Tags: ngorongoro crater


The Tree-Climbing Lions of Lake Manyara...

For three days, we had been going on both morning and evening safaris in Lake Manyara; we had seen lot of other interesting things, but of course, every tourist wishes to sight that unusual phenomenon, the tree-climbing lions of Lake Manyara.

Our guide, Huruma, told us that only 10% of visitors ever get to see these animals which have learnt to climb trees; so I thought that my usual Murphy's record would hold good here, too. But since we had seen so many lions in the Serengeti, and actually been able to sight a leopard the very first evening, I did not entirely lose hope.

The second evening, we had sighted a leopard in the dusk, though not all of us were able to see it, but after three days, KM's brothers and their families had to leave.

The next morning safari for the two of us was extremely productive in terms of all sorts of fascinating birds and mammals, and we decided that in the evening, we would go to the Hot Springs, which is 25 km away from the only entrance to the park:

signpost..with an ex-buffalo

(note...every signpost in the park seemed to have a buffalo skull set upon it!)

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I am posting just one video here as a sample...do go look at the others....

We decided to leave them, most reluctantly, to carry on to the Hot Springs...if anyone had told me that I would have to leave the lions and go off, rather than the other way around, I would never have believed them!

When we came back from the Hot Spring, more than an hour later, they were still there, and several vans were pulled up, enjoying the view. The people in them just could not understand why we didn't wait too long..they must have thought us the most blase wildlifers in the world, to go off after five minutes of looking at them! They didn't know about our earlier tryst with the King and the Queen...

Ostrich Mating Dance...with an Audience...

We watched the male and female Masai ostriches shivering their plumes in their ritual mating dance. They were pretty far away...but then, from the grass, two most unexpected heads popped up. Two cheetahs, taking their ease, languidly watched the ras-leela entertainment provided for them!

Once again, apologies for the graininess...its a camera video, the subjrcts were really far ooff (Nearly a mile away) and this was the first time I was shooting something like this...but it was riveting and I wanted to share it with everyone, too!

Out of Ngorongoro and into the Serengeti

We left early the next morning (recording yet another superb sunrise that was invisible directly but only reflected in the lake in the crater bed)...

one more caldera lake sunrise

(The oval outline is the lake at the bottom of the crater; the vegetation is actually on an incline that slopes down to the bottom of the caldera. The mauve area is the area of the crater rim across from where I am...it's lost in mist. I *still* cannot understand how, when the sunrise was not visible it was so brightly reflected in the lake. I am googling about this but have got no results.)

As we left the crater rim, we drove down into the grasslands, and passed a Masai village (the Masai cannot live in the Serengeti where no "human activity" apart from wildlifing is allowed; they live in the NCA.)

Masai Village in the area coming down from the crater rim towards Serengeti

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Here's the first sunset we saw in the Serengeti:

Sunset on the Serengeti

I'm sure those who went through the post will agree with me...that was one of the most eventful days that could happen on a wildlife safari!

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!

From Kilimanjaro to the Ngorongoro Crater

Here's the aerial view of Mt Kilimanjaro (that I got,actually, on the way back home)....

View of Mt Kilimanjaro from the aircraft on our way back home 030807

We realized that we could either spend 5 days climbing the mountain, or spend it on wildlifing; and the decision was easily made!

And here is the opening picture of the time at the Ngorongoro (pronouced "go-wrong-go-row") Conservation Area:

What you see is NOT the sky. It is the outline of the lake at the bottom of the caldera. The land beyond the lake, the opposite rim, and the sky were all shrouded in mist.

Ngorongoro Crater Caldera sunrise

The caldera is a volcano that has collapsed and made a fertile area of its bed. The amazing thing (at least,on the days that we were there) was this sunrise...because for some reason, the sun itself was not visible as it rose in the mist; but reflection of the dawn sky was there, in all its beauty, in the lake at the bottom of the caldera, which is what you see in this photograph!

Still looking at what I should post, what I should leave on my computer ( I am choosing about 198 photos to put up on my new Flickr account and on day 2 of the trip, have already got more than 70!)and what I should, in the name of good photography, delete forever(and forget that I can still take such foul shots..gawd that S3 can give some shake in low light!)...so it's going to be the next post that will have the zebras, warthogs, lions, cubs, lionesses, and assorted other birds,mammals, and insects...

The geyserman came, and will come again tomorrow...can someone tell me what I can do with a HUGE carton (family size, or in this instance, flood size) of wadded up rolls of toilet tissues? They are sitting there and grinning at me...perhaps I should set up a game of toilet-tissue roll bowling...

