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Diary of a Safari – Day 8. Ngorongoro - The Dawn of Time

sunny 28 °C

Ngorongoro - For humankind, this is the place where life on earth began. This is the area of Ngorongoro in the heartland of East Africa known as the “Cradle of Civilization” - the very place where archaeological evidence has shown that primates first climbed down from the trees, stood upright, and began their long walk to the very ends of the earth. This is our, and your, ancestral homeland. The DNA of all of humans can be traced back to this land and this blue monkey seemed happy to welcome us home...
If this sounds like the introduction to a National Geographic special it is because every moment here has been a truly amazing experience - and today was no exception. We began at dawn when the Ngorongoro crater was still bathed in mist. Our safari lodge was perched on the rim of the crater more than two thousand feet above the caldera's floor and by the time we began our descent through the acacia forest the sun rose and the skies cleared...
The Ngorongoro caldera is all that's left of a massive volcano that erupted catastrophically 3.2 million years ago. The explosion flung rocks the size of apartment buildings for a hundred kilometres in every direction and its effects would have been felt worldwide. The Ngorongoro caldera is a peaceful place today where more than 25,000 large wild animals have learned to co-exist with the jeeps filled with camera-wielding safari goers like us. This family of baboons was the first to greet us with a howl of welcome as we entered the crater in the rising sun...
And this massive male elephant stood calmly just ten feet away and gave us a nod of approval...
This wild mammoth weighed at least 5 tons and could have picked us up, jeep and all, and tossed us like a kid's toy. But Charles just turned off the engine and we and the elephant looked at each other safe in the belief that neither of us wished the other ill will. After a few minutes we moved onto the crater floor where we found this lion eating wildebeest for breakfast...
We had eaten pork bacon and beef sausages for our breakfast so we didn't begrudge him his bit of protein.
After breakfast the lion casually wandered across the road behind us, actually brushing himself against our back bumper, and went to quench his thirst at the river where the zebras were congregating for their morning assembly...
With the lion safely out of the way the scavengers quickly moved in on his leftovers. This golden jackal was hoping to get in on the act before the vultures arrived...
The Ngorongoro caldera covers some three hundred square kilometres, part of which is forested with yellow acacias, so it isn't always easy to spot the game. This is particularly true of the very few black rhinos that live here. The large herds of gazelles are much easier to find. This is a Grant's gazelle...
Wildebeests, zebras, gazelles, warthogs and ostriches can be easily spotted on the open grasslands of the caldera, but rhinos tend to live in the shadows and we, together with jeep loads of other visitors, spent the morning searching for them. There are many animals in this picture – but can you see them? And can you spot a rhino?...
Here are some fabulous birds that we could see at close quarters....
These are grey crown cranes – the national bird of Uganda.
Now – the bad news. After a day searching the Ngorongoro crater for rhinos we finally gave up and headed back to our lodge . Rhinos have lived here far longer than mankind, and will probably still be here after we have become extinct, but life carries on – and so must we. Tomorrow is our last day on safari in Africa.

Posted by Hawkson 07:12 Archived in Tanzania

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Don't want you to leave. Such an extraordinary place. Thanks so much for this experience.

by Sue Fitzwilson

It does look peaceful. But I wonder if you were a little bit scared when the elephant came close to the truck.

by Janet

In search of the black rhino. Can’t think of a more romantic reason to return. What a week and a bit it’s been. Look forward to the last day’s photos.

by Tom

What a wonderful experience! I think I’m enjoying it almost as much as you must be. Thanks for sharing.

by Heather Pettit

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