Ngorogoro: In Search of Rhinos

 We left our lodge at 6 AM, driving along a cloud laden rim of the Ngorogoro crater.
We had heard about and read about this legendary place all of our lives. To finally see it in person was pretty overwhelming.
The bumpy track descended quite steeply into the Ngorogoro Crater.
Suddenly a large herd of wildebeest came spilling over the rim and down the slope. Like a dusty river, they stream down toward the white valley floor. Not all of them made it.
We soon came across several hyenas who had caught one of the wildebeests and were tearing it apart, even before it was fully dead. Faces dripping with blood, they enjoyed their early breakfast. The sight is nearly enough to make you a vegetarian…

We continued down.
The name Ngorogoro comes from the Maasai word for ‘clanging bells’, the sound made by the bells on their cattle. The Maasai here still have the right to roam and graze their cattle in certain areas of the crater.
The crater floor teems with wildlife: enormous herds of gazelles, wildebeest, zebra and buffalo. We spotted first a few lone male lions and then a pride of some 14 lions lazing on the rocks.
We saw cranes, storks and birds of all sizes and colors.
Warthog families graze the plain and hippos wallow in the shallow waters. Elephants crossed the fields in search of grass and water. The place seems like a regular Noah’s Arc, but with many more than just two of each kind.
But the most amazing sight of all, in this specific place, came before too long. Only 45 black rhino’s live in the crater and we spotted 4 of them! We were so very lucky to see these enormous beasts lumber along. They came pretty close. Our guide said that he often is on trips where they are not spotted at all, or at a great distance. But we were so lucky that two of the rhinos came closer and we were able to take good photos of this rare, endangered animal, of which there only are an estimated 5,000 left in the world. When will people ever learn?
In the afternoon we hiked, accompanied by a ranger with a large AK 47 rifle, along the edge of the crater, some 2,400 meters above sea level. The crater’s edge winds along for 74 KM and is about 600 meters higher than the crater floor. Even from this height we could spot herds of buffalo and elephants. As we walked, more and more Maasai materialized out of the woods. Women were cutting and gathering wood to bring home in bundles on their heads. Men and boys herded goats and cows. They all grinned and waved at us, sometimes staring more at us then I wanted to stare at them. Tall and skinny, with many beaded necklaces, they are beautiful, ebony people.
The walls of the crater are covered in lush, tropical forest. Some animals come and go as they please while others remain in the safety of this reserve. It has been amazing and a special privilege to visit this sanctuary. It felt like a peek inside the garden of Eden…