The thing about Ngorongoro Crater is the hype. I think this was the single most-hyped place we visited. Everyone we met, everything we read, said Ngorongoro is THE place you MUST visit. There are animals everywhere. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel.
Yeah, well it ain’t.
I don’t want to give the impression that it was a bad place to visit. it wasn’t. But in some ways it was the most dissapointing because it was nothing like I expected it to be. There weren’t oodles of animals everywhere you looked. Granted we did see some lions and cheetah’s, but much farther away than in the Serengeti.
And, every time your car stopped, three other cars came by to see what you might be looking at. You knew where there were game to be had by looking for the conglomeration of land rovers. At one point we saw more than 20 lined up to see some lions that were so far from the road you couldn’t even get a good picture!
Now, it is pretty cool to be riding in the concavity of a former volcano that was once larger than Mt. Kilimanjaro. And it’s not that it’s not pretty, but it does get a little boring after a while. It just was the same thing the whole time we were there, not changing like Tarangire or with the expanse of Serengeti.
The most unusual part of the trip actually were the roads in and out of the crater. There is (we were originally told) one road going down and one going up. Actually that’s only true for outside vehicles. Much to my dismay on the way up we had a ranger vehicle come at us head-on. This might not seem like such a big deal, but this road was … well, let’s just say it makes driving Big Sur look like something you could do with training wheels.
First we thought the road down was bad. Good Luck assured us that no, no one had in fact ever gone over the edge and plummeted to their deaths despite the lack of guard rails and whatnot. Though somewhat skeptical, I could then believe no one had gone offroad on the way DOWN once I had a chance to experience the way UP. It was way worse! 20+ minutes of white-knuckling, not-looking-down, shifting from one side of the van to the other to try to push our weight to the inside. Good luck seemed amused by our, shall we say, concern, but he did get us up and down safely both times. Of course the fact that we were in San Francisco-quality fog on the way down in the morning didn’t help. At one point a truck was stopped on the road that just loomed up in front of us with 5′ notice, and we had to go around into any possibly oncoming traffic… well, let’s just say it added flavor to the adventure.
The crater is quite small compared to other other parks (260 sq kilos vs. 2600 for Tarangire and a whopping 14,750+ for Serengeti) so you were easily able to loop it and see all there was to see in a very short time.
For those of you planning your own safaris, I think 1 day (we did two 1/2 day drives) for the crater is ample, despite its illustrious billing. Spending more time in Serengeti to see its far corners, or Tarangire, which is more constant entertainment, would be what I’d recommend.
Regarding the photos, I have a whole series that just show the crazy road to the top and I put those at the end, so you can skip them if you’re not interested. Also, I was running out of internet cafe time, so fewer captions here.
All in all, we saw all of the major animals one goes to africa to see, except the rhino. Maybe next time!