Monday, 2 November 2009

Ngorongoro Crater

It’s cold and damp when we wake. Cloud clings to the crater rim, dampening the ground and our fly sheets. Again, we set off at 6.30am for our morning game drive and our steep descent into the crater. We inch our way along the vertiginous road that leads down to the crater floor. Once on the crater floor, our game drive begins.

As we drive a pride of lions suddenly emerge from the bush. They are young lionesses with cubs of different ages. One cub looks quite young, his feet too large for his body, another has started to grow a mane. They emerge from the undergrowth, blissfully unaware of the 4x4s filling with tourists and impossibly large zoom lenses.

They walk up to the cars and trucks, brushing against them as they make their way to their new resting place. The cubs jostle and scrap, a lioness clambers into a tree before dismounting again, another cub playfully gives chase to an unsuspecting guinea fowl. They make their way shamelessly along the vehicle track and there is nothing that can be done but to watch, enjoy and give way to these stunning creatures.

Later, we approach a soda lake where a lion sunbathes gracelessly on its back, in the water hippos sit and do very little, the odd white egret stood on their backs clearing parasites.

As we leave another lake we see a couple of hippos running, their large backsides waddling as they go. We pass an elephant graveyard – an area of tender grasses that elephants come to spend their days when their six sets of teeth are completely worn down. Elephant skulls lie about the place, the ivory tusks already collected and stored by the rangers to prevent poaching and trading.

Our final sight as we made our way to the road that leaves the crater is a lame, matted hyena hobbling along by the side of the road. It accidently stumbles into the path of a large male ostrich which takes offence and gives chase. The hyena limps pathetically away, lying down out of kicking distance of the ostrich. Senguru, our guide , sighs and says ‘nature will have her way’. From young cubs, elephants and hartebeest to dead zebras and dying hyenas, we got to see the entire circle of life played out before our eyes over two magnificent days in the Serengeti.

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