5777 km from from Cape Town
Our organised guide arrived early in a stretch Land Cruiser and we set off for the onamatipoeacally named Ngorongoro crater. Popular narrative has it, that the place is so named for the sound the rattles make that the Masaai attach to the fore-legs of their beloved cattle.
The journey takes awhile and is scenic and steep as you climb up the edge of part of the Great Rift and now for the first time we encountered tourists, all heading in the same direction because this road leads to Ngorongoro and also on to the great Serengeti.
The twisted and muddy road is thickly surrounded by lush green forest and eventually we got to the the modern and organised park entrance, the car park of which was full of land cruisers like ours packed with chattering Europeans all dressed in designer safari khaki and clutching expensive cameras with half-meter lenses.
Feeling a little subdued by so many people after not having to share much of our journey with anyone but friendly locals we hung around our vehicle while our guide got the paperwork sorted out.
We got going again and ground our way up the edge of this extraordinary piece of geography till we were at the rim and stopped at alookout point. It was misty unfortunately but the promise of the view was evident as the mist swirled revealing the sight below.
The crater is about 20 kms across and 600 m deep and is dotted with small lakes and from that height appeared treeless with tiny dots of animal herds.
Easing down the very steep entrance road which is thickly wooded it was eveident that the crater floor is virtually treeless and the herds seen from above turned out to be Masaai cattle herds which co-exist with herds of wildebeest and zebra.
Once we reached the crater floor proper, the strangeness of this environment is evident. The crater sides are too steep and jungled for the animals to leave and so they all graze peacefully and seemingly oblivous to the tourist vehicles that criss-cross the area.
Without scrub to hide in all the animals are easy to spot.
On the main road to the lake we saw one humped camels. This was a reminder that the Arab influence had been in Tanzania and seemed anachronistic. At the accommodation a small red waxbill was seen, building it’s nest in the palm thatch roof, unafraid of humans. An iridescent blue kingfisher greeted us on arrival under the perfect African sun. Strange sonar like sounds were heard at dinner which proved to be bats in the rafters. Garth’s comment,