A Travellerspoint blog

Ngorongoro Crater

The Eighth Wonder of the the World?


View The Howards' 40th Anniversary Tour 2017 on Grete Howard's travel map.

At 02:00 I wake in a mad panic with a feeling of being unable to breathe. My head is spinning, the floor is moving like ocean waves and my heart is beating so fast it feels like I have just run a marathon (not that I am ever likely to know what that feels like).

I walk to the bathroom, having to hold on to the furniture along the way so as not to stumble, and by the time I return to bed I feel exhausted. As soon as I lie back down again, I start coughing. Thanks David for giving me your cold. Having spent the first three months of the year being very ill / hospitalised with pneumonia, and having to cancel a holiday in February, I was so looking forward to this trip. I really don't want to be sick!

A large group of tourists are leaving the lodge at the same time as us this morning (06:00), but Malisa has conveniently placed himself in the car park rather than just outside the door, so we get away before they do, which means we enter the Crater as the very fist vehicle this morning.

large_Ngorongoro.._the_Rim_21.jpg
Ngorongoro crater as seen from the rim

large_Ngorongoro_Crater.jpg

Like an African safari in miniature, the Ngorongoro Crater is an iconic soup bowl filled with animals and wrapped in superlatives. As the largest un-filled, un-broken caldera in the world, the crater boasts a number of 'records', including the densest animal population in Africa. No wonder it is dubbed as the 8th Wonder of the World. Created some three million years ago when a large volcano exploded, the caldera is ca 20 km across and 610 metres deep; and contains all the 'Big Five' as well as a number of other plains game. Only the giraffe is absent, as the caldera walls are too steep for them to climb.

Also absent these days is the Maasai cattle, having recently been banned from the caldera. When we first started coming to Tanzania some ten years ago, the cattle were only permitted on the caldera walls, but over the years they have been spreading themselves further and further down, and last year we were quite surprised to see them on the crater floor itself. No more. They are not permitted into the caldera at all now.

large_Sunrise_over_the_Crater_1.jpg

large_Cape_Buffalo.jpg

Instead of Maasai cattle, we see a number of Cape Buffalo on the crater walls this morning. Considered one of the Big Five, this is an aggressive and dangerous animal, responsible for a number of human deaths each year.

large_Buffalo_21.jpg

large_AC33A436D188D1C697D76FB852AB34A7.jpg

large_AC3032A399E453FB002531E97F05BA8E.jpg

large_Buffalo_3.jpg

large_ACB13C2ADB73749DFC00D6839CAAE520.jpg

large_Sunrise_over_the_Crater_3.jpg

large_Sunrise_over_the_Crater_4.jpg

large_AEAAC677AD93F7C88BC576E21D70A297.jpg

We spot our very first lions about half way down the descent road, and we follow the two females all the way to the bottom, where they move off the road in their continued quest for breakfast.

large_Lions_6.jpg

large_AEC36C51ECB23032538EF042B6128152.jpg

large_AEC8AF9FC3DA2CA9E4481D515333D5B4.jpg

large_Lions_9.jpg

large_Warthog.jpg

In the distance we – and the lionesses – have spotted a warthog. He too is very aware of the predators approaching.

large_B00E8E6CC5AE1295A0F1684284C1B91E.jpg

What to do now? The clever hog finds himself a hole in the ground and goes into hiding by 'reversing' into the crevice.

large_Warthog_2.jpg

We hold our breaths as the lionesses arrive in the area the warthog is lurking, looking in a few of the small ravines for the breakfast they know is hiding somewhere close by.

large_Lions_21.jpg

large_Lions_22.jpg

Unfortunately for the lionesses, but fortunately for the warthog, they never do discover his hiding place. Well played Mr Hogg, well played!

large_Lions_23.jpg

We follow the lionesses for a little while longer, hoping they might lead us to their babies.

large_Lions_24.jpg

No such luck, and we join the baboons in looking at the lions disappear into the forest.

large_Lions_25.jpg
Wise advice

large_B7614885DF453723D1D9AC352CD37422.jpg

large_B76389C0D5CAF3A1C3CD02A4A3607D99.jpg

large_More_Lions.jpg

When Malisa spots a lone lioness in the distance, we stay a while watching to see if the gazelles spot her before she spots them as potential breakfast.

large_Lion_and_Gazelles_1A.jpg

Again nothing happens, another lion foregoes breakfast and we - and the gazelles - move on the pastures new.

large_Secretary_Bird.jpg

Endemic to the open grasslands in sub-Saharan Africa, the Secretary Bird stands around four feet tall and is so named because of the quill-like crest on the backs of its heads that resemble 18th century clerks with pens tucked into their wigs.

