Following our three nights in the Serengeti, we headed for the famous Ngorongoro Crater where we were to spend our last night and day on Safari. The crater pictured below is the remnants of an old volcano which collapsed inward on itself more than 2.5 million years ago, following a major eruption. It is worth noting that it is this same eruption that is responsible for the Serengeti plains today. When the volcano erupted, much of the ash was carried westward and settled where the Serengeti savannah currently resides. When the ash settled, heavy rains cemented the ash to create a hard, clay-like layer which remains to this day just a few meters under the surface. It is because of this layer that larger shrubs and trees cannot survive in the grasslands, not being able to sink their roots deep enough for the dry season. Consequently, you are left with grass filled plains as far as the eye can see.
The descent into the crater feels like a descent into an ancient world untouched by time, que the Jurassic Park soundtrack. Surrounded by high cliffs on all sides, the crater is 264 km2 of lush grasslands, patches of dense forest, and seasonal lakes and streams. Many of the same species that call the Serengeti home also live in the crater, just on a smaller scale. Everything from Wildebeest, to hippos, to hyenas, the crater has it all!
One of the coolest sightings on the trip so far came when we saw a herd of buffalo, at least a hundred strong, acting a little strange. We drove closer to investigate. Upon further inspection, we discovered that the buffalo were chasing away a pair of lions who had wandered too close to their young. Having decided the trouble was no longer worth it, the pair of lions searched for some shade to recuperate in. Our land rover, providing the only shadow for miles around, was the obvious choice. Before we knew it, the duo waltzed right over to our vehicle and plopped down in the shade to relax. The result, one of the coolest animal encounters I’ve had in my life.
Following the close encounter with the lions, we headed over to the lake region to see what we could find. As if the crater hadn’t been good enough to us already, it provided us with a rare sighting of the Black Rhino — talk about a cherry on the cake! The Black Rhino, up until this point, was the only one of the Big Five we had yet to see. Our list was now complete! Although it was far away, I managed to combine new technology with old by holding my phone up to my binoculars and snapping the pic above. Thus concluded our five day safari, we could not have ended on a better note. Special thanks to our Range Rover drivers Samuel and Julius, our excellent camp crew, wildlife expert Kaiza, Activities Coordinator Oscar, and Academic Advisor Dr. Oliver for ensuring our excursion was a success!
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