Tanzania 2: Ngorongoro Crater and Southern Serengeti

Tanzania 2: Ngorongoro Crater and Southern Serengeti

Eastern edge of the Ngorongoro Crater, collapsed caldera. Jaw-dropping. Elevation 9,000 feet.

We leave Gibbs Farm (reluctantly) and head up, up, up to the Ngorongoro Crater and the rough “outback” road carved into the rim to access the few lodges scattered on the perimeter, offering stunning views of eternal primitive beauty. It’s the land before time. Every cliche comes to mind. It’s chilly. We stare into the sunset. Monkeys jump on the roof. Two large water buck appear outside our window. And guards walk with you everywhere after dark.

Some of the beautiful masks from the collection at Gibbs Farm

Crater sunset.  And then God said…

We are up before the crack of dawn, determined to be on the crater floor as soon as the park opens. We are the only humans. It’s freezing as the sun comes up, and Philip spots (how, I do not know) four lionesses in the thicker growth near a riverbed. They look hungry, he says. And they’re staring off into the hills. Where a buffalo has wandered away from the herd. He predicts that the cats will watch it and prepare to hunt.  First they hide their 8 cubs in the tall grasses and then they split into two groups of two and walk right past us to stalk the buffalo. They are magnificent and terrifying and do not pay the slightest attention to our landrover.  A bird calls in the bushes and Philip announces that they will probably call off the hunt. Really? Why? Because the bird is warning that there are lions here (the cubs) and the lions may think that there are other lions around and their cubs could be in danger.  Sure enough they turn tail and rush back.  The buffalo is safe. But the lions are hungry. And less likely to hunt as the sun rises.

Lionesses at dawn ready to hunt.

Zebra at rest. No lions in sight.

Symbol of Africa: flat-topped Acacia trees. Can’t get enough of them.

Young Acacia bushes filled with thorns. They lose them as they turn into trees, but regrow them if they are cut back.

Masai herding cattle. With cell phone.

In Masai country we see older boys and young men in black cloaks with white painted faces and spears. They are in post circumcision dress and posing for tourists so they will stop, take photos and give them money. Philip is adamant that we not stop and pay no attention to the many peddlers offering trinkets by the side of the road. Hard to do as I usually see this as a form of contributing to the local economy, but he insists that this learned behavior has to stop:  If they can make a living like this they will never go to school and neither will their younger siblings. Tough love.

Life in traditional compounds. No water or electricity. Off the grid.

Entering the Serengeti. Watchful giraffes. Symbol of Tanzania.