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Ngorogoro Conservation Area

September 12, 2010

I am a planner. In fact I over-plan. I joke that someone could kidnap me and parachute me somewhere into a variety of countries in South/East Africa that I would be completely fine. One of the things that I was most looking forward to was the Ngorogoro Conservation Area. I saw pictures of the vast amount of wildlife, a sea of pink flamingos. I read about the hunt for the elusive black rhino – an endangered species and one of the big 5. The main feature of the NCA is the Ngorongoro Crater, a large, unbroken, unflooded volcanic caldera. The crater, which formed when a giant volcano exploded and collapsed on itself some two to three million years ago, is 610 m (2,000 ft) deep and its floor covers 260 km2 (100 sq mi).

We camped on the crater rim. We got to look into the crater but would have to wait until morning we could drive down for a game drive. That night we were less concerned about hyenas and lions. The new worry of choice is apparently bush pigs, an animal I never saw but was described as bigger than a warthog – oh my. We were told not to keep food in the tent because the bush pigs would charge the tent and possibly harm us in the process. Okay then. That night Dave woke to the sounds of crunching, the ripping and crewing of grass. He woke me up and we slowly unzipped part of the tent door to reveal two zebra just outside our tent. We could have reached out and touched them. It was awesome. Especially since I’ve become so partial to zebra after what happened in the Serengeti. I love you zebra.

In the morning we descended to the crater floor. I have to say I was a tad disappointed. The pictures I’ve seen were most likely taken during the wet season. The crater was still very, very dry. It was also the last day of our seven-day safari. Although the massive numbers of wildebeest and zebra was stunning. I expected to see more green, and more flamingos. I guess I was feeling safari-fatigue. Don’t get me wrong it was amazing. It just wasn’t super-awesome-magnificant-amazing like the rest of the parks. My second favourite part of the crater game drive was watching a troop of baboons which had several babies. We watched them a long time. we hadn’t seen a troop this size since Lake Manyara. We did see the elusive rhino, technically. The binocular eyes of Abdul our guide pointed out a dark grey blob in the distance next to some black blobs. The grey blob was apparently a rhino. Dave said he could make out a horn, but I think there might have been some wishful thinking. We also saw a lioness stalk a baby zebra. Not again! Luckily the zebra moved off and the lioness lost interest. I don’t I could have handled watching her get her prey again.

My favourite part of the crater was (not surprisingly) the hippos. Even though they were far from the jeep they were mostly out of water. You needed binoculars to make out the details. Then Dave pointed out the teeny-tiny hippo. Ohmygod. Abdul thought he was only 2 weeks old. I can’t even explain my joy about the teeny-tiny hippo. I’m in love with all the baby animals that we’ve seen on safari.

As we drove back to Arusha I thought back over the last week. I’m so happy with our tour company Good Earth Tours & Safaris. They are a small company (with only ten jeeps) run by a local man. This meant we had a private safari even though we didn’t book this option. Our jeep could have held 7 but there was just us and our driver, Abdul. During our wanderings in Tanzania’s national parks we witnessed a variety of safari vehicles and companies. In addition to the standard Landrovers there were also what we called “tourist prisons” – large overland vehicles that looked like double-decker buses with the bottom deck for luggage and a metal screened in top deck for tourists. I’m glad that we weren’t on safari with a busload of other people. In the same breath I have to say I’m also happy that we weren’t with even one other person. We had the luxury to stop for colourful birds if we wanted or watch the lions after most of the other jeeps had left.  My planning paid off and we had a private safari from a great company lead by a marvelous driver.

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