Ngorongoro Crater - The big cats come out to play
Jun 24, 2005
|The eventful game drive in Lake Manyara National Park had stoked our excitement further making us eager to get to Ngorongoro crater, infamous for its variety of animals.
Although the drive between the 2 parks wasn't long, the heavy rainsmade the ascent to the crater rim a muddy and weary climb.Jeeps and trucks snaked in a convoy up the winding path. Occassionally getting stuck in the mud. Luckily the rain and fog cleared as we began our descent into the crater floor.
We were met by 4 tourists heads popping out of their jeep's roof, binoculars in hand, positioned so as to resemble meer cats scanning the horizon. On approaching we were urgently waved into silence as murmurings of lion sightings escaped their lips. Scanning the field several times we were just about to give up when a lioness flickered into view through the grass. Excited at our first lion sightings we eagerly watched, squinting through binoculars so as not to loose sight of the family for a second. An hour later we'd eaten our lunches and still there had been minimal movement.
Disheartened we left the meer cats and lions still in position and drove deeper into the crater.
Mtaki's (our guide/driver) wildlife spotting tactics have been perfected over his 20 years of employment - if you see a group of jeeps parked in one place, there must be something exciting to see. Not altogether an incorrect theory as we managed to spot a lone black rhino, hippos wallowing in mud and plenty of lions this way.
Our second lion encounter was much more productive than the first glimpses. Arriving at a jeep filled spot just as everyone was leaving, wethought we'd missed all the action. 5 minutes later 2 adult lionesses with 4 young male lions strolled out of the undergrowth. We followed as the young males cautiously walked behind the adults, coming to a stop when they sat down. Content to just watch the group and take advantage of the photo opportunity, our hypnotic gaze was broken as the group made its way past the jeep. We were astounded at how close the lions got. The young males would playfully stop by the jeep before strutting past, towards an open area of grass. They didn't appear bothered by the jeeps or the snap happy tourists within them, each one at a loss for words.
We left the lions moments later as they stood at a respectable distance away from a water buffalo. Each animal knew the strength of the other and as a result kept their distance.
Arriving at the lodge that evening, we settled into the sofas at the bar gazing out over the views of the crater. The log fires provided much needed warmthas we swapped stories with a family we'd met in the tented lodge at Lake Manyara.They were more intrigued about our travels than the animals we'd seen!
We returned to the crater floor the following morning, taking in all the sights of zebras, wildebeest, warthogs and pink flamingoes as we prepared to leave for the Serengeti. On our way out, we spotted a lone elephant striding through the crater in a rush to get somewhere. Following him for some photos, Kiran spotted a cheetah in the distance. It was an extremely lucky find as we witnessed the cheetah stalk and then pounce on a baby wildebeest. It was definately one of the fastest animal we'd seen in action. Much faster than Neha when she's spotted chocolate! Videoing the scene we felt like we were watching a documentary, pinching ourselves to check the reality of it.
Leaving the cheetah to enjoy its kill we drove on, only to find our path blocked by another group of lions. Waiting for them to move - it's actually a national parks rule that the animals have the right of way - we discovered that they were stalking a herd of wildebeests. A few failed attack attempts later we were forced to leave, racing against the clock as our 24 hour permit was about to expire.
The sights within Ngorongoro crater have exceeded our expectations but also raised our viewing standards. Unsure what to expect of the Serengeti, we hope it will be the explosive finale to a successful safari so far. We have 2 days tro cover the vast distances in search for more viewing excitement.