Saturday, March 24, 2012

Day 2 - Ngorongoro Crater

We were up early, to try to get into the crater as early as possible, taking a different entrance road this time, and this time Mike and I rode with Margaret and Debra, with Martin as our guide.  Another glitch in the vehicle, a flat tire at the entrance gate, caused a delay for a bit, but after a quick change, we were off again, to the crater floor.
I would have to refer to my images to be completely accurate with my list of the many animals we saw, but I know that it included lions right off the bat; a pair of males, (brothers, Martin told us) and a female.  One of the males was sleepily protecting what appeared to be last night's kill, a warthog, from the hungry jackals and vultures.  The other male was snuggling, literally, with the female and eventually they got up and moved across the road in search of shade.
One of the highlights of the day came next, a huge, old elephant.  We could see him from quite far away, lumbering, very deliberately across an open field.  Martin positioned our vehicle right in his path and he never lost a step, but came right across the road in front of us, majestically.  It was hot by then and the dry heat was rising off the land as he paced himself toward a patch of green.  He was pretty cool.  Almost as soon as he got to the green grasses a lioness popped her head up to see who had disturbed her nap!  It was truly another one of those "we are in Africa moments"...especially to see the animals living together in the crater.
We headed towards a group of lions who were stalking, or at least staking out, a herd of buffalo...the drivers from all the different companies talk to each other on walkie-talkies and in passing, so they always have a pretty good idea of what's going on and where.  It was pretty hot and I had been sitting up in the front seat with no shade and I began to feel a little sick at that we watched the lions for just a bit, but then headed towards a pond for some shade and a chance to get out and stretch our legs.  A rainstorm rolled in while we were watching a few hippos in the pond and it cooled everything, including me, down nicely so we were off again! 
Martin had heard that the two black rhinos we had seen from a distance yesterday were now closer to the road so we headed off in that direction.  At first, we saw them from a distance again, but Martin predicted they would be crossing a perpendicular road so he took us in that direction...and sure enough, they came...right towards us!  Ancient looking, huge animals!  Really amazing to see up close...a female (the larger one) and a young male, maybe 2 or 3 years old, Martin guessed.  We were all standing up clicking away with our cameras, along with a row of other vehicles, and they began to pace sort of anxiously, trying to find a spot to cross the road.  Martin told us that they have very keen hearing but very poor eyesight and suggested that we stop taking pictures for a minute to see what they would do, and sure enough, they hesitated to listen and then came right towards our quiet vehicle!  So cool!  There are only about 20 black rhinos in the crater, and only 4,000 or so in the world...they are considered a critically endangered species, threatened to be was pretty amazing to see them, particularly so close.

Between the big elephant and the black rhinos, it was a pretty great day, again!  And, we weren't late getting out of the crater, so the drive out wasn't nearly as harrowing!  We got to the hotel, the Serena Safari Lodge, an older, larger place, with rooms spread out along the rim of the crater.  All of the rooms had amazing, panoramic views of the crater with nice little decks....and a nice long shower felt really good!  Mike headed to dinner with the group, but I was kind of beat so I elected to stay behind and get a little extra rest!  I charged some batteries and downloaded some of our memory cards and fell asleep midway through trying to be productive!  
Mike came back with some exciting news...Lyle & Sue's daughter, Chelsea, had her baby!!!  They were able to talk with her, and even Facetimed with them, and they were so relieved to know that everyone was fine and healthy!!!   Welcome to the world, Makenzie!  Your Bibi and Babu love you so much!
A wildebeest momma and baby!

...reminded me a little of Yellowstone.

The crater walls...pretty steep!


Trying out his little legs!!!

My favorites...momma and baby zebra!

A heron...all fluffed up!


Hyena pups!  Two different litters...the one in the hole was much smaller than the other.

Little guy!

Gnawing on a piece of bone.

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