My African Photo Safari - Journal Entry #7 - August 24, 1988

On our fifth morning, we woke up to a light fog, enveloping Ngorongoro Crater. As we headed out, we saw this beautifully peaceful scene of wildebeest and zebras calmly grazing together. This let us know, there were no predators around. We watched this for a while, and noted how quiet it was.

We continued our morning drive, and the fog soon lifted. We saw four lions on a wildebeest (gnu) kill. Nearby were the scavengers; hyenas, African Golden Wolves, and vultures. This kill was almost completely eaten by the time we arrived at a few minutes after 8:00 a.m. One hyena got really close and stole a leg of wildebeest from the lion. Other hyenas followed it, in hopes of getting a few scraps.

I also got a photo of vultures claiming what was left after the lion, hyenas, and African Golden Wolves were done eating.

Nearby was a solitary black-maned male lion. He climbed up on a small hill and stood there for a moment. Then he started a series of short growls, then a loud, long roar, then plopped down. That was the end of the action.

We drove on for about 20 minutes, and spotted a Thomson's Gazelle mother and fawn. They cautiously moved toward the waterhole. Only two steps ahead, the doe led the fawn. First one drank, then the other.
As they walked away from the water, they were joined by a buck. Then all three walked out of sight, behind a hill.

Next we saw a mother Grant's Gazelle, and her fawn, which looked to be, "all legs," in proportion to the rest of its body. We drove on down the road, and saw a male Grant's Gazelle with quite impressive horns.

We headed back to camp for lunch. It was little after 12:00 noon, and quite hot. On the way, we saw many zebra and wildebeest. The camp cooks had spaghetti on the menu that afternoon. Surprisingly it was quite tasty.

After lunch I went to my tent, to retrieve my journal, and headed back to the enclosed canopy where lunch had been served and began to write in my journal. Len Sr. was already there writing. We exchanged a warm smile, and I started to write about what I'd seen earlier in the morning. After four nights in The Crater, I actually was used to it, and felt what I called, "Safari Tough." I finished the entry in my journal, got up and threw it back in the tent, as it was time for the afternoon drive.

Then I saw the most beautiful black maned lion. He was such a pretty boy, and seemed to know it, when he, "Struck a Pose," as I photographed him.

That afternoon, we saw the same paired lion couple we'd seen a few days earlier. As they mated once again, she crouched down in the straw colored grass. As he finished, he still held onto the nape of her neck, with the slightest of pressure, from his huge teeth. His mouth was so large, that it fit totally around her neck with room left over! He then jumped quickly to the side, as he let her go upon dismount, then roared loudly. We were very close, about 30 feet away. When I said loud; I actually felt the sound of his roar, vibrate through my body. It was a sight and sound, I'll never forget.

As luck would have it, I was in Len Sr.'s vehicle that day. He said very authoritatively, "Kathleen, that's how its done. I see you're taking pornographic photos." "Not pornographic shots Lenny, educational ones," I replied. I mean I was in awe, of what I'd just seen. He replied, "Educational shots, I like that," he said and gave a little laugh.

Then both lions were on the move, as the female joined the male. We followed as they leisurely walked away from their mating site. I got another shot of them standing side by side, looking off into the distance of the great expanse of the Crater.

We continued to slowly follow along in the Land Rover, as they came upon an area where the grass was taller. Cliff asked Lenny, "How can we top that?" - (referring to the series of lion mating shots.)

Just then, four zebra came into view. We couldn't believe it; we thought we might actually get photos of these lions making a kill. The lead zebra came within 200 yards of the two lions, who were perfectly camouflaged by the tall, golden grass. The lioness was up and running before we knew it, and both lions and zebra kicked up large clouds of dirt from the dry ground. The zebra got away unharmed. It was a good effort by the lioness, but I believe she was too far away, to have a real chance. The male had also tried to help with the hunt, but she outclassed him in speed, as did the zebra, her. The best way I can describe it was; he had a slower, lumbering gait as he ran in comparison to her sleek, streamlined body. But he makes up in strength for what he lacks in speed. She would not have tried to take down the zebra if he wasn't there with her. If she had been been a little more patient, and crept closer under the cover of the tall grass, no doubt she would have caught the zebra, and with him seconds behind, he would have taken it right down with his enormous strength.

