If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home.James Michener
A few hour’s drive after an amazing experience in Serengeti (Read more), we reached the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. It’s the home of the Ngorongoro crater and the ‘Big 5’. This is the best place to see how humans and wildlife can live in harmony. Herds of wildebeests and zebras traverse these plains, alongside the livestock of semi-nomadic Massai’s. It is considered one of the world’s most “unchanged wildlife sanctuaries“.
Our stay for the night was the famous Ngorongoro crater lodge and as with our bush camp experience in Serengeti, this was a whole together different experience. The temperature had dropped dramatically and the place was covered in mist and all in a few hours’ drive – we were now on the rim of the volcanic crater of Ngorongoro.
We were warned right away in the start not to wander off away from the Lodge as wildlife is everywhere around us and it wasn’t the grasslands now – it was quite green forest cover so hard to spot. Especially the Buffaloes which visit the lodge can be very dangerous – so its best to see them from the balcony of your lodge. A quick stroll in the mist and we saw water bucks grazing right in front of us in the hotel lawns – it was then it dawned upon us that we were actually in the wild and nothing was to be taken for granted. So we sat back and did some reading about the place and its wildlife especially the last of the Big 5 – The Rhinoceros.
After a cold night with an old fashioned coal heater in the room, we were up before sunset eager to explore the caldera and its wildlife. The biggest surprise lay for us just outside our hotel gate! As we left the hotel, our driver hit the brakes and right ahead of us was a Lion walking on the cold morning road. It was hardly 100 mts from our hotel and we did a wise decision not to leave the hotel boundaries.
We drove along and started descending slowly into the crater. Along the way, we picked up an Italian couple whose Safari jeep had broken down and of course it wasn’t the best place for a breakdown. On the slope of the crater, you could see the Masai huts and livestock grazing. We stopped for few minutes when we reached the crater floor and that’s when the beauty of this place dawned upon us. Covered with high mountains on all sides and with low clouds – this places looks surreal.
While we stayed there for few minutes taking everything, a group of Hyenas appeared from nowhere. Knowing the Hyenas well from what I have read, looked like they were upto something and yes they were. And then the chase began – it was the wildebeest calf they were trying to hunt. But luckily, the wildebeest escaped to live another day.
The vegetation here is far different from that of the Serengeti, its more tropical and wet. We drove ahead crossing herd of buffaloes before taking a break by the river filled with Hippos.
As we were finishing our break, we heard that the elusive Rhino is on the move nearby. What an amazing news – this was the last day of our Safari in Tanzania and the Rhino is the one thing which eluded me and also considered one of the hardest to spot. We rushed to the spot but could see nothing. Our guide pointed to something moving at a distance using the Binoculars and yes there it was. At about 200 mts, a black blob was moving across and you could say it was the Black African Rhino. Now what are the odds that the Rhino would move towards you and cross in front of you?
Well it beat all the odds on that day – our lucky day. The lone Rhino moved right towards us slowly but surely and it crossed right in front our jeep. What an exciting moment! One of the most beautiful animals in the wild and one which completed the ‘Big 5’ List. I can now proudly say that I have seen the ‘Big 5’ on the African plains.
More clicks of Ngorongoro –
Finally, it was time to say good bye to the African wilderness and head back to our base at Arusha. It was a satisfying experience – nothing I can complain about.
The drive was a different experience – A huge prayer meeting as we head towards Arusha had caused lengthy roadblocks and we were stuck right on the grounds of this huge meet filled with local people selling everything from peanuts to local delicacies. And the best thing – their smile and energy midst all this chaos. I guess I would never complain about Traffic back home or in UK post this.
After Successful Hike of Kilimanjaro (Read more) and Safari on Dusty African plains (Read more)- all we wanted was some time to unwind and relax. What best than the white sandy beaches of Zanzibar (Read more).
Read more of our Tanzania Journey here (Read more).