Africa/Middle East 2014:
Day 8 - Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania


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Africa/Middle East 2014: [Day 1 - Virginia] [Day 2 - Senegal] [Day 3 - South Africa] [Day 4 - South Africa] [Day 5 - Zimbabwe] [Day 6 - Botswana] [Day 7 - Zambia] [Day 8 - Tanzania] [Day 9 - Qatar] [Day 10 - Abu Dhabi] [Day 11 - Dubai] [Day 12 - Oman] [Day 13 - Bahrain] [Day 14 - Jordan] [Day 15 - Jordan] [Day 16 - England]

Saturday, November 22, 2014: We woke up less than five hours after getting to sleep because we had a very big day ahead of us.
Our first very important order of business was to climb the stairs to the pool area of the KIA Lodge complex, because that's the only place where you can view Mt. Kilimanjaro. Would it be visible? Would it have snow on the top? Yes and yes!!
Our incredible weather luck came through for us once again with a completely unobstructed view of Kilimanjaro rising like Olympus above the Serengeti.
We headed to the restaurant next for breakfast.
There was a full breakfast with Kilimanjaro brand tea. For real.
Then we grabbed our backpacks and waited for our tour guide to pick us up, which he did right on time. We headed west, passing beautiful Mt. Meru.
We had booked a full day tour to Ngorongoro Crater. Normally, these tours are roundtrip from Arusha, but our hotel was 45 minutes away from Arusha so the long drive to the crater would take even longer. Here's a roundabout in Arusha with an elephant statue, ...
... and here's a nice, modern building.
We stopped here for our driver to pick up our picnic lunches, then stopped at another nearby location to pick up water and souvenir safari hats for us. Then we were on the road for the 2 1/4 hour trip to the crater.
Maersk!
We passed many Maasai tribespeople during our drive, usually tending flocks by the side of the road or walking between destinations. Here's a large herd of goats, ...
... and here are some donkeys carrying large jugs of water.
It was a long, relaxing ride and there may have been a little napping.
While Debbie dozed, Tom took over the photography duties with this photo of Lake Manyara.
We arrived at the entrance to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area about 3 1/2 hours after we departed KIA Lodge.
Orchy was there!
We took a quick restroom break while our driver got our permit, and we were off again.
Our first stop was an overlook with a breathtaking view of the entire crater. Tom captured a photo of the rarely-photographed wife, ...

... plus this stunning panorama photo. Many of the little dots in this photo are animals, but don't worry, we got some great closeups of them for you.

Next to the overlook was a memorial to those who have lost their lives in conservation of wildlife.  Those listed were killed by bandits, poachers, rhinos, and road accidents.
It took us a while to circle around the edge of the crater to the back. We passed a lot of Maasai and their herds along the way, plus a Maasai village with a traditional enkang barrier.
We stopped at the gate to the park for another restroom break ...
... while our driver adjusted the truck for open-top viewing.
Those poor Cape buffaloes: their horns are always the last part of them to disappear. But those horns do give the side of the road such an African chic look.
Park rangers are heavily armed to deal with the problem of poachers.
Psych! These aren't safari animals yet. They're just goats. Sorry about that.
OK, let's get this safari started. Here are some zebras. We took lots of pictures of zebras and it took all the restraint we have to not include them all.
Here's a wildebeest, one of hundreds that we saw.
We aren't kidding about that. There's a warthog and a gazelle in this shot as well.
We like being on safari!
We saw quite a few ostriches. Here's a dude ostrich.
These are Thomson's gazelles, identifiable by their horizontal black stripe. Here are the gentlemen ...
... and here are the ladies.
Here's a zebra foal. His coat is fuzzy and his coloring is brown instead of black, ...
... compared to an adult zebra.
Here's a pair of attractive grey crowned cranes.
Speaking of attractive birds, check out these pretty flamingos.
More zebras having a refreshing bath.
Here are some black-backed jackals just hanging out, ...
... and here are two more out on the hunt.
This is a Grant's gazelle.  Notice that it doesn't have a horizontal black stripe like Thomson's gazelles do.
We were incredibly close to the animals and they seemed very unconcerned by us.
Here's a large gathering of zebras, wildebeests, and Cape buffaloes.
Here's another wildebeest checking us out.
Here are three spotted hyenas.
He looks so fuzzy and cuddly, doesn't he?
We saw a very long line of Cape buffaloes, stretching back to the rim of the crater.
When we reached the line, we sat and watched in awe for awhile, along with some fellow tourists in the truck next to us.
Here are a couple of them up close.
So, there's nothing special in this photo until you realize that it contains lions. Yes, lions!
One male and two female lions! Our day was complete now that we had seen them. But wait. It got better.
A little further up, we encountered a group of three male lions. We observed them from one side, ...
... then another. It was so very cool.
This bird is called a kori bustard.  It is the largest flying bird native to Africa.  Males can be four feet tall with a wingspan of eight feet.
We spotted a lone elephant and our driver was going to detour to get closer to it and we waved him off. We'd had our fill of elephants in Botswana so there was no need to go look at just one. Besides, we were hungry.
We stopped for lunch at Ngoitokok swamp, and had lunch in our truck while we enjoyed the view.
Check out this lunch! Fried chicken, meat pie, some other sort of savory pie, donut, rolled-up pancake, fruit juice, and cookies. We were starving so this really hit the spot!

