Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

We make our way up from the valley floor to the Ngorongoro Crater rim. Ngorongoro means “gift of life” in Maasai , who are the peoples that live around the rim and surrounding plains grazing cattle.This is an extinct volcano which exploded and collapsed on itself a few million years ago and is home to a vast number of wildlife . This depends in its composition on the time of the year and predominantly the amount of rain that has fallen.

We are here when the floor of the 240km2 crater is green and filled with animals. Here there are just about all of the big five (elephant, lion, buffalo and rhino, leopard lives on the rim) with thousands of wildebeests and zebra. The wildebeest have their babies in February and March so within the herds there are lots of long legged babies. The adults having a unique beauty to their faces:)

This is the beginning of the migration from the Serengeti  in Tanzania to the Kenyan Massai Mara.Large numbers of zebra wildebeest and gazelle make this annual journey driven by their  irresistible instinct to keep moving. Life is complex in this small contained area.

We sit watching a jackal with a great bushy tail determined to get whatever it is he is sniffing in a small hole in the ground. Sure enough after a bit of scratching and digging he pulls out a mouse and it’s gone in a couple of bites. This is the sort of “kill” I can just about stomach.

We come across a lion with an amazing thick, dark main just like Lion King and a lone lioness, clearly there is some interest here. It is late afternoon and we decide to hang around to see what happens at this time of the day when the cats start remembering it’s dinner time.

We see a Grants gazelle young male uncharacteristically on his own gradually make his way towards the two resting lions. This is a beautiful gazelle and my anxiety is rising for it’s wellbeing. It is ferociously wagging its short tail which Andrew explains is a sign of nervousness. Despite this anxiety he gradually makes his way in front of the lions not only within sniffing distance but within a couple of leaps. He starts making short bleating noises and we are told this is to tell the lions he knows they are there.

In the end he circumnavigates the lions within  5 m of them wagging and bleating and then walks off , job done, he has told them they will not be able to surprise him. Phew no one is injured or consumed.

We experience different eagles, plovers, starlings, vultures and large amounts of other birds with beautiful plumage including the lilac breasted roller.

The exit time from the Park is 6pm and stricktly observed with fines to those that over extend their stay. We still have the impossibly steep ascent onto the rim but as we start driving we come across a family of subadult lions in the perfect afternoon light so we must stop.

We literally hit the Park gate as the clock swing by 6pm and we are safely out. What a day!

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