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Embedded Photos: 1.Crater Rim Camp2.Inside the Crater3.Lone Buffalo4.Wildebeest Train 5.Grazing6.Flamingos7.Zebra 8.Ostrich9.Hippo Pool
Two Years & Twice Around the World...  



August 20. NGORONGORO CRATER TO LAKE MANYARA - "Northern Safari Circuit - Day Four"  No matter who we had talked to about safaris they always told us the Ngorongoro Crater Campsiteone place to go, over all others, was the famous Ngorongoro Crater. Our day had finally come.  We prodded Sisti and Bernard to leave as early as possible so we could enter the park as soon as the opened.  It took about an hour just to get to the crater floor, down a bumpy single-lane dirt road that skirted the wall of the crater.  Knowing that we were all keen to see a leopard Sisti headed directly to the small forested area on the crater floor. We moved slowly through the trees, our eyes Ngorongoro Craterpeeled for any sign of a stealth cat hiding in the foliage.  There were a few false sightings and a hand full of cars that stopped to look at elephants and buffalo through binoculars.  We rolled up along side them, hoping they had a leopard in their sights, and were disappointed to see them straining to see the barely visible flecks of color out in the open landscape.  For many people it was probably their first day on safari and we realized that we had already gotten pretty spoiled.  Buffalo are rather scarce in Tanzania but we had seen loads of them in Namibia so they didn't give us the same thrill anymore.  At the end of the forest we made a pit stop at the picnic area and then moved out into the grassy open plains that covered most of the Crater floor.

Unlike the many reports we had heard of the Crater's abundant wildlife and fertile landscape we found ourselves in an unseasonably dry place.  There were still plenty of animals but hardly the natural zoo image we were expecting. Babsi seemed rather disappointed as well.  It wasn't matching up to her experience from some years earlier.  She had come at the same time of year but apparently this year was drier than usual.  More animals had migrated out in search of water and the predators tend to follow their prey.  Still we had close encounters with many zebras, wildebeest, warthogs, flamingos, and ostrich as Sisti zigged and zagged across the Crater and back agaWater Buffalo, Ngorongoro Craterin.  We saw a few cheetah positioned for a morning kill but after a long time waiting there was still no action.  We moved on.  Our hopes were raised again when we saw a hyena scampering quickly through the grass, perhaps heading towards some breakfast, but he soon disappeared in the thicker green brush at the edge of the crater.  A pair of ostrich put on a lavish mating dance for us, or rather the male did as the female tried to look disinterested.  He swayed and flapped his wings in a gangly but strangely graceful display of affection.  We had already watched this same female give another male the snub but this male seemed to impress her so she seated herself and waited for his mount.  It wasn't a lengthy encounter but it was a spectacle as the male continued the flamboyant waiving of his wings.  The female sat contentedly and when it was over they stood up and just walked in opposite directions. 

Sisti rounded us back through the forest again at the end of the morning but still no leopards.  Rob and I were beginning to broaden our scope of appreciation and took more interest in the birds.  We wWater Buffalo, Ngorongoro Craterere hardly twitchers but could see why people became interesting in birding. Just like more experienced scuba divers start to take pleasure in finding nudibranchs and sea horses hidden in the kelp and seaweed, I suppose the more experienced safari goers learn to appreciate some of the smaller and harder to find animals.  The big five are exciting but there is so much more to see in these vast wild parks. There were a number of different raptors around and a large cory bustard sat perched in her nest right at the side of the road. 

As noon approached we started to move towards the far side of the park, towards the exit, and Sisti announced that we would have lunch at one of the picnic sights and then head to camp.  Feeling like we were getting short changed a bit we asked to postpone lunch so we could do some more animal viewing.  Our itinerary had a "full-day" scheduled for the crater but we learned that was not really the case.  Again we were on the clock and had to be out of the CWater Buffalo, Ngorongoro Craterrater by 2:00.  The park authorities made it impossible to stagger your visits to the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Crater without paying for an extra day of park fees.  The park actually closed at sunset so we weren't going to get a "full-day" unless our guide coughed up another day's fee.  The safari outfits tended to stretch the truth in their advertising.  But, none of us really wanted to pursue that battle, since it wasn't an outstanding day for viewing, but we weren't going to let it get cut any shorter.  So Bernard hanFlamingos, Ngorongoro Craterded us our lunches and we ate while we drove. 

We only had another hour and half to kill but we did get to see some new things.  As we were turning around we spotted another hyena, rolling around on its back like a frisky dog.  He periodically looked up to survey his surroundings and then laid back down to rest on his back. We drove to a new area in the park where the hyena dens were clustered together, each dug into a dirt mound and just big enough for a hyena or two. Most were empty but we could see the spotted coat of one napping away his afternoon.  Farther into the same area we came upon a well populated pond full of hippos.  They were divided into two pods, one larger than the other, and seemed oblivious to one another. The massive animals just basked quietly in the sun, occasionally flipping around to expose their pink bellies as they Zebra, Ngorongoro Cratercooled their backs or Ostrich, Ngorongoro Crateryawning to expose their large flat teeth.  However one mother took exception when her baby started swimming towards the smaller pod.  It got a few yards away when the mother started "yelling" at it.  On queue the little hippo did an about face and returned to its mother's side.

With the clock ticking Sisti finally told us we had to get moving or we wouldn't get out of the crater by 2:00.  Still, he was patient enough to give us one last stop to watch a pride of lioness nestled in some tall grass near the road.  They were spread out and well hidden but they were close and we could see the smaller fuzzy face of a little cub resting near his mother.  When we finally reached the crater rim it was already nearly 2:00 so Sisti was moving fast to get around the crater to the park exit.  We ended up being a bit late so he told us to corroborate his story if anybody asked.  We were supposed to have had a breakdown that caused us to be late, a very believable story.  We'd made a stop to help one truck the day before.  Bernard gave Hippos, Ngorongoro Craterthem some eggs for their radiator leak, apparently the eggs helped to block the hole until they could get to a garage. 

Our last night camping was back at the same campsite that we used on our first night.  It was a comfortable place except for the condition of the bathrooms after everybody had completed their evening getting-ready-for-bed rituals.  

ZANZIBAR Stone Town July 11 July 12-14 Nungwi July 15-18 Stone Town I: July 19-23 II: July 19-23 Paje July 23-27 Stone Town July 27-Aug 1

TANZANIA Dar Es Salaam Aug 1-3 Moshi I: Aug 3-31 II: Aug 3-31 III: Aug 3-31 Safari Circuit Aug 17 Aug 18 Aug 19 Aug 20 Aug 21 Mt. Kilimanjaro Aug 23 Aug 24 Aug 25 Aug 26 Aug 27 Aug 28

KENYA Nairobi Sept 1 Sept 2 Sept 3 Sept 4-5

UGANDA Kampala Sept 6 Sept 7-16 Kampala Short Stories

RWANDA Kigali Sept 16 Sept 17 Ruhengeri Sept 18 Sept 19 Gisenyi Sept 20 Kigali Sept 21 Sept 22

UGANDA Kampala Sept 23 Sept 24-26