large_BC64AD8C0C9A4CF9087550C5F6F27024.jpg

Unlike most birds of prey, the Secretary Bird doesn't swoop down to catch its prey, rather he hunts on foot, jumping up and down to flush out his intended breakfast (snakes and lizards mainly) and then kills them with a force five times his own weight.

large_Secretary_Bird_15.jpg

large_BD899B3CE7A7DBE76B9277244C15ED87.jpg

When we met up with Tillya yesterday, her told me I have to take some award-winning photos on this trip; and I asked him if there was anything in particular he had in mind. “Zebras fighting” was his reply.

large_Zebras_9.jpg

large_Zebras_8.jpg

Fortunately, these two very cooperative zebras do seem to have received the memo and put on an obliging display for me.

large_BDA2CBE1C050289EE578EA289509456C.jpg

large_Zebras_2.jpg

large_Zebras_3.jpg

large_Zebras_4.jpg

large_Zebras_5.jpg

large_Zebras_6.jpg

large_Zebras_7.jpg

large_Lake_Magadi.jpg

More zebras down by Lake Magadi.

large_Zebras_10.jpg

large_Zebras_13.jpg

As well as wildebeest and a hyena.

large_DAA3EDEBB0CD73A8F03A04160AE20EFE.jpg

large_DA9FA3C7EC00050759931DE904A25C84.jpg

large_DC4FC947D7E1837374FF58BEFC88D61E.jpg

large_Hyena_and_Wildebeest_1.jpg

And a very cute baby Thomson's Gazelle.

large_Gazelle__Thomson_s_2.jpg

The lake is also home to a number of Lesser Flamingos.

large_Lake_Magadi_Flamingos_1.jpg

large_Flamingos__Lesser_2.jpg

large_Flamingos__Lesser_5.jpg

large_Elephant.jpg

large_DD31AF45F9ED4129C17A903738E4AF3D.jpg

large_Elephant_2.jpg

large_Weather.jpg

To say the weather is changeable today is an understatement; the lifting roof has come down and gone up more times than a hooker's undergarments this morning already. Each rain shower lasts only a few minutes and is not heavy, but the wind makes sure that everything inside the car gets soaked.

It does make for some dramatic skies though.

large_Ngorongoro_Crater_11.jpg

large_Hammerkop.jpg

large_Hammerkop_2.jpg

large_Hammerkop_1.jpg

large_Kori_Bustard.jpg

As Africa's heaviest flying birds, the Kori Bustard can weigh up to 19kg and stands at around 120cm tall. During courtship displays, the male inflates his neck and dances for the female, although this guy is obviously a little confused, as we cannot see any females around. Perhaps he is just practising.

large_Bustard__K.._Display__2.jpg

large_Bustard__K.._Display__3.jpg

large_Black_Rhino.jpg

On all our previous visits to Ngorongoro, we have only ever seen the rhino from a great distance, so when Malisa asked me about my wish list this year, seeing a rhino up close was mentioned.

And there he is!

large_Rhino__Black_1.jpg

Black rhino are on the Critically Endangered conservation status list, so I feel quite honoured to see one of the 30 or so rhinos that inhabit the caldera.

large_Rhino__Black_2.jpg

large_Rhino__Black_3.jpg

large_E48B142EAFAC300E156352C0A8097DCD.jpg

We see eight lions in the distance, mainly sleeping.

large_Lions_31.jpg

large_Lions_32.jpg

large_Lions_33.jpg

large_Lions_34.jpg

large_Elephant.jpg

This old male of around 55-60 years old (it is mostly males who live in the crater) likes to stay close to the swamp as he has lost his last molars so favours the soft grass found here. Look at those impressive tusks though! I think they are the longest tusks I have ever seen!

large_Elephant_31.jpg

large_Elephant_36.jpg

large_Grey_Crowned_Cranes.jpg

large_Crane__Grey_Crowned_13.jpg

large_Crane__Grey_Crowned_11.jpg

large_Crane__Gre..h_chicks__2.jpg

large_Crane__Gre..h_chicks__3.jpg

large_Hippo_with_Baby.jpg

large_EDD0A348A50985DCF1A12B79DE2FC04E.jpg

large_EDF00F21B61F62E7CDEDF7B80439095C.jpg

large_Wildebeest.jpg

large_Wildebeest_22.jpg

Mum is accompanied by her baby, who is around 3½-4 months old.

large_Wildebeest_21.jpg

large_Augur_Buzzard.jpg

large_Buzzard__Augur_1.jpg

large_Green_Season.jpg

large_Ngorongoro_Crater_43.jpg

May is considered part of the 'Green Season' (otherwise known as the 'Rainy Season', but obviously tour operators feel that 'Green' sounds better than 'Rainy'), and as such the prices are lower and there are fewer people around.

