Ngorongoro National Park, Part I

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Located on the eastern edge of Serengeti, Ngorongoro National Park is an enormous crater of ~19km (12 miles) in diameter and ~600m (2k feet) in depth. Some 2.5 million years ago, after a huge eruption, this huge volcano collapsed inward and formed into the largest unbroken volcanic crater (calderas) in the world. Relatively isolated, the flat bottom of the crater are filled with lakes and creeks and hosts some 25,000 large animals. Almost every species of East African animals can be found in the crater, except for Giraffes, who are probably too tall and fragile to travel down along the steep slope of the crater wall.

This gorgeous Crater looks different every moment of the day. Here are some pix taken from daybreak through sunset.

In Ngorongoro you can just click the camera with your eyes closed, you'll have a good shot matter which direction the camera points.


We lived right at the rim of this huge crater. Outside our window and the balcony is the stunning full view of the crater. Zoom closely at the flat crater bottom, you may find some slowly moving black dots -- hundreds of migrating Wildebeests!

The next morning, driving carefully along some steep bumpy trails, we found our way down to the crater.


The Animals. As usual, the Predators go first. My favorite is Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus), the fastest animal in the world. A cheetah can go from 0 to 60 mph in less than 3.5 second. In case those numbers didn't mean anything to you, it takes a $640K Ferrari Enzo 3.3 second and a $300K Lamborghini Murcielago 3.6 second to go from 0 to 60.

Cheetahs are crafty killers. Here's a clever kill by a team of two. One lying down, looking bored. The other walking leisurely away, slowly to the other wing of a group of cautiously watching Thomson's Gazelles (Eudorcas thomsoni).

Attack! I don't know what signal they gave each other, but all a sudden both cheetahs jumped and accelerated towards the gazelles.

A young gazelle couldn't outrun the fastest animal in the world. So it's lunch time.

A family of Lions (Panthera leo). It's consists of several related females and their cubs of both sexes. The kids were having fun playing with their mother. The group is usually closely connected to 1-4 males whom they mate with, but we didn't see any sight of male.

From a distance we heard this Golden Jackal (Canis aureus)'s shrilling voice, sounds very sad. The last pic give a rough idea of the relative size of the jackal, compared to a wildebeest. Jackals are scavengers as well as hunters of small mammals, birds, and reptiles.

These caves formed by molten lava millions of years ago are now dents of Spotted Hyenas (Crocuta crocuta).


Herbivores. Black Rhinos (Diceros bicornis) is surely not a very fortunate specie. Since the 1960's its population has decline from some 100,000 to merely 3500. It's a safe bet that the highly sought-after magnificent horns, which can grow up to 1.3 meter long, must have contributed to their decline. The Chinese, for example, used to believe rhino horns prossesses magical power.

I feel that the Buffalos (Syncerus caffer) in Ngorongoro less hostile than those in other places, say Serengeti. Strolling leisurely, they must be living a easier life here.

Another happy species is the Hippos (Hippopotamus amphibius). Plenty of lakes and ponds on the crater surface suit these water-dwelling monsters well.

Not surprised to see lots of Zebra (Equus quagga) here. After all we haven't been to a place that we don't see them. They are apparently friendly animals, having good relationship Wildebeests, Donkeys, and Storks.

The Antelopes. We shall start with the most easily mistaken Wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus, Western White-beard race). Wildebeests for the first sight resemble the traits of cattles and buffalos, but they are actually antelopes. Strange do they look, wildebeests are gentle animals that are easy to get along with.

Eland (Connochaetes taurinus, 2 pix) is the largest of all antelopes. Unfortunately we could watch them from quite a distance. From the 2nd pic you have a rough idea the size of this giant antelope, compared to zebras. Waterbucks (Kobus ellipsiprymnus defassa, 4 pix) are a bit smaller. As the name indicated, they love to stay with water.

We've met them up above -- Gazelles (Eudorcas thomsoni, and Nanger granti) are favorite chows for the speedy cheetahs. Gazelle themselves are great runners, for their lives of course.

Other animals. Elephant and the naughty Vervet Monkeys (Chlorocebus pygerythrus). The last 3 pix is a tornado that swept the grassland.



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