After lunch, we got out to look around. This place was called both a swamp and a hippo pool so we certainly weren't expecting to see something this beautiful.

Here are a hippo and two great white pelicans who did everything in unison.
For example, this.
It was great fun to watch the hippos. There were at least a dozen of them, all surfacing and disappearing repeatedly. It was a hippopotamus miracle to get as many of them surfacing as we did in this photo.
We visited the restroom here and then got back on the road. We passed a flock of blacksmith plover on the shore.
These two birds might be some kind of cormorant.
Here's a lone waterbuck enjoying some time to himself.
This Grant's gazelle knows exactly how to strike a pose.
Every so often, we'd encounter a reminder that some of the animals are food for some of the other animals.
This elephant skull serves as a stark reminder of that fact.
For example, here's a spotted hyena taunting some wildebeest. He's hungry and eventually he's going to eat one of them. It's just a matter of time.
Squeeee! Look at the warthogs running along the bottom of this hastily-taken photo. Now look at the teeny piglet running between them! So cute!
The cuteness! It is too much!
This good-looking fellow is a Coke's hartebeest.
No way! Another lion?
And not just any lion. This was a genuine savanna-dwelling, shade-enjoying, majestic-mane-having lion right out of a National Geographic documentary and he was right in front of our truck.
It turns out that it doesn't matter what size you are. If you're a kitty, you get sleepy.
Meanwhile, the shade he was enjoying was created by this tree which was covered in rufous-tailed weaver nests.
More zebras. At this point, we had seen hundreds but they were still fascinating.
We spent over three hours in the crater and it was time to head back up the side of the crater.
It was another half hour before we made it to the main entrance, ...
... then we drove over two hours back to Arusha ...
... and another hour through the traffic beyond that. Hey, isn't that Kilimanjaro through there?
Yes, it is. Beautiful.
Home sweet home.
We ran up to the pool area to catch the last bit of sunset, ...
... and one last look at Mt. Kilimanjaro.
Dinner at the lodge's restaurant was a fixed-price, three-course dinner. Foolishly, we did not take a photo of the menu, so we can't tell you what these things are, but here's the starter course.
Here's Debbie's entree, some sort of chicken roll, ...
... while Tom had a beef kebab.
Dessert was some sort of custard on a biscuit. We were the only guests in the restaurant and our friendly waiter seemed eager to practice his English skills on us.

We were happy to get back to our room, deconstruct our lovely floral bed display, and sleep for as many hours as we could.

Day 9 >


Africa/Middle East 2014: [Day 1 - Virginia] [Day 2 - Senegal] [Day 3 - South Africa] [Day 4 - South Africa] [Day 5 - Zimbabwe] [Day 6 - Botswana] [Day 7 - Zambia] [Day 8 - Tanzania] [Day 9 - Qatar] [Day 10 - Abu Dhabi] [Day 11 - Dubai] [Day 12 - Oman] [Day 13 - Bahrain] [Day 14 - Jordan] [Day 15 - Jordan] [Day 16 - England]

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