We love it. Not only do we often have the animal sightings completely to ourselves, we also enjoy all the flowers and lush vegetation around at this time of year.

large_Purple_Flowers_1.jpg

large_Ostrich_2.jpg

large_Ngorongoro_Crater_52.jpg

large_Yellow_Flowers_71.jpg

large_Ngorongoro_Crater_56.jpg

large_0CFF830FE95E3EB27A0365196B98373E.jpg

large_0C27ED0A09141B216D1152874BF7B12B.jpg

large_0D14D729A607505DEAA0443811CC2A6D.jpg

large_Zebra_45.jpg

large_Zebra_47.jpg

large_Zebra_48.jpg

large_Zebra_43.jpg

large_Ngoitoktok.jpg

This area beside a spring of the same name is popular with tourists, and we too stop here for breakfast.

large_Ngoitoktok_Picnic_Site_6.jpg

large_Ngoitoktok_Picnic_Site_5.jpg

It's times like these that I am glad we are travelling on a private safari.

large_Ngoitoktok_Picnic_Site_3.jpg

We have company, eyeing up the leftover breakfast.

large_Guineafowl__Helmeted_1.jpg
Helmeted Guineafowl

large_Weaver__Rufous_Tailed_1.jpg
Rufous Tailed Weaver

large_Starling__Superb_1.jpg
Superb Starling

large_Ngoitoktok_Picnic_Site_7.jpg

large_Ibis__Sacred_2.jpg
Sacred Ibis

Meaning “water coming from the ground”, the spring is favoured by hippos as well as tourists.

large_Ngoitoktok.._-_Hippos_1.jpg

large_Ngoitoktok_Picnic_Site_8.jpg

large_10C8E58BE77D8A7206FD3AF4CD40893D.jpg

large_Hippo_4.jpg

large_1260FE39E528220DE2E4040A6DB55774.jpg

large_Warthogs_4.jpg

Warthogs have to be some of the ugliest animals around, but look at those legs: they look like an elegant lady's with stiletto heels!

large_Warthogs_7.jpg

large_Crown_Crane_Courtship.jpg

The male puts on an impressive display for his intended female, with some elegant dance moves.

large_Crane_Combo_5.jpg

large_Olive_Baboons.jpg

large_Baboon__Olive_23.jpg

I love the way it looks as if these baboons are picking up the flowers to take in the wonderful aroma.

large_Baboon__Olive_21.jpg

large_Baboon__Olive_24.jpg

large_Baboon__Olive_25.jpg

large_237AD5539CC95C56D0C7FE7391526FC8.jpg

And everyone should have an elephant or two in their flower bed!

large_Elephant_67.jpg

This one is even wearing flowers in his hair!

large_Elephant_69.jpg

large_263E060DC92BAEB5182E225C883E8C6D.jpg

We encounter a large breeding herd of Cape Buffalo.

large_Buffalo_42.jpg

I do find their menacing stare somewhat intimidating.

large_Buffalo_46.jpg

large_Buffalo_53.jpg

Although some do look more like country yokels than inner city thugs.

large_Buffalo_55.jpg

But the babies are cute. As most babies are. This one is very young, just one or two days old.

large_Buffalo_47.jpg

Look at the flies!

large_Buffalo_50.jpg

The buffalo are joined by an elephant.

large_Buffalo_and_Elephants_1.jpg

large_Buffalo_and_Elephants_3.jpg

My camera seems to be malfunctioning at this stage, refusing to focus or fire and the viewfinder becoming very dark. I feel a growing sense of panic until I remove the battery grip and find it works fine again. Phew.

large_Oxpeckers.jpg

Wherever the buffalo go, the Yellow Billed Oxpeckers follow.

large_Oxpeckers_..ow_Billed_2.jpg

The birds enjoy a symbiotic relationship with the buffalo (as well as other animals here); where the animal provides a 'home' for the birds, while the oxpeckers assist the buffalo by removing the ticks and flies.

large_Oxpeckers_..ow_Billed_4.jpg

large_Swallows.jpg

And in the trees, the Barn Swallows gather.

large_Swallows__Wire_Tailed_1.jpg

large_Swallows__Wire_Tailed_3.jpg

large_Social_Weavers.jpg

So called because they like to live in close proximity to each other, these small birds have filled this tree to beyond recognition with their elaborate nests!

