We arrived at the entrance to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) around 3 pm on the 2nd February from Manyara National Park to continue our African Safari 2013. After the payment for the entrance tickets and vehicle permit to the NCA authority by our guide/driver, we drove towards the crater. The road up to the entrance from Arusha was tarred. Beyond, it was gravel.
The NCA was recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in the year 1979, and covers an area of 8,288 square km. It is 180 km west of Arusha and borders the Serengeti National Park at one end. The main feature of the NCA is the crater; the largest, unbroken unflooded volcanic caldera in the world, 610 meters deep with a floor area of 260 Square km. Incidentally, the second largest volcanic crater is in the Galapagos of Ecuador.
Our destination for the night was the Rhino Lodge, which is located on the edge of the Ngorongoro Crater rim, adjoining the main road to Serengeti. We reached the viewpoint of the crater around 5 pm where we enjoyed the spectacular panoramic view of the giant crater, which is around 2,286 meters above sea level. It was my third visit to the area while it was my brother Pala’s first visit. My previous visits were in 2003 and 2004. On the way to the lodge, we were welcomed by a Lioness moving up the road for a few minutes. It was unusual to see a Lion on the main road to Serengeti. We were at the lodge by 6 pm.
The next morning, after an early breakfast and with packed lunch we checked out from the lodge by 7 am and went in to the Ngorongoro Park. On the drive down the steep, winding road leading to the floor of the crater, we could see Lake Magadi, which is a soda lake on the crater floor with pink patches on it that confirm the presence of Flamingo. A number of times I called ’Stop, Stop’ to our driver Wilson, when I spotted birds that interest me. I am a good spotter of birds, mainly Eagles. Wilson, had a fair knowledge of identifying them.
During the morning hours before lunch, we spent our time driving about in the crater. Sightings included a pride of Lions in slumber on the grass after a heavy meal, and a Black Rhino. This was the time of the year that Wildebeests deliver their young and we could see pregnant females close to term while others had already delivered. On one occasion Wilson spotted a Wildebeest about to deliver since the water bag had come out, but it was too far for good photography. We encountered a group of Hyenas having a feast at the expense of a day old calf, and experienced another scene where a Black- backed Jackal was fighting with Vultures for the placenta of a Wildebeest just after delivery.
We had our picnic lunch at the hippo pool on the crater, which is a popular lunch spot for tourists. There were plenty of Black Kites waiting to steal a picnic pack from the visitors, since in the past some had fed them and now the picnic lunch boxes have become a favorite source of food for them at the crater. We sighted another male Lion and a herd of Buffalos before exiting the crater soon after lunch.
Our next destination was the Ndutu Plains in the NCA bordering the Serengeti National Park, which is about three hour’s drive from the crater.