Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Crater Tanzania


Ngorongoro Crater Vista
Ngorongoro Crater Vista
Zanzibar to Tanzania

After leaving Zanzibar, the safari headed north along Africa’s Great Rift Valley. On the way to Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Crater, we passed Tanzanian bushland and stopped in Arusha, the “heart” of Tanzania’s safari industry. There’s much to say about this wonderful part of Africa. I will never forget my time here!

Topi Antelope
Topi Antelope
Bull Elephant
Bull Elephant
Tanzanian National Parks

A whopping one-third of the land in Tanzania has national parks that are home to Africa’s densest animal population. Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Crater are the core of the area’s game and forest reserves.

Kori Bustard Mating Dance
Kori Bustard Mating Dance

Kori Bustard – animalia.bio
Yellow Billed Storks

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….one-third of Tanzania’s land has national parks…

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Migrating Wildebeest
Ngorongoro Region

The Ngorongoro region is part of Serengeti’s ecosystem. The southern half of the region, the protected Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA), is one of its kind in Tanzania.

Friendly Baboon

Humans live in the NCAA but land use, including cultivation and domestic livestock grazing, is restricted. Inside the Ngorongoro Crater, a UNESCO Heritage Site, human habitation and livestock are not allowed.

Watering Hole

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….inside the Ngorongoro Crater the temperature suddenly dropped to 50 degrees.

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Masai Mara - Swain Destinations
Masai Mara – Swain Destinations

Our mellow African guide, Godlove, took us to incredible game viewing areas. We fully experienced the Crater and saw animals and birds I’d never heard of, like the Kori Bustard, world’s largest flying bird, and the Bat-Earred Fox.

Bat-Eared-Fox
Bat-Eared Fox

The Ngorongoro’s northwest border lies next to the southern plains of Serengeti National Park. Rugged volcanic highlands to the southwest along the rim of the Great Rift Valley prohibit animals from migrating there. The Serengeti Plains spread north into the Maasai Loliondo Division. Loliondo is open to all wildlife and home to “the curing plant” Carissa Edulis from the Apocynaceae family.

Buffalo at the Watering Hole
Buffalo at a Watering Hole
Olduvai Gorge Great Rift Valley

Our first stop was Olduvai Gorge, between the Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti National Park. Paleoanthropologists have found “hundreds of fossilized bones and stone tools in this area”. Evidence of man’s evolution dates back millions of years, leading scientists to conclude that humans evolved in Africa.

Red Hartebeest
Red Hartebeest – Travel Butlers

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Paleoanthropologists have found hundreds of fossilized bones and stone tools in Olduvai Gorge. Some date back millions of years leading experts to conclude that humans evolved in Africa.”

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Tanzania Bushland - Zegrahm Expeditions
Tanzanian Bushland with Flat Top Acacia Tree – Zegrahm Expeditions
Elephant Family

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Inside the Ngorongoro Crater human habitation and domestic livestock grazing are not allowed.

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Early Morning in the Ngorongoro Crater
Migration Herd
Ngorongoro Crater

We changed from the safari truck to smaller open-topped 4 x 4 vehicles for navigating Park roads and headed for the depths of the Crater. Our interesting route bypassed several Tanzanian landmarks:

Leopard Couple
Serengeti Great Migration

The Serengeti is world-famous for hosting the “largest terrestrial migration on earth”. It was declared a “natural travel wonder of the world” and the “number one wonder of Africa“.

Cheetah Preparing to Hunt

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Separated from its mother, a fast, strong, determined baby wildebeest got confused, left the herd, and began chasing our safari jeep.

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Grazing Giraffe

“During October through December, two million herbivores journey from the northern Tanzanian hills south to the plains of the Masai Mara, crossing over the Mara River in search of food and water. In April these hearty animals return north crossing the Mara again traveling to the west. This spectacle is often called the Great Migration and Circular Migration.”

Carissa Edulis – Comboni Missionaries
Sue in the Crater
Sue in the Crater

Many wildebeest die during the migration to Kenya’s Masai Mara Reserve. Their perilous journey covers 500 miles of rugged territory. Death comes from wounds, exhaustion, and carnivorous predators following the herds.

Helmeted Guinea Fowl

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Olduvai Gorge holds the earliest evidence of human ancestors.

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Hippos
Hippos Hanging Out
Serengeti Map

Around 70 bigger mammals and 500 bird species join the annual migration. The precise timing depends on rainfall patterns each year. The variety of species in the migration is due to a wide range of habitats including river forests, kopjes, swamps, grasslands, and woodlands. The most common mammals are blue wildebeest, zebra, gazelle, eland, and impala.

Lion Pride Preparing to Hunt
Lion Pride Pondering a Hunt

I visited in March. During a morning game drive, herds of wildebeest surrounded our vehicle. Separated from its mother, a calf got confused and left the herd to chase our jeep. We sped up to lose it, but the fast, determined baby furiously ran after us – something to see! After about 10 minutes, we finally lost the calf. Hopefully it returned to the safety of the wildebeest herd.

African Guide Godlove
African Guide Godlove

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We fully experienced the Ngorongoro Crater and saw animals I’d never heard of…

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Cheetah Serengeti National Park - Audley Travel
Cheetah on Termite Mound Serengeti National Park – Audley Travel

The time spent in Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro region was an indescribable lifetime experience. Highlights included observing a cheetah hunting expedition, watching a pride of lions botch a zebra kill, and seeing beautiful, exotic hartebeest and other antelope species like Roan, Topi, Lichtenstein’s, and Kobus.

Illusive Warthog

We spotted a rhino in the distance and followed for some time hoping to get closer. Uninterested in a human encounter, the wary rhino headed further away into the bush.

Tortoise
Tsetse Fly Biting Human – BBC
Tsetse Flies

The only negative was the nagging tsetse flies that nearly drove everyone crazy. Tsetse flies are present with large herds of grazing animals. It’s impossible to escape them. Undaunted by insect repellent, they delighted in torturing us.

Hyena Twins

Adequately expressing the beauty and magnitude of nature in these areas (via words or photographs) is challenging. Many aspects of a safari are difficult to share and must be experienced firsthand. I strongly recommend that anyone thinking about going on safari do it! The rich adventure will have a positive impact on your life and be well worth the cost, effort, and any discomfort!

Ngorongoro Crater Vista

More later from our next stop – Kenya’s Nairobi and Maasai Mara.

Serengeti Sunset

6 Comments

    1. Marilyn S Meyers

      Thank you! The crater is waiting but I’d be dishonest not to mention that there are many challenges on safari – even for those who are younger :). However, experiencing the raw realities and incredible beauty of the African bush is priceless!

      Your Rhodes adventure sounds quite special as well!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Garrulous Gwendoline

    Fantastic post Sue. I agree with you – it is a challenge to bring the experience to life for those who are tagging along, but I think you have done marvellously! All the unusual photographs and stories. We love the bat-ear fox, feel anxious for the wildebeest baby, and marvel at the beauty and extent of this area. And a guide named Godlove? I wonder how that sounded in his native dialect before translation. In past years I mixed a lot with the Yugoslav community, and I can tell you an extremely common name translates as “kiss of God”. (must have been a revengeful in some cases :-) ) As for the Tsetse flies – well, we have one ordinary fly here who so loves the stuff we spray on him, that we have adopted him as a pet and named him – MORTEIN.

    Like

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