Friday, March 10, 2017

In the Ngorongoro crater

The crater is the caldera of an extinct volcano that must have been huge. The size is really immense. We spent the whole day in the crater and could have spent some more time, if we'd had it.

I had some misinformation about the crater. I thought the animals in the crater were there permanently and the sides were so steep that they couldn't get out. I had heard that the lion prides in the crater were inbred. I learned that the west side is pretty steep but the eastern side is more gradual and animals enter and leave on a continual basis. They might even come in in the am and leave in the evening or vice versa. However, the crater itself is greener than the surrounding landscape and therefore many animals stay there for longer periods of time. It is flat, it is green and there is water. The lake in the crater is salt water though, because it has no exit. But the streams and other small bodies of flowing water are fresh.


 We started off with a baboon sighting on the roof of one of the lodge's buildings.
 There were clouds off and on during the day, making for some spectacular lighting. This is the morning sun through the trees. January is part of the short rainy season in Tanzania but they had not had rains since December and everything was dry. We got a few showers on our trip but the rains really came the last day we were there and everyone - human and animals - were happy. But during our trip. we had days like this - with clouds at times and sunny at other times. You will see that it affects the lighting in the crater because we also have the crater rim to shade the light.
Heading down the eastern rim of the crater.

 Cape buffalo grazing in the morning light. See how the light filters through the mists at the top of the crater.
 We came upon some hyenas finishing up a buffalo kill.
 One hyena grabbed a leg and ran off with the prize, right across our vehicle's path.
 The rest of them surrounding the kill so you can't even see it. The smaller animals are jackals
 This is a Kori bustard. We spotted them all over the place. They walk around like they own the joint.
 This photo is emblematic of the crater. A vast green plain surrounded by hills and lots of animals just grazing peacefully.
 I took a lot of photos of baby zebra but this is one of the smallest that we saw.
 Two lions hanging out. I think the lion was on a date and didn't appreciate our watching him because they got up and walked away.
video

 Wildebeest with vultures in front of them.
 I believe these are impala.
 Wildebeest, unlike zebras, calve in a two-week period between February and March. This increases the odds of any one baby surviving as there are so many others all at the same time. We caught the beginning of the births. This is a tiny baby that was still a little wet. Probably born shortly before we saw the mother and baby.
 Hyenas hanging out in a river.
 This was one of the two rhino sightings. Those two black creatures in the middle are two rhinos. These are black rhinos. We saw another one but it was further away. I got a good look through the binoculars but this is the best I can do with the iPhone. If you zoom in, you can make them out as two rhinos.

There are elephants in the crater but they are older and the reason they come to the crater is because they are on the last of their sets of teeth. Once that set wears out, they die. The crater has lush grass and water so the vegetation is easier to eat. As a result, their teeth last longer. They are very solitary and tend to hang out by the water where the new growth is not as fibrous and woody. We saw a number of them during the day but I didn't get any really good photos.

One of the thrilling things we saw during the day was a missed hunt. I was too busy watching to take photos or videos but another member of our group did and I am linking it here for you to see. Two lionesses decided to take on a Cape buffalo but the attack was thwarted by the buffalo and his cohorts.

We also saw hippos. See the light above the crater? Just spectacular.
 The hippos had come out of this hippo pool. You should be glad you can't smell the photos. Hippo pools are seriously smelly.
 There they are. All huddled up in the pool
 There was a flock of birds around there, a very large flock, and I got some of them in the air over the pool.
 A lion acting like a big cat.
 This pool also contains a hippo. That is his snout in the water. But the location was so beautiful that I had to take a photo even though you can barely see the hippo.
 This one is a bit tricky to see. Those 3 brown blobs are a lioness with two cubs. In the bushes is their kill and they were walking around the area. I think they had eaten their fill but were hanging around, reluctant to leave it.
 Two warthogs just chilling.
 And not a pushmi-pullyu but two Cape buffalo looking as if they have one body and two heads.
 Another baby wildebeest. A little older, maybe by a day.
 They were part of this giant mass of wildebeest.
 Remember that kill with the hyenas at the beginning of the day? This is all that is left of it as we headed back. The vultures were picking the bones clean. Then the bugs start in and very soon, there is nothing but bleached bone.

After we got back to the lodge, we headed out for a hike along the rim. We had to have park rangers with rifles with us in case we ran into any animals. As we started out, we went through the service area for the lodge. Since these lodges are so far from any town or village, the staff have their own rooms and kitchen off to the side. They are there for fixed periods of time and then they get time off. Staff buses take them back to their homes. In the same area are the lodgings for the driver-guides who accompany us and provide a wealth of information. They are the best part of the trip because they are very knowledgeable and have a library of books with them. They name all the birds and animals and are also able to talk about history and culture, and fix flat tires and other mechanical glitches. They are philosophers and psychologists, knowing how to interact with all the different personalities in the tour.
 The end of our walk on the rim was celebrated by some spectacular light effects when the sun shone down through a few breaks in the clouds.


And finally, a sunset over the swimming pool of the lodge. This lodge (the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge) has a unique location and it was hard to think about leaving it the next morning.

I've been spinning and reading mostly. I am afraid my craft hobby has been eclipsed since I discovered the New York Public Library's ebook app. It is so easy to browse their catalog and borrow books.

I finished spinning the first half the of the fractal spin and am 1/3 of the way through the second half.
This is the first bobbin.

I also wove a bit more on the plaid scarf but it looks the same as it did in the beginning so new pictures are not all that interesting.

Next up is Tarangire National Park.

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