The final leg of my wonder-infused 9 day safari through Tarangire, Lake Natron, the Serengeti and Ngornogoro Crater started with a long drive across the Serengeti’s empty plains. From tree-less flatlands, the ground gently began to slope upwards as we made our way towards the remnants of an imposing volcanic cone. Before long scrub-brush gave way to vegetation as the road wound past Masaai villages and the ground rapidly greened. Our ascent was rapid, threading for the tip of the crater rim which sits more than 2,000 meters above the open plains of the Serengeti. Once we crested the top, we paused at an overlook, with a view down the 600m to the floor of the old caldera, and then continued on to our campground, which sat perched along the edge of crater looking out over it like a silent clustering of squat sentinels. As the team raised the tent, I recorded a quick vlog and explored a bit. Then, sat down and prepared to eat a much-needed dinner.
Unfortunately, the ascent was so rapid that after several days without hydrating properly, and due to taking allergy medication – I found myself sitting at the picnic table light headed, on the cusp of passing out. While my guide and cook kept a close eye on me to see if my condition worsened, I hydrated heavily and ate as much of the carb-heavy dinner they had cooked up as I could while focusing my breathing and taking long-deep breaths. Within 30 minutes or so the light headedness passed without injury or complication and I started to adjust. From there it was a matter of continuing to hydrate, walking within the confines of the camp (after dark it was guarded by an armed guard as all of our campgrounds were open camps open to animals of all types and sizes).
The views of the crater, the sunset, the moon, and a stunning rainbow from the rim of the crater still give me chills. It wasn’t until the crack of dawn the following morning that the true wonder of the park started to kick in fully. Eager to be one of the first ones into the park, I think we ended up being the 2nd or 3rd car admitted in the morning. This meant we spent the majority of our morning in the park almost completely alone with the animals all long before the other vehicles from nearby lodges or cities started to trickle in.
The descent into the crater could not have been more dramatic. Most of the twilight drive to the rim-gate was through mist and fog. As we paused at the gate that manages the single road down into the park, I snapped a few photos – looking out into the fog and only just catching a hint of the sun through gold-colored mist. Then, what looked like a second sun – but which I later discovered was a still lake at the base of the crater. It was only as we descended along the wall of the crater that the fog gave way, offering a staggeringly beautiful sunrise view of the cloud ringed walls and sun-kissed caldera floor.
Ngorongoro Crater sits at the heart of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. The crater is a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site and is a massive volcanic caldera. It is widely recorded as the largest inactive, unflooded volcanic caldera though there is a small rain and spring-fed lake in one corner. The Caldera sits relatively close geographically to Ol Doinyo Lengai, the Mountain of God, which is still active. Home to its own micro-eco system animals migrate into the protected grasslands of the caldera, while others enjoy its captivating ecosystem year round.
Ngorongoro is one of the southern most parts of the Serengeti eco-system. In my previous posts covering the Serengeti I shared with you all of my big-cat photos and animal and landscape photos. All images were shot over the course of a morning spent in the Crater on a Canon 6D and most used a $200 lens (full details here).
The Sun, Reflected
Cloud Kissed Rim
Zebra on Patrol
King of the Crater
Grey Crowned Cranes
The Circle of Life
A Sense of Scale
Company Scouting The Crater
A crater Jackal on Patrol
The Martial Eagle in Flight
The Water’s Edge
Searching for Lions
Caught in the Act
Mother and Child
A Crater Lion
The Martial Eagle on Patrol
The Lion & The Vulture
Gray Crowned Crane
The Master of the Crater
This concludes my series of color photos taken during my spectacular 9 day safari through Tanzania. I’m already eager to return, charting out new areas of the park to explore, contemplating how to best catch the great migration at an earlier stage, and curious what other wonders are hidden behind Tanzania’s expansive borders. Thanks for going on Safari with me!
Have questions about how I captured or edited these photos? You can see aperture, lens, speed and ISO if you click into the image over on flickr. Want to know more? Feel free to ask in a comment below.
Don’t forget: To learn more about my advice for picking a good Safari company read the post here. To learn about the $200, 70-300mm lens I shot most of these photos on see the post here. All shots were captured on a Canon 6D. To see my full albums, including black and white edits and other big cat photos from my visit jump over to flickr.
Want to purchase a print of one of these shots? Let me know or browse existing prints in my store.
If you are considering a safari, I’d highly suggest considering Tanzania and the Serengeti/Ngorongoro Crater park in particular. I’d also suggest the team at Fed Tours and Safaris who I partnered with for this trip. They’re a Tanzanian owned and operated company run by two brothers and they provided me with an absolutely spectacular safari experience. As part of our collaboration, I received a discounted rate in exchange for sharing my unfiltered/fully independent experience with them. If you are considering Tanzania, I do encourage you to research Fed Safaris and mention you’ve read about them here on VirtualWayfarer. They’ll make sure to take extra good care of you.