What a great last afternoon drive in the crater, as we would leave the next afternoon, at 1:00 p.m. That night, I paid special attention to the night sounds I might never hear again of the lions, zebra, hyenas, and wildebeest. I wished I could have stayed at least a week longer, as I'd started to feel comfortable (as a person could get), sleeping in a thin tent for, "safety," at night, with so many large, wild, predatory animals nearby. Sadness came over me as I thought about leaving.

The morning arrived, and we lived through another night to tell about it. After breakfast and before we headed out, we asked Jaspar, one of our drivers, to take a photo, of our photo safari group, then went out on our last afternoon game drive in Ngorongoro Crater.

We saw a Marabou Stork in a small stream, perched on a fallen log. Then we drove on, and saw a warthog, zebra, and a Yellow-throated sandgrouse, Hamerkop, Yellow-billed storks, Spoonbills, at a watering hole, and a few other bird species. Soon we saw very social zebras, resting their chins on each other's back, and standing together in a side-ways line.

The morning passed quickly and we headed back to camp, as it was mid-day. Our little group, went back to the tents, gathered all our belongings, and camera gear, and placed them in the vehicles. Then we headed for the enclosed canopy for lunch. As we are eating, the cook and his helpers are breaking camp. By the time we finished lunch, all the tents are down, and what amenities that were there were packed away. The camp-site looked so different, as though we were never there. The large banyan tree, where the cooks were set up under, is the only familiar sight left. I said, "Asante sana, and Nakwenda sasa," - (thank you very much, and good bye in Swahili) to the cook and his helpers.

I waved to them as we drove away, and they grew smaller and smaller as we slowly ascended, on the, "road," which would take us back up to the rim of the Crater. It took a good three hours to reach the top, as we were about 2,000 - 2,500 feet down, at the crater's floor. The road was not to be believed! No exaggeration, there were holes in the road the size of the Land Rover. We inched along. The road was barely the width of two lanes, and it was an impossibility to have even thought about sitting as you'd be bumped, bumped, bumped, along the width of the seat and back.

So we stood holding on with one hand, and holding on to the camera with the other, in case a good shot presented itself. Actually the position we held was what I called the, "flamingo stance," because you stood on one foot, held your camera case up with the other foot so it wouldn't fall off the seat.during particularly violent bumping during certain areas we traveled over. (The seat provided some cushion for the cameras, as there might be damage if you left them on the floor of the vehicle with all the pronounced bumping.) It was kind of funny how this soon became, "normal."

Finally we arrived at the rim of the Crater, then drove to the nearby Ngorongoro Crater Lodge.
The Ngorongoro Crater restaurant was located in the main building, as you drove up to the Lodge. (This was back in 1988.) The lodge was set atop the rim of the Crater, with the rooms located along the rim, further down the paths that wind around the complex.

I paid a young boy to carry my camera bag and small bag of clothes to the room. I didn't really need any help help, but he offered so I agreed, and gave him the equivalent to $5.00 U.S., in shillings He looked so thrilled.
Ann and I followed our young escort to the room. There were two single beds, a bathtub, sink, and yes, a flushing toilet. What luxury. No sooner than I sat down on the bed, we heard the authoritative knock on our door and Lenny's loud voice informing us, "Girls, be down at the Crater Lookout in five minutes, and he was off before we replied. "Ann, I can't take it anymore," I said, and we both started laughing. It felt nice to be inside a room with actual walls again.

