August 8th, 2007

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the Ngorongoro Conservation Area

The Ngorongoro Conservation Area works towards the conservation of the wildlife in and around the Ngorongoro Crater, both the caldera and the rim.

The name, "Ngorongoro", according to our guide, Huruma, has an interesting background...it is supposed to be the Masai version of the sound of the cow-bells as they graze! I must confess, in that case I would have thought of words like Tingting or Tinkletinkle...but if "go-rong-go-rong" was the way the Masai heard it...!


The rim of the crater is at a height of about 7000 ft, and so, at this time of the year, it was pretty cold out there!The vegetation at the rim is pretty much the kind of jungle that one would see here in the Malnad region of Karnataka...moist deciduous jungle.

Our hotel was perched on the rim of the crater, and as you could see in the photo I posted yesterday, one can see to the lake at the bottom of the caldera from there. Once, on safari, we descend into the plains of the bottom of the caldera, one can see the crater rim (well, it looks more like hills surrounding the plains!) all around the vast savannah grassland.

All the animals that once descended into the bowl of the caldera now reside there with a few exceptions which move in and out. Hence, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area is like a kind of Noah's Ark of animals..as KM remarked, God's gift to the Tanzania Tourist Board! The species variety is remarkable...but since there are no tall acacia trees, there are no giraffes either.

Here we are, entering the NCA on the evening of the 23rd July;


entering the Ngorongoro Conservation Area 230707 You can see how misty it is

It was so misty, that the sighting of the leopard within 15 minutes of this photograph was a great bonus. Of course, the light was very poor and photographs were not possible...but the leopard stayed, rather confused, by the side of the road for about ten minutes, going around, up and down, during which time we got quite a good look at it!

We checked into the hotel, and early the next morning, (of course, taking time to capture that wonderful sunrise!), went off into the crater bed for the safari.


Here's a snap of a cap in the hotel souvenir shop (probably made in Taiwan!), detailing the Big Five, as tourists like to call these mammals.


the big 5 cap in the souvenir shop

Of the five on that cap, we only got to see four...since we didn't want to take any special effort to see the rhinos unless we happened to spot them, we didn't bother (we can see them in our own country, in Assam or Arunachal Pradesh!). There are only 25 rhinos in all, so this is not surprising! If we had wanted to, we could have asked to be taken to them, as each rhino is now fitted with a radio device in its horn and watched...but somehow, we didn't feel like tracking them down like that!

And of the four that we did see, both our sightings of the LEOPARDS-- rather unrecongnizable on that cap!-- (once in the NCA, and the second time in a distant tree in Lake Manyara) were in such low-light conditions that we could not take photographs. Indeed, of the two safari vans, the other one which contained my nieces and sisters-in-law (we were ten, in two vans) never got to see the leopards at all, on either occasion!

Even our CHEETAH sightings were at long-distance, on the first occasion, nearly a mile away, when two of them lounged at ease in the grass, watching two ostriches in a mating dance...and the second time,not much closer, when two cheetahs were feasting on a gazelle in the Serengeti National Park. So you are certainly not going to see any spots-on-the-cheetah shots here!

But that's only the "Big Five"....to us, everything else...from the AUGUR BUZZARD to the ZEBRA...everything was fascinating!


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Well satisfied with our day's sightings, we came wearily but happily back to our hotel to tuck into a lot of good food, have hot baths, and ...go to sleep in preparation for the 5.30 am start the next day? NO WAY! CF and SD cards had to be downloaded on to the laptop, and one plug-point had to be used in turn to charge all the camera batteries...we couldn't resist looking up the reference book to see the names of some of the birds once again....no one told us that wildlife was so much hard work!
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I wish...

Now that I am finding so many people interested in my account of my travels, I do wish we had all these facilities available while KM and I travelled the world over! Mohan is on his fourth passport and I am on my third...and all we could do those days was to send postcards, pile up photographs which occupied more and more space (and sometimes we would come home and find one roll was over- or under-exposed, or the photo developing shop would lose them,or...)

Digital photography is SO extremely convenient, after the first expensive investment...

How I wish I could show everyone a country like, say Leichstenstein...or my days wandering alone in Austria,Germany and Switzerland...the wonder that is Angkor Wat...Prague in the snow...pigeons in Picadilly...oh well, my memories haven't faded, yet!
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After a loooong time...

I had a friend over from St Louis tonight; he has just quit Citibank and joined Wipro. For a long time, I knew that he played the mridangem, but recently he gave a vocal concert in St Louis! So I asked him to sing...and he sang for nearly an hour.

After ages, instead of listening to a visitor singing movie songs or ghazals,I actually heard just Carnatic music...and it was balm to the soul. Usually, at gatherings, it is I who wind up singing; it was a pleasant change to be able to enjoy someone else's music in such an informal setting. Poor Lakshmanan, he got to eat his dinner only at 10.30pm!

I feel at peace and happy now. I do wish I had more friends around who would sing Carnatic music like this...it's a wonderful treasure that I cannot indulge in as often as I want to. When I was growing up, I was surrounded by people who could sing, play the violin or the mridangam, and almost every evening there would be impromptu gatherings and excellent music...only today I realized how much I miss those evenings.

I thought, also, of my friends Murali and his youngest sister,wondernoon, who are also crazy about Carnatic music...they would have loved to be here this evening. Oh well, Murali lives in Memphis, Tenn, not far from St Louis...so I plan, next time I am there, to introduce Lakhmanan to him!

A wonderful evening...thanks to Lakshmanan!

and btw...a nice line for all my Indian friends...Lakshman is REALLY married to...Rekha!