Today has been my favorite.
We woke early for a long drive across the Serengeti to the Ngorogoro Crater, and had just settled into the safari car when I noticed some gazelle bouncing along to the right of the road. Then Zoe yelled, “Cheetahs!” and sure enough there were three – one as a leader giving chase to the gazelle. They followed the gazelle across the road in front of us and then the two rear ones slowed to a walk and plopped down in the shade just past us. The front runner chased quite far at top speed before giving up and returning to the others next to the car. It was so fast and crazy we barely had time to pop up the roof and take a picture. An incredible start to the day, and something I never thought I’d see in person.
We stood watching for a long time as the front runner plopped with the others in a shady patch and they all panted and took a nap. Eventually we moved on, but stayed up and ready. Just over a rise past the cheetahs were a big group of hyenas just at the edge of the road munching on something dead! Again we stopped in awe at their crazy sounds and the bone crunching! Danny our driver said it was likely the cheetah’s first meal of the day which they stole.
From there we moved on to the central park of the part where we saw all kinds of animals having an early morning drink at the creek. Lions and hyenas, warthogs and hippos, plus lots of wandering herbivores. We drove on and on across the grasslands and came upon a wandering lone lioness coming toward us on the road! Then two fuzzy mained lions walking along. Seemed the whole planes were awake early.
After that it was a long long drive out of the park, across the scrubland, through the Maasai area again and up to the crater edge. Now there was no cloud and we could see the immensity of the crater and our dirt road route steeply down the inside edge to the valley floor below. We had a quick lunch stop before driving through the crater valley. It is so very full of animals! I’m glad we came here after seeing the Serengeti as it was so easy to spot everything across the flat crater floor. The concentration of animals is immense. We saw some flamingos on the central lake, and even spotted a black rhino from the binoculars! My favorite, though, was the hippos again. They were so active and crazy; using their tales to spray poo all over the place, fighting over space, and making wild grunking sounds. It was a beautiful place to see. We were able to get out at a lakeside picnic area with more hippos coming up and down in the water, and finally got a family picture taken!
The road up and out was just as steep as the one down as it left the dry crater floor up into the cloud forest again. On the way to our hotel, Bryan asked Danny to stop at a small carving stand where the kids were able to try their hand at carving some ebony and we learned how the Makonde tribespeople are the experts. Bryan has been looking at carved warthogs the whole trip, and finally found the right one. Both the kids also bought some small carvings with part of their $10 we gave them.
For the night, we stayed at the fancy Endoro lodge a second time; had two rooms so Zoe and I shared and enjoyed a long soak in the huge hot tub in our suite. Again, it was very fancy, the food was tasty, and the sleeping comfortable. Avi made a special friend with one of the waiters during our stay 2 days ago, and Hussein was their again so they had fun teasing each other about taking Avi’s wolfy.
Zoe’s Animal List Day #4 (Serengeti and Nogorogoro)
- cheetahs chasing gazelle
- thompsons gazelle
- water buffalo
- lions on the road
- guinea foul
- grants gazelle
- crowned cranes
- sacred ibis
- black rhino