Ann left to participate in the group photo. Being rebellious at heart, I jumped into the bathtub instead, to luxuriate in the tub. I knew we most likely, wouldn't have much time to bathe before dinner, so I took those extra few minutes. The water was heated separately, in each room by a gas heater above the tub, I expected the water to be cold, as it was in the shower we finally found in the crater, but I was pleasantly surprised. The water heater over the tub worked instantaneously. I saw blue flames shoot up every time every time I turned on the hot water. Being I wasn't very familiar with gas powered stoves, and had never seen a water heater like this, I thought it might blow up on me as I took my bath. It didn't.

I spotted a bowl on the table right next to the tub, which I used to pour water over my hair, as there was no shower attachment. This was the first time in six days I got to wash my hair. The warmest of water, before it turned hot, felt heavenly. I must admit, I hogged that bathtub, because I knew we wouldn't run out of hot water. Being clean again felt great. I dried off with an actual towel, and got dressed.

By this time, Ann had returned from the group photo, and said, "You missed the group photo." "I know," I answered. "It gave me more time to bathe before supper without having to feel like I'd be late," I replied. Ann said, "Yeah, I know what you mean. My turn now," she said.

I wrapped a towel around my hair, and left the room to take some panoramic shots of the crater, and the exterior of the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge.

We actually did have a few a minutes to ourselves before dinner that night, which was a rare treat. I sorted my film as to used or unused, and wrote in my journal and applied some make-up, I was silly enough to bring. (As if there would be time to apply it.) I felt a little more, "civilized," again. It was then time for dinner, and for the first time I felt, "ready, not rushed." Ann and I walked together to the lodge's lounge, and met up with Len Sr., and Len Jr., who of course, were already there. Next Don and Cliff arrived, then Nancy and Ron; our only married couple. Lou, was last to arrive. We had a wait before supper, so we all sat together and spoke about our experiences in the Crater.

We were led to the dining room, which surprisingly was quite formal, especially when compared to what we had just experienced in the Crater while camping. White linen tablecloths and napkins, with a full complement of silverware, plates, plus water and wine glasses. There was a large fireplace at one end of the room, and the lounge/bar at the other, with the decor being of an African motif. Upon the walls, hung about ten pair of horns from several different species of animals, with a plaque beneath each, identifying the animal these once belonged to.

Our supper started with the soup, which wasn't very good. We progressed to the next course which consisted of potatoes, string beans, and, "mystery meat." It was unidentifiable by sight, and tasted worse than it looked, which I marveled at. The, "chef," had cut the meat, "not quite right," as it curled up on the plate instead of lying flat. I was sitting next to Len Sr. that night, and he received most of my food. I ate lots of bread, with no butter-you can't be too careful. It was interesting to note, the cooks back at camp, did a much better job of preparing tasty food than the chef at the lodge.

After supper, Ann and I walked back to our room together. We were sitting on our beds, talking. About two minutes later, there was a knock at the door. We looked at each other and started laughing as we both said, "It can't be Lenny." It turned out to be Cliff and Don. "Would you like to come over to our room to play cards with us?" Cliff asked. Ann and I looked at each other, and agreed. Ann replied, "Yes, that sounds like fun."

When we got to their room, we noticed right away that their room was warmer than ours, and mentioned this to them. We all went back to our room, and they couldn't get the gas heater to come on either. At that point, we should have told Lenny, but we didn't. Instead we went back to Don and Cliff's room and played five card poker, with the dealer choosing the wild cards. I only won three hands, being that I didn't know how to play, but I was learning.

After playing cards for about two hours I said, to Ann, "Do you think we should call it a night?" Ann said, "Yes, it's getting late." We said goodnight, and went back to our room which really felt cold compared to the guy's room. I slept in all my clothes again, just like while camping out in the tents, at the Crater's floor. I hadn't noticed this earlier, but as I turned out the lamp to go to sleep, I noticed a painting of hyenas, hanging on the wall opposite the foot of the bed, and thought the painting was a little unnerving. That was my last thought before sleep took me.

Posted by kathleenlryan kathleenlryan, December 02, 2019 21:21


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