Monday, August 04, 2014

African Adventure: Tanzania - Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area

June 22nd

We left Lake Manyara and made our way to the Ngorongoro Crater or caldera. We were scheduled to visit a school this day but, since it was Sunday and it was winter vacation, the school was not open. Our guide suggested going to an orphanage. Our tour company, along with most others, always have some charitable visit scheduled. We discussed it amongst ourselves and decided not to visit an orphanage. There would be other opportunities to give back on this trip.

We stopped at the entrance to the Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area. We stopped and walked through the small museum and gift shop. "I ♥ Warthogs" stickers were bought.  There is a story behind those stickers.  Everyone in our party fell in love with the warthogs.  We loved how their tails stuck straight up when they ran.  Warthogs have terrible memories and, while being chased by a predator, will often forget what it was doing and stop to eat ... just to be eaten itself.  We started telling people "don't be a warthog" when they would forget things.
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The Ngorongoro Caldera.
The Ngorongoro Crater is actually a caldera.  It was formed when a volcano collapsed in on itself forming a large caldera.  The caldera walls keep the animals inside relatively isolated with few coming in or out.  Our first stop was to a view point where we could see the entirety of the caldera.  The clouds were low this day but we still had magnificent views.  In a way the hazy sunshine gave it an ethereal quality.
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The floor of the Ngorongoro Caldera.
Our last stop of the day was our camp, located high on the caldera rim.  The camp consisted in ten canvas tents with one large eating/lounging tent.  These tents were not as nice as our Maasai Mara Lodge tents.  This camp was mobile.  The tents, while quite nice (definitely glamping) they did not have electric outlets or hot water on demand.  There were lights, a sink, and a toilet.  The toilet could only be flushed every fifteen minutes or so due to lack of water pressure.  There was no WIFI.  The comfortable king size bed made up for the mild inconveniences.
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The acacia tree canopy over our camp.
We ate lunch upon our arrival and spent the rest of the day relaxing in camp.  The whole compound was set up under the canopies of tall acacia trees.  There were flowering plants along the trail between the tents.  When it got dark a fire was lit near the main eating tent.  We were warned of possible encounters with wildlife in the camp.  To insure our safety, a couple Maasai Warriors escorted us to and from our tent after dark.
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The flat topped acacia forest where our camp was located.
After a magnificent dinner we all went to bed.  We all had been showering in the evening but we were all put off a bit about the showers in our tents.  We had to request that water be delivered and the hot water would be limited.  We all ended up not showering this night.  It turned out to be a silly thing really.

June 23rd

We woke up the next day to the sound of water pitter patting on the outside of the tent.  It sounded like the rain was coming down pretty hard.  I looked at the Wife and groaned.  We'd been lucky with the weather up to this point.  It was obviously cold in our tent and it was pouring outside.  I was not looking forward to a cold rainy safari drive.
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Our first mature male lion.
We got up and dressed and unzipped the tent.  Outside were a Maasai Warrior and an attendant with umbrellas.  As we walked to the main tent I realized that the ground really wasn't that wet.  I looked around as we walked along the trail and realized it really wasn't raining at all.  There was a low cloud/fog hanging over the caldera this morning.  Water was condensing on the acacia tree leaves above us and the water/dew was dripping on the tent.  After realizing this our moods lightened up.
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Cape buffalo.
We had a great breakfast with the weird white eggs (the scrambled eggs looked like scrabbled egg whites but they were made with the whole egg) we got back into our jeep and drove down into the caldera.  We were still short a leopard sighting so we kept our eyes open.
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A spooked zebra jumps.
All the guides/drivers had radios in their jeeps.  They were constantly sharing information about what they had seen and where different animals could be found.  We saw lions, cape buffalo, flamingos, secretary birds, zebra, and hippopotamus.  We saw a black rhinoceros but it was so far away ... my pictures could either be a rhinoceros or Sasquatch.  We also saw a leopard ... our first ... but it was in tall grass and the pictures I took really didn't show anything except the top of its back.  We spent all day in the caldera and ate a picnic lunch in the light drizzle next to a large pond with hippopotamus wallowing around.
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A black rhinoceros ... or a Sasquatch ... not sure.
That night we enjoyed more bush TV (the fire pit) and had a delicious dinner.  We asked to meet the chef and we were taken back to the kitchen tent.  The entire dinner (there were about twelve staying at the camp) was cooked on a five burner stove and an oven.  All the food was fresh or frozen in one of two large freezer chests.  We were amazed that so many servings could be made and sent out together from such a limited kitchen.  We thanked the chef who seemed truly happy to see us - I don't think many people ask to see him or thank him.
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Hippopotamus sticking their noses out.
After dinner we all gave in and took a shower.  The shower, which we would come to call the "talking shower" went like this.  You made an appointment for a shower.  When you entered the bathroom area of the tent you would hear the talking shower ask "Are you ready for your shower?"  "Yes" we said, and he would respond "It will be ready in a minute."  You would hear the attendant lower the large canvas bag, empty the cold water and fill it with hot water, then raise the bag back up after which he would say "Your shower is ready."  The shower had a pull chain to turn the water on and off.  I was pleasantly surprised how long the shower lasted.  After the water ran out you would hear the talking shower ask "Are you ready for the next bucket?"  He would refill the bucket and the other would shower.  After the second shower was done the talking shower would ask if we were done and would wish us a good night.

Tomorrow we would visit a Maasai village and move on to the Serengeti.

Pictures of the Ngorongoro Caldera, the flowers and trees in our camp, and the wildlife encountered can be found in my Tanzania 2014 Flickr album.

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