After 3 days in the Serengeti (I don’t think we even covered 25% of the vast expanse), we headed to Ngorongoro! Ngorongoro was actually on the way to Serengeti from Arusha. And as 3-day seasoned veterans of the safari (i.e. completely covered in dust), it was really easy to spot the newbies!
Ngorongoro has a very different vibe from Serengeti, but also very worth the trip. It is almost a smaller version of Serengeti (8,292km2 vs.14,700km2). Whereas S was an endless evolving, we could see where the crater ends from anywhere in N. There are also far more sources of water accessible. As a result, animals are everywhere – basically can’t drive anywhere without passing an animal.
Ngorongoro Crater (September 2016)
From the rim of the crater, another bumpy ride down. September is almost the tail end of the dry season, and the rain returns in November.
The wildebeest (a.k.a “zero-brain): Apparently, they get a lot of hate. Some fun facts (courtesy of our lovely guide at Serengeti info center):
- They are really really dumb. Don’t remember things! So their far more brilliant “friend” zebra like to migrate with them. Or really, let them migrate first. The Mara river is on the way to Kenya (the Great Migration) which they need to cross, and the river is dotted with crocodiles. But the wildebeest never remember that the river isn’t safe, so they cross first. By the time the zebra head over, the crocs are full
- They have the face of a grasshopper, forequarters and horns of a buffalo, hindquarters of an antelope, and mane and tails of a horse. It’s not really all that attractive, unfortunately
- On the bright side, apparently female wildebeest are able to delay giving birth for up to a month so they give birth in more favorable conditions
- Baby wildebeest can start walking pretty much right after they’re born. That’s Darwinism for you right there – how else would the wildebeest population continue to grow?
- But okay, just out of curiosity, why aren’t you in Kenya at the Maasai Mara instead of in Ngorongoro Crater? Supposedly the starting point of the Great Migration?
Spot the hyena! In a wider pan shot of this scene, we counted 10+ hyena lurking on the side, waiting for their turn at the water buffalo. It was all awfully National Geographic-esque.
Nastiest eagle I’ve seen in a while. Our tour guide John handed us our lunch boxes, and we asked him if we could sit outside to eat them. He half smiled and said sure, but watch your food. One of my friends was chewing away at her roasted chicken leg when the eagle attacked. Twice. Literally swooped in and knocked her over. Needless to say, we ran for cover. And we watched it attack other tourists from the safety of our car. Lesson learned: Next time, listen to the tour guide.
It was surprising to see so many wildebeest and zebra in Ngorongoro Crater – this is supposedly the starting point for the Great Migration. Most of the large groups had migrated to Kenya already. It’s not entirely obvious from the picture, but this zebra has two insane gashes down its hind legs, probably from lions.
Ngorongoro is too small to support a large population of predators, and hence home to some of the most ragged lions we saw all trip (case and point above). Leopards and cheetah don’t live in the crater, but will travel into the crater to hunt.
Ngorongoro is also supposed to be the easiest place to find rhinos in Tanzania… alas we were not so lucky. There are only 12 left in the crater, and 16 total in Serengeti. I guess that open regret gives me a reason to go back to Tanzania sometime soon =).
Obviously, the safari isn’t something you can just show up in Tanzania randomly and book, and it was quite difficult looking for reviews online. Many operators seem to use this website for consolidating reviews.