About 2 million years ago any of our ancestors who were in northern Tanzania were in for one hell of a fright when the then-tallest mountain in Africa- yes, taller than Killimanjaro- collapsed in on itself in a monstrous explosion that left behind a caldera with 100 meter walls all around and 100 square miles in the middle (yes, I’m mixing units, but it’s easier to remember this way). Today the bottom of the crater attracts animals from the nearby Serengeti and beyond and allegedly has the highest concentration of predators in Africa- in short, a safari well worth doing!
Let’s go down, shall we?
Needless to say, the road is dirt and precarious to the point of you really wishing they’d consider placing a guardrail or two but no, this is Africa, where you just trust that if your guide’s been doing this for 10 years he knows what he’s doing. But you start seeing countless animals the very second you arrive to the bottom and the day was filled with so much wildlife you didn’t know where to look- the pictures surely tell a better story than I can, and that’s what you want to see anyway right?
A cheetah stalking above a herd of zebra very concerned about the situation for obvious reasons. The cheetah and his non-pictured partner didn’t decide to hunt unfortunately, but seeing a cheetah in the wild is amazing in itself!
Part of a lazy lion pride taking a break by the side of the road- there were actually a few more lions that were further off. This pride was also interesting because it had two fully grown male lions in it, which apparently can happen but is rare… the littlest cubs you see in the picture are only a few weeks old by the way!
The lazy lions shouldn’t be confused with THESE lazy lions though, who were causing a bit of a traffic jam in the middle of the road. They were also very annoyed because after a few minutes observing them the safari-goers inevitably move on and with them goes the shade, and would you want to brave the African sun in a fur coat?
If you’ve seen a more stereotypical African thing than two elephants grazing with acacia trees in the background, then let’s see it. These elephants also had the most massive tusks I’ve ever seen on an elephant- apparently they only come down to the crater when getting old as there is a swampy area of soft grass here, so these fellas were over 60 years old!
Wildebeest strolling in front of the flamingo pond. If you haven’t noticed yet, one awesome thing about the Crater is no matter which direction you take pictures in you have very nice mountains framing the scene in the background. Being in the middle of it all with the steep walls all around in the distance is absolutely marvelous- I am now trying to find a similarly sized caldera for me to stand and walk around in the middle of a bit, as you’re obviously not allowed out of your vehicle here for such things (which leads to interesting bathroom break situations, but that’s another story). Last but not least, the elusive black rhinoceros and her baby. We later saw a third rhino and as there are only 22 in the park we had amazing luck and saw over 10% of the rhino population!
I end on this picture because I feel obliged to mention however briefly a more ugly part of this safari. You see I had signed up last second to go with three very nice German girls in my hostel who mentioned offhand an older German woman in her 50s who was driving on her motorcycle solo from South Africa to Germany was going to come for the Crater, and was I ok with this? I said sure no problem but it soon turned out for all her travels this woman was the biggest @$$hole I’d ever met in my life- German spoken almost exclusively even at mealtimes and obviously about me, every comment of mine degraded, innocent queries about Germany resulting in rants about how Germans invented the automobile but all us Evil Imperialist Americans have done lately is cause the Great Recession for which I am personally responsible for. You get the type.
Anyway, one of the German girls innocently wondered aloud why rhinos are so heavily poached (all are equipped with GPS and there are hidden guardposts all around the crater with scopes and night vision goggles) and I mentioned it was because some Middle Eastern countries like Yemen the ultimate status symbol is a rhino-horn dagger. (Many people say it’s an aphrodisiac but no culture actually believes this- though it’s been said so often that there is nw a minuscule trade in rhino horn for this purpose.) Evil German Fraulein exploded at me because I’m obviously racist against all Muslims for saying such a thing because it’s obviously due to demand in the Far East- I calmly turned to the guide who confirmed I was right, so that shut her up for a little bit at least.
Moral of the story is there are jerks in every culture, be they the Yemeni guys trying to prove their manliness by advocating the killing of severely endangered species or a German woman who despite all her travels is perhaps the most prejudiced person I’ve met. Too bad we can’t just throw them all to the cheetahs, isn’t it?