Friday, October 1, 2010

Ngorongoro Crater

Ngorongoro Crater
            Today we went to Ngorongoro Crater, which is the largest caldera in the world. Here is some background on the crater… It is part of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, which is a 8300 km2 multi land use area. Major features of the NCA include the crater itself, which is 350 km2, a few other craters, Olduvai Gorge, the Alaitole foot prints, and lots of open plains that house both wildlife and Maasai. It was really cool to see boys grazing cattle across the road from a herd of zebra. About 2.5 million years ago the Ngorongoro volcano erupted and 2 million years ago the volcano collapsed, leaving the crater. Now the crater is home to tons of wildlife; the NCA is not an enclosed area, so animals are able to move freely. Some species (e.g. giraffe) aren’t found within the crater, though, because the rim is very steep and about 600 meters high. It was exciting to arrive at the rim and look down on the crater, and the trek into and out of the crater was steep and bumpy in our land rovers.
Grant's Gazelle in the Crater
            So this morning we all woke up early to have breakfast and leave the camp at 6:30am. When we first arrived in the NCA, we went to the NCA headquarters where we heard a talk given by the manager for ecological monitoring within the conservation area. It was a really interesting talk and it got us all excited about how close we were to seeing wildlife! It was actually quite cold this morning, and the rim of the crater was windy and foggy. Once we drove down into the crater it got sunnier, but it was windy all day and we got so so dusty! You get especially covered in dust if you put on sunscreen, so a bunch of us looked like we climbed out of a coalmine by the end of the day.

            Our drive through the crater was really fun, as all safari rides are! We saw many herds of wildebeest, zebra, African buffalo, and gazelle. Also warthog, hartebeest, ostrich, hippos, hyenas, and a few elephants. The highlight of our day was seeing lions, though! We were told over the car radios that we would find a pride of lions at a creek, and as we were driving over we got to see a female lion stalking wildebeest. That was my first time to ever see a lion! She didn’t make a kill, but after she gave up on the chase she walked across the road about 2 meters from our car! We got to see 4 cubs, two females, and a male lounging by a creek. They were all panting and trying to stay cool. Two of the cubs lay down under another safari car for a while!
It was awesome to watch them move – they are so powerful and graceful. As we were driving away from the lions we realized that our car had a flat tire. Sooo, our driver Moses and the student affairs manager, Erica, changed our tire as we sat in the car 75 meters from the lions! We weren’t allowed to get out of the car so we were on lion watch, instructed to warn Moses if they got to be 4 meters away. Moses was so calm and nonchalant, while all of us were bursting with excitement (and Erica was expressing some anxiety – she is such a good mom to us!).
            We saw more lions though out the day as well – there were 3 males napping at the entrance of the ladies room when we stopped for lunch, so we had to drive the car up really close to the men’s side. It was overall a really lucky day for lion sightings. Now, as far as big cats go, I’ve seen cheetahs and lions! We were a bit sad to not see any Black Rhino today, as a healthy population is found in the crater. I’m hoping we’ll have a chance to observe some in the Serengeti, we go there next Saturday for a week long expedition. Our main focus there will be a wildebeest population survey. So excited! It is amazing how quickly the last month has gone by. It is already October and we have 3 exams this week!

Badai (later), Catherine

1 comment:

  1. Catherine! This sounds AMAZING!!!!

    Do you have the Lion King soundtrack stuck in your head like all the time?