Monday, December 14, 2015

Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania: The Elusive Black Rhino

Next on our safari list was the Ngorongoro Conservation Area!

What It's All About:
Ngorongoro is a HUGE crater hole that was blown over 2 million years ago by the volcano it lies on top of. As it's a giant circular area, there are a bunch of wild animals that have made their home in its massive bowl-like interior.  

Ngorongoro was really different from the Serengeti.  On the plus side, the views are completely spectacular, and it's home to the incredibly-endangered black rhinoceros (one of the "Big 5" animals and one that doesn't live in the Serengeti).  On the minus side, the number of exciting animals is far less than the vast open prairie lands of the Serengeti since it's a much smaller, contained area, there's only one road you can drive on (no off-roading here), and it feels a lot more crowded and less wild, given the vehicles are all on one path.  I loved it purely for its ridiculously amazing rolling green hills, but we only did one half-day game drive in Ngorongoro, which I thought was enough.

The Ngorongoro Crater!

Ngorongoro is a World Heritage Site, and is known as a "conservation area" vs. a "national park" because the area is also home to a lot of Maasai tribes, which is an indigenous African tribe known for maintaining their very traditional ways of living. 

The Big Five:
I realize I've mentioned the "Big 5" a couple times, but never fully explained it. Basically, these are the five largest, very dangerous animals that people strive to see on safari. They include the elephant, cape buffalo (like a giant water buffalo with huge curvy horns), leopard, lion, and black rhinoceros. 

Cliffnotes of the Day:
  • Spent a half-day game drive cruising through the crater. You take this super steep road from the top of the crater down into it, which was GORGEOUS, and then cruise along slowly in your fly safari vehicle for animals.  There were tons of zebras and wildebeest, as well as a bunch of smaller animals (baboons, warthogs, tiny deer), and a couple lions. We also saw the last of the Big 5 that we hadn't yet seen in the Serengeti: the cape buffalo, and the black rhinoceros.  Check, check, check, check, check. My OCD is showing.

J. Rich and I overlooking the Ngorongoro Crater 

The size of the crater means it must have been a GIGANTIC volcanic eruption

This is a random cape buffalo skeleton chilling in our lunch picnic area

BABY WARTHOGS. They ran around in circles like crazy, and were the absolute cutest. I've come to realize I basically love any animal in baby form.

Also fascinating? This warthog looks like it's WEARING A WIG.

I don't think I ever realized how incredibly, incredibly fat zebras are. And a little dumpier-shaped than horses. But obviously loved them still.
Wildebeest everywhere!

And the wildebeest are friends with the zeebs!

And here are the gigantic cape buffalo #Big5

Their horns looks like giant handlebar moustaches

Here is a spotted hyena looking kind of cute

Hippos look just like giant moving rocks
And here is the elusive black rhino!!! Which was a million feet away and we had to capture using super super-zoom on J. Rich's camera. They usually stay away from people because oh you know, people kill them for their horns, and they're on the verge of extinction.

This is what happens in Ngorongoro because everyone is on the same road - someone sees a black rhino, they radio to all the other safari vehicles, and suddenly you're in your car surrounded by 20 other vehicles, all straining for a look at the rhino.

Tiny little deer called dik-diks. The baby dik-dik was beyond adorable. Hold the jokes plz.

And then we found an adorable pair of lion sisters cleaning each other off

And it rained and they cuddled against each other

And then there was an entire lion fam sleeping

A lake we stopped at for lunch. Inside the lake are hippos, who splash around scenically.

The beautiful pool at our safari lodge in Ngorongoro #thuglife

Fun Facts of the Day:
  • "Jambo!" means "Hello!" in Swahili. Not going to say I learned that from Mean Girls or anything.
  • "Thank you" in Swahili is "Asanti." Kind of like the singer Ashanti, which is how I remember it.
  • Hyenas have the strongest jaws of all mammals. And a special bacteria that helps them eat spoiled meat without dying.
  • You can ride horses but not zebras because zebras have a weak backbone.


  1. Eeeeeeeee I love the cuddly lions. And everything else about your safari adventures, actually.