Located near the Serengeti national park in northern Tanzania is one of the most interesting places we have visited, the Ngorongoro crater.
Millions of years ago the crater was full of bubbling lava. Today the lava is gone, but all of the walls are intact, making it the largest volcanic caldera in the world. The volcanic soil has turned the depression into a lush and thriving ecosystem. Today it’s filled with all sort of animals and bright green vegetation cover the walls of the crater. The altitude and humidity in the crater keep everything bright green, which is in stark contrast to dry browns of the savanna of the Serengeti.
Inside this massive hole in the earth, we found rhino, wildebeest, lions, flamingos, impala, all surrounded by the massive walls of the crater. It is here that we got as close as we ever have to wild, full-sized adult male lions just after they made a kill. They shared a warthog amongst the pride. We got to sit and watch the social workings of the lion pride from about 50 meters. First, the dominant male got to eat. He was watched closely by three hungry females, lined up ready for their turn. When the males finish the dominant of the 3 females took over the carcass. This continued until everyone got their turn, but it looked to be just bones by time the last female ate.
The social display didn’t end there. After the first male finished his meal he continued his display of dominance. This time, he wanted to show us who was boss. After pacing through the few Land Rovers that had gathered to watch the pride eat, he narrowed in on one truck. He made his way to the back of the truck and lifted his tail and sprayed to let us know who ran this crater. He just peed on our Safari truck! Now that’s something that doesn’t happen every day.
The Ngorongoro Crater is by far the closest we got to wildlife on our entire overland safari. At the campsite in the crater, we even slept with elephants. Massive elephants came to camp to drink out of the camp’s water system.
The crater is a special place, it reminds me of places movies are made of. It’s like a cross between the exotic and lush feel of Jurassic Park and the African wildlife of the Lion King.