Following Kilimanjaro, we had our detox night at Mbahe Farm then took off at dawn the next morning to begin our safari.
Our guide, Alex, needed to make a quick stop at his home en route to our first game drive. So after successfully thwarting Jill’s kidnapping attempt of his one-year-old son Caleb, we were on our way.
The first game drive was through Lake Manyara, which I hate to say was not all that exciting. Even leaving at 6am from the farm at Kili, we arrived in the heat of the day at noon when most of the animals had retreated to cover in the shade. We saw a bunch of zebras and flamingos in the distance, a few blue monkeys and tons of baboons. But it was a pretty uneventful first day.
The next morning we went out into Ngorogoro Crater, which was absolutely stunning. It’s a massive 100-square mile caldera, which is effectively a sunken crater from a volcano that has descended into the earth over the past few million years. Ngorogoro is believed to have been a larger volcano than Kilimanjaro.
You start by driving up to the rim, where you get a view of the crater. It looks like a massive coliseum… and functions like one down below: over 30,000 animals live there, with buffalo, zebra, hyenas, lions, wildebeest, rhinos, elephants and more all inhabiting the same playing field. It’s about as close to the Land Before Time as you can get… except for the dozens of Land Rovers, but you get over that. It wasn’t as crowded as I thought it was going to be.
Driving into and around the basin is an amazing feeling. Even with all the vehicles around, the animals seem relatively relaxed and just go about their business — which consists of eating grass, sleeping, and steering clear of lions.
The lions were definitely the most impressive part. Amazing creatures, clearly running the show in the Crater — seemingly docile but with a power and ferocity you knew they could unleash at any moment if they wanted to. Much like Pete Sampras in his prime.
The lions are completely unfazed by the cars and seem to have an implicit agreement with the vehicles: you can take all the photos of me you want if I can sleep in your shade. They only hunt and eat once a week, so the vast majority of their time is spent resting and conserving energy.
While we certainly got a little stir crazy being in a car all day after being so active the previous seven days, the Ngorogoro Crater was an amazingly beautiful and unique experience.