17.05.2017 - 17.05.2017
As we approach the Ngorongoro Crater Descent Road, we see some Maasai with their donkeys collecting firewood. Unlike here in the Ngorongoro Conservation area, there are no human settlements within Serengeti, so these are the first locals we've seen for a while (other than staff involved in the tourist industry of course).
There is a one-way system for entering and exiting the crater, and from the Seneto Descent Road we get a good view down over the crater floor. It doesn't look too busy this afternoon – in fact I can only see one car in this part of the crater. It looks like it is dusty though.
The heavily forested crater walls rise steeply from the crater floor – 610 metres to be exact – with the descent road gently traversing the sides as shown in the photo below.
I really don't know how he does it. “There's a Yellow Mantled Widow Bird”. Malisa stops the car and points to a mangled bush. At first glance all we can see is intertwining branches, leaves and the odd yellow flower. Well, one of those yellow flowers isn't a yellow flower, it's a patch on a black bird. Apparently.
I zoom my lens right in (as seen above) and can just about make out an outline; it isn't until I get home on my PC and give the picture a severe crop that I can see the bird properly. Yet Malisa spots - and identifies - this while safely and comfortably negotiating a steep gravel track. Extremely admirable!
This one is a little easier to spot, even I can see this one with the naked eye.
Male (above) and female (below)
There are now at least two other cars in the crater, and they are just about to meet on a dusty track.
Heading for the long grass with a small pond for a spot of fishing.
Another large bird on the hunt for some lunch
About a week ago when we were here the first time on this trip, we saw a rhino reasonably up close and were thrilled to bits as on all previous visits they have been spotted in the far, far distance only. Imagine our surprise when we see one equally close again this afternoon!
This one's on the move and heading directly towards us!
He stops to sniff the air for a while. They do say we should all “make time to smell the flowers”.
Unless they taste nice. Then you should just eat them. The flowers that is, not the rhinos.
When he is just about 100 metres away from us, he changes his mind and turns the other direction.
Still eating of course.
It is time for us to have some lunch, and more importantly, to use the local facilities, so we head for the picnic site.
I wonder if the road workers get danger money working here in the crater?
Compared with last week, Ngoitoktok picnic site is extremely quiet today.
Many of the old bull elephants in the crater have enormous tusks such as this guy.
We see three more elephants in the distance, plus a couple of lions.
There are a lot of birds around in the crater this afternoon, a few of which are new to us. Being a 'list girl' I always enjoy adding a new species to my life list.
Fan Tailed Widow Bird
Several Grey Crowned Cranes flying around.
Long Toed Lapwing
Lesser Masked Weaver
The Wattled Starling gets its name from the black wattles (there's a surprise) which are only found in breeding males.
Red Knobbed Coot
As we climb out of the crater, I can feel the altitude affecting my chest, and I star coughing uncontrollably to the point of almost blacking out.
The crater walls are near vertical in places, with trees somehow still clinging on to the slope.
The view from the top back over the crater is nothing short of spectacular!
I sleep the entire journey onwards to the gate with sheer exhaustion from the incessant coughing. Thankfully, we are now going down to a lower altitude for the rest of the trip.
While Malisa signs us out of Ngorongoro Conservation Area, we amuse ourselves by watching the baboons. Unfortunately these cheeky animals have become used to stealing food stuff from the large trucks coming from the markets, and as a result are now very aggressive every time they see a vehicle.
These little monkeys have found some spilt rice on the ground.
I can't stop myself dropping off to sleep in the car for the next part of the journey either, but fortunately I wake up as the sun starts to set and we approach our accommodation for the night.
As soon as we enter the large grounds of this super tented camp, we spot a few impala in the near-darkness.
The low light capabilities of this camera (Canon EOS 5D IV), is phenomenal. For my photographer friends, this picture was taken at ISO 16,000 with no noise reduction applied.
One of the things I really like about Maramboi, is all the animals found in its grounds at any time of day or night. This is our third time staying here, and we have not been disappointed yet.
Impala with the rooms behind.
When we check in I ask for a room nearest the restaurant / reception / car park so that I don't have to walk any further than absolutely necessary. They oblige and give us the closest room. That will help my poor lungs tremendously.
As I said earlier, the grounds of the Maramboi are full of wild animals, and you are strictly forbidden to walk around after dark on your own. We call an askari (Maasai guard) to escort us from the room to dinner. Acting fairly agitated, he shines his torch on the next but one room from us. Two eyes look back at us from the bushes just by the entrance to the room. "Lion" says the askari.
You can see an arrow pointing to the location of the lion below, on a picture taken last year. In fact that was our room last year.
There is a buzz of nervousness at dinner, with our waitress admitting to being “very scared”. There is only us and one other couple staying, and I get the feeling the staff can't wait to get away.
As it is an almost clear night, I want to take some photos of the stars this evening. For safety reasons the manager is understandably not willing to switch any lights off for me apart from those far out by the swimming pool, so I have to made do with what I've got and embrace the floodlit of trees as part of my picture.
So, so many stars, with a few clouds partly obscuring the Milky Way
As you can see from the arrow in the picture below, the lion is not exactly far away. The guards are constantly shining their torches across the grass, making sure they know where the lion is at all times.
While photographing the stars, I can hear a car starting up, and later the askari who walks us to the room tells us that they 'lost' the lion temporarily, but found him when they went out with the Land Rover. He's killed a warthog and is tucking into his supper, so we can all relax a little for a while.
At the end of another fabulous day on safari with Calabash Adventures, I want to say thank you to Malisa, our wonderful guide, for not just being a fantastic driver, but also for looking after me while I have been feeling so poorly on this trip.