A visit to the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania is usually on everyone’s bucket list. This world heritage listed site provides a stunning backdrop for some of the best wildlife viewing .
The crater is about a two hour drive from Manyara Airport. As you enter the National Park area, the driver has to check in, so it’s a perfect time to learn about the history of the park at the nearby museum.
Before proceeding to our accommodation, we stopped to enjoy the view from the rim. It is spectacular to see the sides of the caldera rising up from the floor creating this prefect crater with Lake Magadi standing in front of us and the mini fever tree forest in another corner.
I’m already excited about tomorrow’s visit to the park but this afternoon we will explore the area around the camp. A walk to one of the nearby lookouts will be good exercise but first we must wait for a ranger and guide to accompany us. It’s a gentle walk through the bush, slowly heading uphill with a few stops so the native flora and fauna can be explained. A villager, illegally cutting down trees is very surprised to see the ranger heading his way. The view from the lookout is over the neighbouring Masai village. Having just been visiting the Masai in Kenya, we decide to enjoy the view and then head home to the promised gin and tonic around the fire!
The high cost of the entrance fees into the Park usually means that most people only spend one day in the crater. The lodge has packed a delicious picnic lunch for us so we can spend as long as we choose with the animals.
After driving down the side of the crater, we immediately come across a herd of zebra, gazelles and wildebeest grazing together. The crater is home to the ‘big five’ but you will not see giraffe, topis, impalas or crocodiles here.
The animals are free to roam outside the crater but with the abundant food and water available here, many do not move too far.
With the promise of seeing a lioness and her cubs, we head off down one of the many tracks that criss cross the crater floor to a well known place where this particular lioness likes to rest. It’s hard to see them in the dry grasses but eventually we do.
In another corner of the park, a marshland provides the perfect habitat for the hippos and the occasional visit from a buffalo.
Not far from here a pride of lions is entertaining the visitors by prowling between the vehicles looking for shade. They sit under the cars or, as in our case, lie very close to the side of the vehicle. I was only an arm length away!
A bottle neck is created as no one can move.
Tracks criss cross the floor of the crater and we follow these in the hope of seeing the elusive black rhino or a leopard. Another track takes us towards Lake Magadi with its large bird population. As we have to stay on the roads, we cannot get to close to the edge of the lake but the mass of pink flamingoes is impressive, even from a distance.
All of a sudden, a large pride of lions is spotted by the guide and we pull over to watch the cubs playing. Unfortunately they are quite a way off in the distance but we can finally use the binoculars we have carried around Tanazania! The pride consists of dad and three lionesses as well as a couple of teenage lions and some baby cubs.
On the other side of the reeds a herd of buffalo graze contentedly but one has wandered away from the pack and is heading towards the lion pride. Sensing something is about to happen, a call is made on the radio and jeeps arrive from all directions. We have front row seats!
The lioness herds her cubs off in the opposite direction and hides them in another part of the reeds. She then returns and slowly prowls the edge of the grass, waiting to see if the buffalo is going to wander into their area.
Unfortunately for the buffalo, he wanders towards the lions. As quick as a flash, the lioness jumps on his back and the buffalo, trying to fling her off, makes it worse by heading even closer to the group. The other lionesses now join in and together they try to bite into the spinal column and bring the buffalo down. Every now and again, the male lion jumps up onto the animal while the teenagers bite at the back legs. The buffalo puts up a good fight but with such a large group, he was never going to win! Once they have all had a feed, the lioness retrieves her cubs and they are fed too.
It was a funny feeling watching this scene play out in front of us. Whilst both fascinating and upsetting, it was nature taking its course. I just wish I had had a decent camera with me!!
We still hadn’t seen a black rhino here but after witnessing the lion kill, we felt it was time to head home and leave the park.
One more stop on the way home allowed me to have a look at the famous Ngorongoro Crater Lodge. Zebra were grazing in the grounds as we drove in and were taken to one of the villas. Each luxurious villa is designed in the local style but with heavily european influenced interiors. The views from the villas over the crater are stunning.
I could be very happy here but it was back to the tents for us!
Have you been to the Ngorongoro Crater National Park?
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