Christmas dinner last night was fabulous. The highlight was when the lodge staff came in singing, and singing amazingly well, and then proceeded to do the traditional Maasai jumping dance. Seeing the six-foot-six head of security leaping into the air with arms at his side and come crashing down was spectacular. Callum and Declan joined in which was amazing largely because Declan had every single Christmas hat on his head while he did so. We wont forget this Christmas in a hurry.
Boxing Day, today, was our trip down into the Ngorongoro Crater. The Crater is a huge flat plan and from the rim it looks undifferentiated and empty – but that’s only because your eyes and brain aren’t really interpreting the distances properly. There are several different habitats and it is absolutely packed with life. There are countless zebra and wildebeest and buffalos; just drifts of them everywhere. In amongst the herds are birds, and smaller animals. There are warthogs, jackals, baboons, monkeys, the list just goes on and on.
There were really two highlights of today. The first was lions. We had large male lions come within a couple of feet of our truck. Just padding along completely without any fear of us, or even any interest in us. And we watched a pride of lions hunt buffalo – they were, as is common, completely unsuccessful, but that didn’t detract from the wonder of seeing it all happen.
The second thing we’d been keen to see was hippopotamus. However it turns out that during the day the hippos don’t do much, or really anything at all. They just lie mostly submerged and occasionally snort. So we were really lucky to come across hippos mating. I can’t say that it’s something I would call elegant or pretty, but it was certainly interesting.
We actually saw most of the good stuff in the first couple of hours we were in the Crater. We then spent the afternoon fruitlessly hunting for rhinoceros. Harry, our guide, insisted that a vague dot seen through the heat shimmer was rhino, but no matter how long we looked we couldn’t make out any details so we’re not prepared to claim it. Our distant look at rhino yesterday is going to have to suffice for this trip.
We did see some lions, hyenas, and jackals squabbling over a kill. Saw some stunning birds. And we marvelled at baboons playing in the trees. We saw so much today, but the thing we’d never really expected was that so much of it was right up close to us not off in the distance. The lions wandering by was particularly special.