10/4: Descent into the crater.
I still haven’t caught up with all of my Tarangire adventures (and in only two days— I can’t imagine what four weeks is going to be like!), but since I only had one day to explore Ngorogoro this week, it might just fit nicely into a blog post.
Since I’m here with the rest of my family and my week break was ending, this was their last day of wazungu safari (and my last day living in luxury before heading back out to student accomodations). This also means that they were less interested in the squeakybirds I’m so fond of and looking for the last two of the big five to add to their list: lion and rhino.
It started out as a very cold morning, and on the descent to the crater we saw plenty of familiar avian faces as well as some new ones. Speckled and Blue-naped Mousebirds flitted across the road as they fled our vehicle, while a lovely Cape Robin-Chat gave us a little show as we passed through the park gate. We soon started on the steep downhill, plunging from montane forest to open savannah, and I got to watch as the tree-dwelling birds were replaced by larks, pipits, buntings, and wagtails. It was actually quite reminiscent of plunging into the grasslands back home in Colorado!
No sooner than we had breached the savannah, a new face appeared: Spotted Hyena! Two burly females marched along the road, and one definitely looked pregnant. It wasn’t til long that we also saw some more mammals emerging— huge masses of Thompson’s and Grant’s Gazelles milling about with Wildebeest, Zebra, and African Cape Buffalo.
Nothing compared to my initial excitement when I saw a massive bird near the road, however. I recognized it immediately— a Kori Bustard, which is the heaviest flying animal alive! And these bustards are hilarious, too. Later we saw a displaying male— they fluff up their necks like a balloon and raise their tail like a deer as they strut their stuff!
There definitely weren’t as many birds around as there were at Tarangire, which was sad. But we kept driving on for a very-distant sighting of a Cheetah and even a Black Rhinoceros at the water hole! There are only about 30 rhinos left in Ngorogoro, so that was an awesome sighting.
The best was our third lion sighting of the day, where a pregnant female was just chillin’ right by the road! Very neat.
The quality of this post went way downhill because I saved as draft midway through and now I’m lazy and about to leave the internets… Whoops