|Ray of sunshine beams upon Ngorongoro's Lake Magadi|
The temperature plummeted quickly as soon as the sun dipped below nearby peaks. All through the night and well into early morning, I lay ensconced in my toasty sleeping bag. Up in the rim of Ngorongoro Crater where we've camped, things can get even below freezing. But we've got more animals to see. So I peeled myself away from my bag and into a morning warm bath - quiet a treat really given how basic our campsite looked.
The Ngorongoro Crater is in and of itself worth visiting even without animals residing there. As the center piece of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, this UNESCO World Heritage site has piqued my curiosity a long time ago when I heard it is the world's largest unbroken volcanic caldera.
|The visible line in the crater wall is one of the access roads to the floor|
After a quick brekkie and preparing our own packed lunches, we all boarded safari vehicles that will bring us down the crater floor. Our big Intrepid truck would have to stay as its not allowed below. Through a misty early morning, our convoy of 4 stretched Land Cruisers carefully navigated the narrow dirt road as it went further down. Lake Magadi glistened in the distance. Our excitement sparked like wildfire.
|A pride of lion|
|Watching a pod of hippos|
The view on the way down was incredible - the skies were clearing up, allowing a stream of sunlight going through and straight into Lake Magadi with its resident flamingos. Only upon reaching the floor itself did we actually feel the immensity of its breadth. We could barely see the walls of the caldera opposite to where we were.
But one thing was clear: this is where animals rule. Hardly had we moved and there was already wildlife in our midst. Our Tanzanian driver/guide fired away with his naturalist thoughts. The whole morning was devoted to this experience and both he and Ngorongoro did not disappoint. There were wildebeests, hartebeests, zebras, gazelles, buffaloes, hippos, warthogs, baboons, hyenas, lions, various birds and a distant view of one rare rhinoceros.
Considering how big its neighboring park is, it's amazing to think Ngorongoro's animals all live within the confines of such a space. The resident lions - and there's so many of them we saw - are reportedly bigger than anywhere else because they have plentiful meat in their playground. To see a hyena spying a herd of wildebeest or a pride of lions tracking buffaloes made this experience more incredible.
We drove further and further away until we finally reached the very edge of the opposite wall where a dusty exit road led us up into a forested patch of the crater rim. It's past noon as we reached a viewpoint and we felt the heat of the day even though we're back in the highland again - which was short but sweet.
Soon after, we barreled down into the park's main gate where other safari vehicles are entering for that afternoon's game drive.