After a night spent back in a comfortable bed again, we rose for an early start. Enjoyed a nice breakfast and headed to Ngorngoro crater. We waited in the mist of the morning as our tour guide arranged the permit for access into the crater.
On his return, Ahmed explained that the real mission of the day was to find some rhinos. Sadly there are only 38 rhino located in the crater which spans 200 square kilometres, on hearing this fact, we weren’t particularly hopeful but headed down into the crater anyway.
As soon as we hit the crater floor we were greeted by a number of gazelle, they were clearly sorting out some differences as they locked antlers right in front of us.
It was definitely a morning of establishing some order. As we were admiring the breathtaking views of the crater, I heard a screaming howl behind us as a couple of Jackal were also sorting out who was boss. This one lost the battle as it ran off with it’s tail between its legs and sat in front of some zebra to regain some composure.
As we moved around the crater, the next appearance was from a lone hyena skulking across the crater floor, no doubt looking for the first opportunity to steal a Lions breakfast.
They truly are magnificent beasts, not at all phased by numerous land cruisers that had stopped to admire them. We continued our journey tracking the rhino, stumbling upon a male lion, he was sleeping, laid out with a fat looking belly and breathing heavily, I assume the morning hunt had taken it’s toll. We waited for a while to see if he would rear his head and eventually he perked up for a few minutes before returning to his slumber.
You can’t tell from the photo but he was surrounded by Wildebeest in their masses, presumably one was enough for him. As we admired the Wildebeest, chaos ensued as a pack of hyena came charging up the track. I was a little late on the camera so didn’t get the best shot but they had obviously stolen a Wildebeest leg from some other animals hard earned catch and weren’t in any hurry to give it up.
Further along we spotted a pride of Lions sleeping on the crater floor, they seem to do a lot of sleeping! We waited a while in the hope that they would get up and move on as the shadow of the clouds broke but it remained cloudy and they were not going anywhere unless they absolutely had to.
As we progressed we saw the usual array of Ostrich, Wildebeest and Zebra before stopping at a lake for lunch. We took a walk around the lake, noticing a large number of hippos in the water. They were at quite a distance and hard to photograph but eventually one came to say hello.
We resumed our search for the rhino, Ahmed has some serious vision as he pointed out three rhino on the horizon, it took me ages to find them, resorting to using the 200mm lens at full zoom, then fully magnifying the image on the cameras LCD, even then they were just three grey lumps that barely resembled rhinos at all. We figured we would move around the park to see if we could find any closer.
Along the way we spotted more Jackals, one of them was chowing down on some kind of large bird, hardly a plentiful feast but sustenance none the less.
Heading onward, we eventually came across another rhino, it was still a large distance away but we did at least manage to get basic photographic evidence. This was as close as we were going to get today as is was nearing time to head back to the lodge.
Heading out of the crater, we came across a Land Rover Discovery having some technical difficulties. From what we were able to glean from the situation, the driver thought the diff was grinding itself to bits, it sounded more like a suspension issue to me but Ahmed went to advise the owner that if he broke down in the crater, it was unlikely he would get breakdown assistance and that he should leave immediately. At this point Lucia said I should get out and see if I could help, I made it clear that there was no way I was getting out with Lions around, to which she replied “There are no Lions here”, then… this happened as we drove around the next corner.
Admittedly it was sleeping (no surprise there) but I feel I definitely made the right decision. We followed the Land Rover out of the crater where the owner was more confident he would make it back to Arusha to get it checked out.
Next stop was back to the lodge. It’s a fairly self sufficient outfit, growing it’s own fruit and veg and managing its own livestock. It also has a coffee plantation so we took the time to have a tour of this too.
Ahmed asked us if we wouldn’t mind veering from the plan a little tomorrow, the schedule has us on a short game drive in the morning through Tarangire National Park and on to our next home at Burunge Tented Camp for Lunch. He said it would be better for us if we didn’t go to lunch but pack another picnic and enjoy a longer game drive instead. We took his advice of course.