DESCENDING INTO THE NGORONGORO CRATER
Breakfast officially started at 6:30 AM, but we were to have an early start and had requested our meal at 6:00 AM. We were out the door and on our way to pick up the rest of our group a half an hour later. Today was our last day on safari and our second to last day in Tanzania. We were going to descend the 2,000 feet deep caldera to the floor of the Ngorongoro Crater. The road down is one-way, very steep, and requires a four-wheel drive vehicle.
Descending into the crater, it was immediately obvious that we were heading into another unique environment. After a few turns, the crater opened up before us and it was truly awe-inspiring. Perfectly straight dirt roads traversed the crater for as far as the eye could see. Lakes surrounded by lush marsh dotted the landscape. Animals, looking like small dots, could be seen roaming across the valley.
We came to an unexpected halt close to the crater floor. A small pride of lions, who had been heading up the side of the road, had stopped to relax right next to us! So far on our safari, we had seen a lot of female or very young male lions. This was our first opportunity to see a male lion!
THE NGORONGORO CRATER FLOOR
What shocked me most about the Ngorongoro Crater was the sheer number of animals in close proximity. In the Serengeti we could drive for a considerable amount of time and not see any animals. In The Ngorongoro Crater, everywhere we look there was another group of animals.
About one hour into our time in the Ngorongoro Crater, our guide turned off the main road and headed toward the crater wall. After a few minutes we started up a road leading to the top of a small hill. Now, earlier on I had talked to our guide about wanting to see the elusive black rhino. There are only 26 rhinos in the park and they are known for staying far away from humans. Apparently, our guide had a tip that a rhino could be seen from the top of the hill. His tip was accurate! There in the distance I could see a black rhino! Sadly, it was too far away for me to be able to take a picture.
Descending the hill, we entered a more lush part of the crater.
Continuing through this part of the crater floor, we eventually reached one of the lakes.
THE ROAD BACK TO MOSHI
After lunch, we headed up and out of the Ngorongoro Crater and started the incredibly long drive back to Moshi.
After hours of driving, we stopped in Arusha for a quick break. There was a street vendor in the car park barbecuing goat and other meats. Never being one to pay any attention to warnings about street food (some of the best food is street food), I decided to get a few skewers of goat. It was absolutely delicious!