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Ngorongoro Crater

Game Drive

After a chilly night camping on the rim of Ngorongoro Crater, we fled our large overland truck to explore the interior of the crater from more maneuverable open top jeeps. A steep, windy descent led to the crater’s base, with a nice sunrise streaking through the clouds on our way in. In the bottom was the Garden of Eden, with all types of climates and animals. We first headed along Lake Magadi, with the normal zebras, warthogs, and wildebeests. We then entered a forested area, which contained a unique species of African elephant with long tusks, although we did not see any. The base of the trees in the forest were very odd, completely covered in small, gnarly bumps for the first several meters. I was not sure what caused the abrasions — damage from elephants?

A lion tearing a wildebeest apart

Lions eating

We emerged from the forest into grasslands. We investigated a traffic jam of jeeps to find one of the highlights of our entire safari — three lionesses feasting on a dead wildebeest about ten meters from the road. The lions lazily chomped on the dead animals, licking and chewing the carcass. Not until one the more dominate lioness finished her meal did the next one in the pecking order take its place, tearing at the captured prey. I could hear the bones cracking as they ate. This entire time a couple jackals circled the feast at a safe distance, looking for an opportunity to grab some scraps. Their chance never arose while we were there though. The jackals once got close enough to get dirty looks from the lions, which caused the jackals to back off.

From the grasslands where the lions dined it was only a short drive to an entirely different landscape — an oasis of green plants and water. Many variety of animals hung out by the watering hole, including a hyena walking amongst many zebras. The zebras ignored the intruder though since there was only a single predator. A pod of hippos stood on land among reeds while another group swam in the water. We had an early lunch next to the pond and hippos before continuing to explore the crater.

Ngoitokitok Picnic Area

We were soon back in the dry plains seeing the range of animals that inhabit the crater. We came across more stopped jeeps next to lions, although this time the animals were copulating. During mating periods, lions do their act often, although for very short periods of time. After a couple minute wait the lions got up, did their dance, and finally got down to business. Watching them was a little weird, especially with so many people looking on, half of which were clicking away with their cameras.

After climbing out of the crater we stopped at a lookout with amazing views back into the crater, highlighting its massive size and diverse environments — wet swamps, forests, and dry plains — all in this one caldera.

Animals inside the Ngorongoro Crater

Courting lions
Zebras next to Lake Magadi
Hyena walking among zebras

Meserani Snake Park

That night we stayed at Meserani Snake Park, a tourist camp which helps the local community by running a market and clinic. The spot was hopping, with five or six other overland trucks there. We ate a very good dinner prepared by the camp cooks, while we recounted our trip and said our goodbyes. Post dinner we hung out at the camp’s very busy bar, which was choked full of partying young kids from the other overland trucks, talking each other up for tent swapping. I hung out mostly with people from my tour and had a good time.

The next day was just driving back to Nairobi, although we did get a distant, hazy view of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Back in Kenya’s capital, the traffic was horrendous, taking over an hour to cover the last five kilometers to camp. I lounged around all afternoon and evening at the lodge in Nairobi, struggling to stay awake until my ride to the airport for my 1 a.m. flight. It was the start of one of the most inefficient ways to Jerusalem, taking an almost twenty-four hour, circular route via Cairo and Istanbul, until I finally arrived for my pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Cheap airplane tickets are awesome!