On Safari in Tanzania: Ngorongoro Crater

Posted on 2 April 2013

It was with great anticipation that I rose early to pack up the tent and start up the Safari Drive vehicle. The reason? Today, I was to visit one of the most iconic wildlife areas in Africa, the world-famous Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania- the world’s largest unbroken volcanic caldera. We gingerly drove around the dreadful road on the crater rim in the dark, arriving at the western descent road.  The sun was beginning to rise, and in the low light we saw clouds below the crater rim reflected in the cool waters of Lake Magadi. The steep descent was slippery but as the road flattened out, ahead of us huge flocks of flamingos stained the Lake pink.

Flamingo stain Lake Magadi pink

The immediate thing that strikes you about the crater floor, is just how flat and open it is.  Scanning around us with binoculars gave views of cast herds of wildebeest and zebra in the distance, in every direction.  All of a sudden, I felt very small in this vast landscape, enclosed by the towering crater walls.  To our left, as we started our drive of the crater floor, a clan of hyenas were busy rushing around, perhaps in one last attempt to find food before the rising sun returned them to their dens to sleep.

Clans of hyena were seen throughout the crater

Gradually the crater started to fill with vehicles, and given the openness of the landscape, there was no escaping them.  One benefit to all these vehicles rushing around ,however, is the chance to know where the best sightings are.  One group of cars led us to two large male lions, although they were far from the road and we were able to observe them through binoculars.  But this line of cars was nothing in comparison to the gridlock that was forming ahead.  Pulling up we discovered black rhino marching through the grass, stopping occasionally to enjoy the grasses.

Two black rhino march over the hill and straight towards us

For the rest of the morning we traversed this incredible landscape, encountering many, many hyenas, more lions, more rhino and a wealth of other species.

Just moments after birth

A young male lion looks out across the plain

A large elephant bull stands alone in the morning light

The ubiquitous wildebeest

Hyena active in the heat of the day in search of food

I have to confess that I am not sure the Crater quite lived up to expectations. Whilst an impressive location to see animals, most of our sightings were distant from the road, so quality of viewing has definitely been experienced better elsewhere to be honest.  What is frustrating is that because the land is so open, you can often see animals, just not close enough to really be able to observe their behaviour.  Its probably a location that you need to visit several times, however the cost is prohibitive.  And so, whilst I am glad I have visited, I will be unlikely to return.  Later in the day we drove north to Ndutu on yet more horrendous roads, surrounded by towering dust devils and into rain filled skies …

Experience the mighty Ngorongoro Crater for yourself on one of these travel packages to Tanzania with Getaway Adventures.

Looking for a place to stay while you’re visiting Ngorongoro Crater? Check out these accommodation options.

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