature dropped dramatically forcing us to break out the fleeces.

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