we woke up in the morning and it was time to go on our next safari. this time we would be going to Ngorongoro crater in Tanzania. this place was supposed to be really cool because not only could you see lots of animals, but the scenery was supposed to be amazing as well. also, in this crater, there was a good chance of seeing a black rhino which is super rare. there was some confusion at our hotel, and for some reason, when our driver arrived, the hotel staff told him that we had left at 5am and had never come back! well, eventually things were sorted out and we were on the way. Joseph, our guide/driver, was the nicest guy you could ever meet, but he was also totally disorganized. he had to call back to the office to figure out our lunch situation. then he had to borrow money from Joey to pay for the lunches. he wasn’t sure how we would get the sleeping bags that we needed for the night, etc etc etc.
eventually, we picked up our box lunches and were off. we made the mandatory stop at a gift shop on the way, and refused to buy any souvenirs for the insane prices they were offering (about *10* times more than what they should be!). after more driving, we soon entered the park and were on the crater rim. the inside of the crater was quite hazy, so photos of the view didnâ€™t come out so great, but the view was still amazing. the crater itself was HUGE, and you could just barely see to the other side. inside, you could see that the landscape was quite varied. some parts had lots of trees, others were dry gravel, and there was even a huge dry encrusted soda lake in there too. we slowly descended down the bumpy road into the crater, avoiding several overturned trucks that had been unlucky.
when our driver paid our park admissions, I realized that we had way overpaid for the safari. we had paid $120 per day per person, which comes out to 720$. it turns out that park/camp fees were a meager $210 for all of us! the remaining $510 seemed a bit much to pay for renting a van for 2 days and food. *sigh*. oh well. we finally got to the crater floor, and started exploring the place. I really enjoyed the park. there wasn’t as many animals as the Masai Mara, and the animals there were much more spread out, and in a way, I think I may have actually liked it this way better. it felt more real and natural that way. each time we spotted an animal, it was much more of an event, since we weren’t seeing them every 2 feet. also, the other really nice thing was that there were much less vans here than in Masai Mara. often times, we’d be the only van that we could see, and it felt a lot more peaceful and pleasant that way. the cars here were required by law (and monitored by rangers) not to drive off the tracks, so our presence didnâ€™t seem as destructive here either which was nice.
after driving around some more, we spotted two lions who were hunting some wildebeest. the wildebeest were just standing around, not having a clue, and the lions were slowly but surely creeping up closer and closer. the scene was *so* intense. the lions moved ever so slowly, each paw cautiously stepping forward so as to not make any noise. earlier, we had been really hoping to see a kill. what could be more exciting than to actually see a powerful lion attack its prey? but now that the scene was actually playing out in front of me, I really didnâ€™t want it to happen. the wildebeest just looked so innocent, meek, and oblivious… I really didnâ€™t want them to be slaughtered. the scene became more and more tense as the lionesses got closer, but then something happened… I dunno, maybe the wind shifted or something, but all at once, the whole herd of wildebeest bolted. lions cant run fast for very long, and the wildebeest were still out of range, so the lions didnâ€™t even attempt to give chase. the situations were hopeless.
the lions stopped their slow careful stalking, and trotted forwards looking for more animals. the vans followed, and soon enough, there was another small pack of wildebeest. the lions decided to attack from both sides this time. one lion went right, while the other circled around to the left. once again, everyone was totally tense. as the lion on the left got closer and closer, finally the wildebeest picked up on it, and all of them dashed frantically to the right… towards the other lion. this one caught them totally by surprise, and they swerved trying to escape. the lion, now within striking distance, gave chase… but it wasnâ€™t fast enough. once again, the wildebeest got away. in the end, we never saw a kill, which actually is probably a good thing.
later on we took our lunch in this area that had tons of monkeys. these guys were brave, and honestly, a bit menacing. they kept running at the car to try to snatch our food. these guys werenâ€™t afraid of humans either. if you tried to scare them or stomp at them, they would just lunge toward you and bare their teeth. at one point, one of them actually got in our van, and we all freaked out and jumped out. it jumped to the roof of the van and wouldnâ€™t leave, instead it kept baring its fangs at us. sheez, if these things were a little bigger, Iâ€™m sure theyâ€™d fully take us on and probably win.
eventually, we headed to where we would be camping, and there was more confusion. our tents hadnâ€™t arrived, and there were still no sleeping bags to be seen. finally, we got our stuff, but then, our food wasnâ€™t ready. all the other people were being fed by their cooks, but we had to just stand there in the cold and dark waiting. we didnâ€™t even have any chairs to sit on! when we finally did get our food, we ate fast, since we were quite hungry and then went to bed, a bit nervous that wild animals might come to our tent.
the next day we set out again, back into the crater. this was our last day on safari, and we were really hoping to see the remaining two of the big 5, a leopard or a rhino. we were in luck, in just a few minutes, our guide got a phone call from his brother who was down in the crater. he had spotted a leopard and told us where it might be. unfortunately, the leopard had been seen several hours prior, so there was a good chance that it may have moved by then.
we were lucky though. when we arrived on the scene, there it was… a leopard. it was sitting on this bent tree trunk, just relaxing. leopards are very solitary animals who usually kill their prey and then pull it up into trees. they really donâ€™t like to be disturbed, so it was a bit surprising that the leopard didnâ€™t make a run for it. unfortunately, the leopard was kind of at a distance, and it was a bit hazy out, so my photos of it didnâ€™t come out all that great.
we spent the rest of the morning driving around the crater, and after several hours, we drove up to the place near a lake where someone had spotted a rhino. at first, we didnâ€™t see anything. but eventually, after peering into the distance, we finally saw a little black dot, that may possibly have been a rhino. the guide said it definitely was a rhino, but honestly, I wasnâ€™t convinced. we didnâ€™t have any binoculars with us, but luckily we were able to borrow some from another van. looking through the binoculars, I was able to focus on the dot a little better, and finally a small rhino-esque shape began to form. it was still tiny, and very difficult to make out, but finally I had to agree that it had to be a rhino. I took a photo of it through the binoculars. the photo came out fuzzy and pretty bad, but sort of kind of you can make out a rhino shape.
we had done it! we had been able to see all 5 of the big 5. it had been a really exciting safari. very different than the Masai Mara. Iâ€™m still not sure which safari I liked better. the Masai Mara definitely had more animals and it was really exciting, but Ngorongoro had somewhat more of a relaxed feel, and the scenery was definitely better.