large_Social_Weaver_Nests_1.jpg

large_Social_Weaver_Nests_2.jpg

large_444617BDA9376FD941EE5E49CC075EF1.jpg

This enormous bird stands around 1.5m (5 ft) tall and can weigh up to 19kg (42 lbs).

large_Bustard__Kori_22.jpg

large_Hippo_Pool.jpg

large_Hippo_82.jpg

The pool doesn't just attract hippos, we also see a few birds here:

large_Egret__Cattle_1.jpg
Cattle Egret

large_5224F666E6321C3EB47B567D6992BF61.jpg
African Spoonbills hiding those beautiful beaks of theirs

large_Goose__Egyptian_1.jpg
Egyptian Goose

large_Plover__Blacksmith_1.jpg
Blacksmith Plover

large_454AD9D8D664986805B4376B85298638.jpg
Red Bishop

large_Hammerkop_72.jpg
Hammerkop

large_Ibis__Sacred_81.jpg
Sacred Ibis

large_Eland.jpg

This is one seriously big antelope, standing at around 180cm (6 feet) tall at the shoulders. It is also one of the most skittish of the plains game; mainly as a result of being extensively hunted for their delicious meat.

large_46F80032A395ED23B5159BF8F2969DFB.jpg

As a result they are therefore usually seen running away as soon as we approach, so it makes a very pleasant change to be able to photograph them actually standing still.

large_Eland_5.jpg

large_474550E5BC7A3D3F32CD6DDEF935834C.jpg

The older they get, the greyer they become (just like humans) and the larger the dewlap grows. This guy is a seriously old dude by the looks of it. Notice how all the youngsters stare at us while the old man carries on eating, totally oblivious.

large_47488081DB087CDD2B10C0AE80659553.jpg

large_4780C2D6088D7632165907F62435D42D.jpg

We become a little concerned when we see a baby zebra lying in the middle of the road with no apparent urge to move as we get closer.

large_Zebra_85.jpg

Mum soon arrives on the scene to 'rescue' her little darling...

large_Zebra_86.jpg

... who promptly throws a tantrum. "I don't wanna move!"

large_Zebra_87.jpg

But mum's having none of it and marches him out of harm's way.

large_Zebra_83.jpg
Less than a week old, he is just too adorable!

large_48022F09C3554F9459E3BB2047951512.jpg

In these pictures you can easily see the facial warts that have given this animal its name.

large_Warthog_81.jpg

large_Warthog_83.jpg

large_Ascent.jpg

As we say goodbye to Ngorongoro Crater, I can easily appreciate why it is often dubbed the 8th Wonder of the World.

Once back up on the rim, I can yet again feel the effect of the altitude on my chest. I did have some temporary relief down in the crater, which is over 600m lower than the surrounding area.

large_Ngorongoro_Crater_91.jpg

Coughing madly and struggling to breathe, I curse David for bringing a cold with him on this trip.

large_Ngorongoro_Crater_92.jpg

We take one last look at the crater below before we make our way to our next destination and new adventures.

This amazing experience was made a reality by the wonderful staff at Calabash African Adventures.

large_48804133BEE36D7BFEDDA6FD24FFAFB5.jpg

Posted by Grete Howard 06:56 Archived in Tanzania Tagged elephant africa safari tanzania zebra buffalo lion rhino black_rhino ngorongoro hyena warthog ngorongoro_crater kori_bustard bustard rhinocerous calabash calabash_adventures hammerkop cape_buffalo secretary_bird zebras_fighting giant_tusk long_tusked_elephant

Email this entryFacebookStumbleUpon

Table of contents

Comments

SUPERB photography!

by ADAMYAMEY

Fabulous Blog Grete!! It's really your will power that you made it despite being sick.
Fascinating Pictures!!!

by Goutam Mitra

So glad you had lots of yellow flowers in the crater -- I know they are serious weeds... lol. Such lovely scenes!

by Friedrich von Hörsten

Wonderful photos as always - I especially love the zebras and the old elephant, as well as all the birds

by ToonSarah

Awesome pictures! Are you taking the pictures iun RAW?

by Goutam Mitra

Goutam - yes, I do shoot in RAW, then edit them in Photoshop CS5 and Nik Efex Pro afterwards. Thanks for you kind comments.

Thanks also Adam, Friedrich and Sarah x

by Grete Howard

As always Grete the photos are amazing. And I know how sick you were making the work even more amazing.

by littlesam1

Comments on this blog entry are now closed to non-Travellerspoint members. You can still leave a comment if you are a member of Travellerspoint.

Login