Thursday, July 19, 2007

Safari Part 2 - Ngorongoro Crater

Our second day of safari started with about a 2 hour drive to the Ngorongoro National Park and Conservation Area. We then had to to descend 7000 feet down to the crater floor where all of the action is.

Two words sum up this day, "Lion Hunts".

After our descent we enjoyed our first glimpse of the wildebeest. They are such goofy looking creatures but we decided they are very photogenic. One even decided to run into our vehicle.

From there we ran across our first and only Serval cat of the safari. A small but beautifully colored cat. She was the size of a very large house cat.

At our next stop there was a moment to savor, our first glimpse of a pride of lions in the wild.

As we watched a pair of warthogs stumbled into the area, the poor things have terrible vision. In this picture, you can see one of the lions watching hungrily. Gradually the lions all took notice and started moving into place stalking the warthogs. You can see the lioness stalking in the background.

This went on for a while when our driver said, "Oh, that warthog is in danger".

Then out of nowhere a few zebras wondered into the area near the warthogs and one of the lionesses took off chasing them across the plains. The surprised warthogs and zebras scattered in all directions trying to confuse the lioness. Wait, a moment of indecision by the lioness. She tried to change targets in mid chase. That was all it took, one moment of indecision and the prey escaped, luckily. The hunt was over with no snack for the lions this time.

The adrenaline was pumping. Steph and I exchanged looks in awe of what we had just seen. It was intense and thrilling to watch the lions in action. What a show!

We left the lions since there was no prey remaining to see what else we could find. We drove around for some time until we found another pride of lions which included males as well. We were on a road bumper-to-bumper with other safari vehicles. Then one lioness just stands up and starts walking towards the vehicles. Steph was getting a little nervous as it looked like her sight was fixed on our vehicle, then our driver says, "She is hunting. You are very lucky to see this twice". Steph, still a little nervous, didn't relax until she turned around to see a large herd of zebra in the field behind us.

The lioness proceeded to stalk the zebras, walking between the safari vehicles as if we were part of the environment. She ended up walking one vehicle away from us. You can actually see the tire of the vehicle right behind us in this picture of the lioness, not to mention her whiskers and teeth. She ended up chasing the herd, aiming at the slowest zebra at the back of the running herd, but was quickly out run by the zebras. Our driver at one point during this chase said, "just dive at it", but she didn't and failed. Again totally breathtaking.

After lunch we came back to the spot of the second hunt to find the male lion snacking on a kill. Again some warthogs wondered in and another hunt was on. Three in one day, can you believe it?! This one was short lived as the warthogs got wind of the lions and took off. We did however get this incredible picture of one of the lionesses stalking about to pounce and another of the warthogs escaping.

Overall, Ngorongoro crater was an amazing day. We saw many other animals but the lions stole to the show.

All of the Ngorongoro Photos

Next Up: Serengeti


  1. I am enthralled by your pictures. I can't wait until the next day when another set is posted. What an experience! You said Steph was afraid when the lioness came so close to the cars. Are the cars ever attacked and people hurt? Were you two and your guide the only ones in your car? Lori

  2. Hey Lori,

    I am so glad you are enjoying the photos. I hope they along with the blog posts start to capture our experience.

    Yes it was just the 3 of us in the car because we reserved a private vehicle which is fairly common. You did see some cars of 4, 6 or 8 people but I figure they were just larger groups.

    Believe it or not in the crater especially, the animals are somewhat tame towards the safari vehicles as shown by the loins and wildebeest that walked around the vehicle. They are used to them being around. Our driver told us that the lions will use the vehicles as cover while hunting and for shade when it is really hot. As for attacking the vehicle I really don't know. However I did see a picture on our safari's companies site that shows a cheetah was climbing on a vehicle. (scroll down).