Leaving the Serengeti National Park heading south west to the entrance to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area in Tanzania the road gets a lot more aggressive and the truck bounces viciously up and down. My teeth are beginning to rattle with the movement and the rest of the group are feeling it. This is just what you have to deal with as part of the “real life” adventures that Intrepid Travel offers in Africa. AND……….Its Africa!!!!! Its not a majorly developed nation with sealed roads throughout and all the modern amenities that we “consumers” have grow to know and love.
All of a sudden Phil bounces out of his seat and says stop the truck! Our driver Vinnie stops at the request of our tour leader Julius and reverses up to a left turn with a nice little brick sign that says “Olduvai Gorge” Museum 5kms. This is in the middle of nowhere and if you travel 5kms down this road you will get to the place where it all started. Homo habilis, probably the first early human species, occupied Olduvai Gorge approximately 1.9 million years ago. This people is “The Cradle of Life.” This unexpected stop just to photograph a sign was wonderful. It should be included on the tour that we are doing. We could have spent an hour or two in the museum and it would have been a highlight for sure.
Now in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area traditional Masai housing starts to become the norm and tribesmen are herding their famous cattle across the plains. The traditional dress is wonderful to see and I find it amazing that these tough, robust people still choose to live a simple life on the land and share it with some the best predators on earth. I am sure they have a healthy respect for the animals, however the animals surely think differently about that.
As we start to ascend out of the plains we come across a larger Masai settlement where a multitude of people are sitting on the side of the road we are on. They are simply sitting and chatting away from the village and then Julius explains they are waiting for tourists to come past to peddle their traditional wares for a buck.
At the top of the rise we turn left into a car park (its a dust bowl) and jump out of the truck. we are now standing on the edge of the Ngorongoro Crater an it is truly an incredible sight. This massive hole in the ground is an absolute playground for the wildlife that live at the bottom of it. It is 260 kilometres square and is an inactive volcanic caldera. Tomorrow we will descend into the crater for a game drive to see if we can spot the extremely rare and almost extinct Black Rhino. Tonight we camp on the rim of the volcano along with about two hundred other safari crazy tourists who have turned out for exactly the same reason we have.
As the morning sun peaks over the rim we are already awake and having breakfast, packing tents, making lunches and generally preparing for the game drive. Three 4×4’s with safari turrets turn up ready to accommodate our group and we head off to the crater. Slowly submerging into the crater the wildlife begins t appear with Hyena, a Jackal or two and a few Warthogs. Has anyone ever noticed that Warthogs look like the singers from most 1980’s heavy metal bands? Just sayin’!
Approaching the first waterhole there is a small herd of buffalo present and just knee deep in the water. They ignore any intrusion that we attempt as I am sure we are just an annoyance in their playground. We approach the flatlands and begin to drive through the main part of the crater. This is a truly magical experience and standing up looking out of the turret is how this should be done. Off in the distance I spot a very large bull elephant; about 1.5 kms away from us. this big fella is enormous.
I could write about this place for hours and still not completely describe how amazing it really is. This for me was the highlight of the first week. Spectacular is only one of the words that I choose to describe this place. I just one waterhole there were thirty species of animals and about twenty five bird species including pink pelicans. Just wonderful……….what an experience.
And……..it wouldn’t be complete without the “Silhouette Giraffe Sunset” photograph…….