Before heading home from the epic Kili climb, we factored in a day of safari. Why not more? Well, since Kate was not at all interested in climbing Kili but is keen on safari, we knew we would be back in Africa another day. But rather than not do any, I decided I really wanted to do one good day, and so CC suggested Ngorongoro Crater. Nic had rejoined us in Arusha by this point after her trip to Zanzibar so we had the gang together for a big day of safari before we head of on our separate ways.
Max our safari guide picked us up at 6:30am and off it was on a 2.5hr drive to the crater.
Ngorongoro Crater is also known as “the Garden of Eden” because of the abundance of wildlife that lives in there and co-exists (to a degree). The crater is not small… it is about 8000 square km and has the “big 5” in there (Elephants, Lions, Rhinos, Buffalo and Leopards) as well as bunch of other animals. And given the amount of animals and density, we were pretty much guaranteed to see most (not necessarily all of them). So for my one day of safari this seemed like a good one.
We arrived at the entrance of the park and stretched the legs while Max sorted our paperwork out. All around the entrance were baboons, eager to hassle the visitors. Max gave us the warning to keep the doors and windows closed and I could see why. They certainly seemed cheeky.
While at the stop I look over at another jeep. You are kidding… it was Tony from Kili! And Filipe! Ha! Could we not get rid of these guys! What a nice surprise to see them after our day off the mountain. They spent their free day doing another safari while CC and I had done not much of anything. We only had time for a quick chat before it was back into the jeep and up and down into the crater.
I could see why animals don’t really go in and out of the crater… the walls were quite steep and took a bit of work. And given the amount of jeeps on the roads in the morning and evening, I guess the animals just think it best to stay in there (why wouldn’t you?).
As we drove on the path Max slowed down and then stopped. It seemed today was our lucky day. Lions! Already! This was quite special to see them so soon in the crater. Two lions were just wandering down the middle of the road. We slowly followed them and let them do their thing before they wandered off the road into the grass.
As we drove off Max cam to a halt. In the blink of an eye a leopard streaked across the road. A leopard! It was a bit too quick to snap photos, however we all got a good clear look at it as it ran across the road. That’s 2 of the big 5 in the first 10 minutes!
We kept heading along the road and what would you know, we came across two more lions, this time two brothers. They were just hanging about on the side of the road, one sauntering out of the grass as we arrived. They were sitting under a tree ignoring a baboon that was screaming at them from the tree. Who knows why but the lions didn’t seem to care too much about the baboon or us. They were content to just sit there. We watched for a bit and then kept moving.
By this time we were descending proper into the crater. The crater was a large open expanse, with dirt trails and the odd lake. As such it is hard to describe exactly what we saw when… it was just teeming with different animals. In the first half an hour we saw buffalo, ostriches, wilderbeast, warthogs (yes!), zebra, hippos, cranes, and gazelles. Yep, ALL of those. It was incredible. If you didn’t know better you would think it was all man-made.
So we continued to drive around, just observing and marvelling at all the wildlife.
Every now and then we would come across more lions, mostly they were happy to lounge about in a shady spot. None seemed interested in doing much of anything really.
Well, except for an amorous couple who were keen on putting on an Attenborough-esque show for the jeeps that were watching. They were just lying around, and then decided to get up to some shenanigans for 15 seconds, and then go back to lying around. That’s the way of the jungle I guess!
Sadly we saw the not-so-great side of safari. Not content to have seen the lions and move on, a number of jeeps decided they would keep following the poor lions along the road. Max was keen to give them space and I wish the other jeeps had done the same thing. It was quite sad to see this couple getting agitated by the paparazzi following them, with the male occasionally baring his teeth at the jeeps. But they didn’t back off. Hopefully they got some peace and quiet.
We continued to drive around, seeing the thousands of animals on display. We stopped for a lunch break near one of the lakes (conveniently some hippos present) and stretched the legs before heading out into more of the crater. The only new animal in the afternoon was one elephant we could see from a distance. Unfortunately none wandered near any of the roads, so alas only one elephant to be seen. But that was OK… we had had so much luck with lions and leopards that it was OK.
Rhinos were the only animal in the crater that we didn’t spy. More reason to come back hey?
In no time it was 3pm and time to head out of the crater and back to Arusha. For one day of safari I would say it was pretty successful hey?
Driving back into Arusha was bedlam. The roads were packed and there was people everywhere. But it seemed as if this was par for the course here… it was always bustling. I couldn’t help but some snap some picks of some of the local stores… convenience stores, local DJ , and even the butcher.
On arriving back to Arusha we had just a little time to rest before Max took us into Arusha proper to join he and Walter for a local BBQ dinner. We had only eaten in the lodge to that point so it was great to get out to a place with the locals. We arrived at “Milestone Park and Garden”. This was a place that Max and Walter frequent a lot so it filled us will confidence it would be tasty. When we met Walter he had done the honours of ordering for us. Nice and simple!
We got some drinks to cheers our trip… me with some Safari beer, CC with local K Vant gin. I had a taste and while not the best gin I have had it was still pretty easy to drink. Who’s have thought?!
The food arrived… mountains of BBQ goat and chicken, with banana and chips on the side. I got stuck straight in. Oh man! It was all so delicious! While the mountain food was great, this was exceptional. Mmmm… the BBQ was so good. CC, Nic and I ate so much, and Walter and Max seemed really happy that we were fully into it. The banana with chilli was pretty good too.
We stayed for a few hours telling stories, more drinks, and Walter and Max telling us about their upcoming weddings. Such exciting times.
By about 10pm it was time to head back to the lodge. Max and Walter said farewell for the night, coming back the next day to pick us up and take us to the airport. I can’t say enough good things about the trip and especially Galloping Safaris, Walter’s company that looked after us on the mountain and in the crater. Everyone we met was so lovely (that went for most of Tanzania actually) and everything went super smoothly. Walter and co treated us so well, that without a doubt when I am looking to come back I will getting in touch with Walter as first port of call.
And with that, this African adventure was about done. Hard to believe in only a week and a bit I had gone to the heights of Africa and also seen thousands of safari animals. What a trip.