August 13, 2021 (DAY 9 of safari)
So today was the Ngorongoro crater – the day we are hunting for rhinos. On the way out of the Serengeti we saw a martial eagle which I guess is fairly rare.
What I loved most about the crater is that we started up at around 8000 feet above sea level and went down to 5200 ft. Surprisingly, the entire Serengeti is at around 5000 ft above sea level. Anyway, at the top it looked like a jungle. There was so much greenery all around. But after you got to the bottom and started driving away from the edge, it turned into savannah, mostly flat and dry. As soon as we got to the bottom of the crater we stopped for lunch and the first animal we saw was a maribou stork who came so close to me that I had to move before it stole my lunch. It wasn’t the largest but about 2 feet tall – large enough, and so ugly.
After lunch we drove around and saw all the same animals we’ve seen in all the other parks: zebras, elephants, gazelles, pumbas, wildebeests. The difference is that these animals didn’t run off when we stopped the truck. They stayed right by the car and let us take their pictures. At one point in time, I could’ve touched a wildebeest but decided I better not. The zebras rolling in the dirt were pretty funny.
Then we ran across 2 male lions, one of which had the largest mane we’d seen so far. The other was laying down so we couldn’t see him well. We also saw an elephant skull, crown birds (geese), and quary bustard.
At the end of the day we were still searching for the rhino. They’re really rare but we knew this park had some. According to Ibrahim, all of the rhinos in the park are tagged and wear a bracelet so the rangers know where they are at any given moment. At each changing of the guard, the ranger getting off his shift has to take the ranger starting his shift to see each rhino and make sure they’re still alive and well. This is how they ensure that the poachers aren’t getting them. Apparently they know how many rhino are in the park but don’t tell anyone else. It’s top secret.
So our guides were on the look-out for the ranger trucks to see where they were going. At the end of the day Ibrahim spotted a ranger truck parked out where we weren’t allowed to drive. And sure enough, there was a rhino there, then 2 more showed up. Unfortunately for me, I couldn’t see them. Glenn could see them with binoculars but I couldn’t even get that. Oh well – Glenn saw all of the big 5 (elephant, lion, cape buffalo, leopard, and rhino). I got to see 4 of them. We had to be out of the park gates by 5:21pm so we had to make a run for it after that. We went back to Eileen’s for our last night.