NCA, the Serengeti, and Lake Manyara...

Starting with crows that seem to be wearing white vests (Pied Crow) and the colourful local mynahs (the Superb Starling) in Kilimanjaro, the days in the Ngorongoro Conservation area, where the extinct volcanic crater is like a Noah's ark of animals, the days in the vast plains of the acacia-studded Serengeti, where the abundance of game just takes the breath away, and finally, the four extremely expensive days that we decided on in Lake Manyara were also astounding....only 10% of people who go to Lake Manyara are able to see the famous tree-climbing lions that the Lake Manyara National Park is famous for...and of course the leopard is a nocturnal, secretive animal...but guess what...my non-sighting jinx (which applies still, to the south Indian tiger) is now well and truly broken....on our way to the Hot Springs, we were the only people on the scene when a lioness and a very young male lion (his mane was just about beginning to grow)climbed up into an acacia tree and settled themselves down, JUST above our Toyota Land Cruiser, and let us take pictures for quite 40 minutes before we had to tear ourselves away....

Have you heard of the bare-faced Go-Away bird? The red-cheeked Cordon Bleu? The blue-naped mousebird? The tree hyrax? The rock hyrax? The Dik-dik (No you dirty-minded lot, that's dik not dick.) The Purple Grenadier?

We sighted a Crested Eagle (which feeds on snakes, so that would make it the African equivalent of the Crested Serpent Eagle)....saw flamingoes feeding in synchrony...watched hippos in large groups....saw a landscape studded here and there with giraffes....baboons....shrews...four varieties of vultures...not just saw them, but stayed quietly and watched their behaviour.

It was so very difficult tearing ourselves away and coming back to "civilization"....

The sad part about it is that this abundance of game in Tanzania is because conservation efforts were started from the early 1900's.....what fate awaits OUR wildlife, with our pathetic efforts starting now, and with the kind of heavy poaching we face?

There are exactly 25 (yes) rhinos in the Ngorongoro Crater area, and each is constantly guarded (no, we did not see one, but I am sure that if we had asked the right authorities we would have been shown one as each of them has a radio tracking device set in its horn).

The Tanzanians are a peacable people, and are so clean...the villages are very clean, and there is NONE of the horrendous plague of plastic in evidence except perhaps in Dar es Salaam, which, too, appears to be a clean city... Tanzania, however, is a poor country, with no manufacturing industry to speak of, and primarily agro-based industry. The wildlife fees are kept extremely high and that seems to have paid off in terms of limiting the number of visitors and ensuring that only serious wildlifers visit....

I am most impressed by the simplicity of the lifestyle of the Maasai people, who seem to be able to walk for miles across the barren landscape of the African arid lands....now, some of them seem to have cycles. They still reckon their wealth in terms of cattle.

I thoroughly enjoyed the company of our guide/driver, Huruma (which means, sympathy and compassion in Swahili), who took up this job after working as a Ranger for several years. He was extremely knowledgeable about the mammals, the birds, the reptiles (we saw a black mamba!), the insects, the plants, the rocks.....I really got an education from him, and he let us borrow three excellent reference books (Audubon, and Veronica Roodt's books on the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, and on the Serengeti) as well. A remarkable education for me...and I was able to show him the trees and animals/birds that are common (eg the Painted Stork is called the Red-Billed Stork in Africa, and the Drongo is the African Drongo...and the African Tulip, the Tamarind, the Mango,the Euphorbia and the Magnolia trees are the same!) The age of the Baobab trees is just staggering....he also told me a lot of mythology and fables surrounding the wildlife, such as the Hyena being a stupid animal, and when he got the Baobab tree, he was angry and threw it into the ground upside down, which is why the tree looks like that...

The Rhino is Faru, the Giraffe is Twiga, the Lion is Simba, the Cheetah is Pandu...

We are in Dar es Salaam staying with some friends, and I am giving a one-hour concert tomorrow. Will try and visit Zanzibar, too...

The internet connection in my friends' home (dialup) is very slow, and she uses it for stocks and shares in the mornings, so I got my hands on it only now...we are off to see the seashore soon, so I will next be on the net only after I return home.

Tanzania, the Ngorongoro Crater, the Serengeti, the famous wildebeest migration (we did manage to get the major part of the tail end), the tree-climbing lions and incredible fauna and flora of Lake Manyara....We have spent a fortune in the past two weeks and it has been worth every penny of it all!