A few years ago (2007), I made it to the Ngorongoro Crater for the first, and up to now only time. To me, the Ngorongoro Crater is one of these mythical places that does something to you, like seeing the Nile for the first time, or the first time you watch deep into the eyes of a Mountain Gorilla (cfr. my former posts: Gorilla’s in the mist, Gorilla’s in the mist ctd., And one last gorilla post for the road), …
The Ngorongoro crater is a stunning place. We approached it from the Serengeti side and although it is a stunning drive, it must be one of, if not the most horendous stretch of currogated road on this planet. The type of currogation where it is simply impossible to find the right speed. Usually somewhere around 50-60 k/hr does the tric, yet here, I tried everything between 10 and 80 k/hr, none of them advisable, since in both cases I would’ve probably not made it. At one of the gates, I actually went up to one of the rangers, indicating that instead of making me pay, they should actually give me some money for willing to bring my car in there, leaving bits and pieces along the road as they fell off. Enough about that stretch of road (I heard recently it didn’t improve much), lesson learned, if you think about a trip to the Crater, approach it from Arusha!
That being said, once you made it to the crater, make sure you have a decent 4×4 (getting in is pretty easy, getting out on the contrary is another story) and when you sleep on the rim, make sure to enter as early as you are allowed to, even when the crater seems to be covered in clouds. You will actually drop through them, providing you with some of the most dramatic backdrops you can imagine, photographically speaking (just ordered that book by the way ;-)): no blown out skies, yet always a stunning background being provided by the crater rim. On top of that, by going in early, you are ensured not having to share the crater with all the other safari vehicles.
What is also special about the crater is that when you see it from above, you actually wonder whether there’s anything in there, because it gives you the impression you can oversee it, … NOT! From the rim it’s a 600 meter drop to the crater floor which measures 260 square km. Amongst many other sightings, we found this cheetah, hanging out along the road, until all of the sudden it started showing interest in what seemed to be an ostrich. After some sneeking up, the cheetah started gathering speed, one of the most amazing things I have ever witnessed. The ostrich took off, at which point in time I also saw a hare trying to get out of the way. Up to date I suspect the hare being what the cheetah was really after. Yet the hare not being captured in the following picture, it resulted in one of the most funny scenes I ever captured.
What’s the most amazing about this story, is that the ostrich decided to turn around and actually managed to chase off the cheetah, in the process also allowing the hare to escape, … No matter how much time you spend out there, nature will keep on amazing you. This particular cheetah gave us the cherry on the cake by catching it’s breath close to the road again!
Be prepared to spend time out there, to be amazed and to get surprised!