We were awakened at 5am, when Samuel brought us a tray with coffee and hot chocolate. We scrambled to get ready. Thanks to good planning by Mark Thornton, we stayed at Lemala Tented Camp inside the Ngorongoro park, so it was a very short drive to the gate. At opening time – 6am – we were the first and only safari vehicles to drop down into the crater.
We were the only ones there as the sun came up. The area inside the crater is huge (260 sq. miles /100 sq km), and once inside we looked around, and had the impression that we were in the bottom of a large bowl. The escarpment rose up about 2,000 feet on all sides around us. Twenty-five thousand animals live in the crater, and we hoped to see a few – and spend some time watching them. (By the way, technically, the “bowl” is not a crater but rather the world’s largest inactive, intact, and unfilled caldera. We had many good sightings of animals as they began their day. Jo spotted three little lion cubs only a few feet back from the road, hidden by their mother in tall grass. Chagamba explained that their mother was out hunting and would only return after she’d eaten. A lion can go up to five days without eating, but, then, even with lion cubs to leave behind, she will have to go out to get food so she can nurse the cubs and survive.
We drove slowly and spotted more animals that day than we thought possible. Here are just a few:
By lunchtime, too many vehicles had gathered on the road. Mika and Chagamba, our guides, tried to maneuver our Land Rovers around the congested roads. In early afternoon, we finally we got caught in a traffic jam. Two lions lounged by the side of the road. Everyone wanted to watch.
We backed away and made our escape. Experienced planning, great guides, and good luck combined for one of our best travel days ever. June 2014