Our Jeep rolled to a stop at the top of a hill. We were surrounded by Acacia trees and there was a small rusted green gate ahead of us. Bachu, our driver, had stepped out of the jeep and began to remove three panels from the roof, letting the heat and the sunshine into the car. We squealed with excitement as each of us (there were 5 of us in the jeep) rose from our seat, took off our flip flops, stepped onto the seat and stood up so we could see outside. It’s day two of my Classic Journeys trip with Intrepid from Kenya to Cape Town and I am over the moon happy.
As our jeep started to drive down into the Ngorongoro Crater, Emily & Chistina began singing songs from the Lion King while wearing their Masai blankets (which were bought at the market in Mto Wu Mbo the night before). Our jeep drove slowly down the hill and it wasn’t long before the Acai trees gave way and the bottom of the Ngorongoro Crater lay before us.
“Oh! Look over there! It’s animals!” I pointed off into the distance to the numerous black dots. We were too far away to see what kind of animals they were, but it didn’t matter. We were on a safari. We were standing up through the roof of a jeep and we knew we were going to see safari-type animals for the next 6 hours or so.
“Oh! Look! Zebras!!” I pointed to the right-side of the jeep. In the distance was a small herd of Zebras. Bachu drove us toward the herd and although we were still too far away to get a decent photo, each of us began snapping photos.
“Oh, they are so beautiful,” Christina & Emily said in unison, their Aussie accents making the statement that much cuter. Indeed, they were beautiful. I had never seen a Zebra before (aside from watching documentaries). Their stature is similar to that of a donkey, however, that is where the comparison stops. I found the Zebra’s stripes to be mesmerizing. I had heard that each Zebra’s stripes are unique, but I didn’t really think much of it -until I saw them with my own eyes.
We stood up in the jeep and looked to our right at the herd of Zebras in the distance, as I glanced to my left I could see a jeep in the middle of a herd and I was immediately jealous.
“Hey! There’s a jeep over there with a bunch of Zebras!” I exclaimed.
“Bachu, we want to be that jeep over there, please.” Christina was matter-of-fact, but half joking. We wanted to be that jeep, but we didn’t expect our driver to make it happen -not until he turned us around and drove us over a very bumpy road towards the Zebras. We were over-the-moon happy. I know the word ‘amazing’ it overused, but at this moment it is hard for me to think of another word.
I stood in the jeep with camera in hand, my brain trying to process the reality of my situation. Our jeep was surrounded by Zebras. I cooed at the babies with their coffee-colored stripes (their stripes turn black as they get older) and in no time I was taking photo after photo after photo. We all wanted to stay longer, but we couldn’t. The day was young and there was still a lot more to see in the crater.
As Bachu drove through the crater we would see Water Buffalo in twos or threes along in the fields around us. It wasn’t long before we came across a herd of Wildebeest walking across the yellow grassy plains and crossing the road. Bachu drove our jeep up close and we watched as they crossed the road, one by one. My first reaction was “Wow, Wildebeests are ugly!”. I know, it sounds mean, but it’s true! Their faces are flat, it looks like they ran themselves into a wall. They have scraggly hair and skinny bodies. However, no matter how ugly they are, watching them walk, run over leap across the road was fascinating. I love how orderly animals are, walking in a line, crossing obstacles or roads in a line, it sounds weird, but I loved watching them.
Each new animal added a level of excitement. although I found Wildebeests to be somewhat ugly (Water Buffalo too), I was still thrilled to see (and photograph) them.
The diverse landscapes of the Ngorongoro Crater were fabulous. One moment we’re driving through yellow grasslands, the next we’re staring at a thriving green oasis and counting large grey Hippopotami in a small pond. My absolute favourite scene took place at one of these small thriving green oasis’s, about half way through our time in the crater.
Bachu drove the jeep into a small cul-de-sac like the area and put it into park. Directly in front of us was a small pond with green reeds and patches of grass. In the water was 4 large Hippopotami with just their backs exposed. Off in the distance and to my right the green grass of the oasis started to give way to the yellow grasslands with herds of Zebras and Wildebeests were grazing, the wall of the crater acting as the border (which it is) Occasionally Cranes or Pelicans would fly overhead, some of them landing gracefully in the pond. For me, this scene is a romanticized version of Africa, the version I truly love and will always see in my mind when I think of my day in the Ngorongoro Crater.
Thinking of traveling to Africa?
Traveling in Africa, solo, can be a scary thought -especially for solo female travelers. I’m not saying it can’t be done, it can. What I am saying is that there is nothing wrong with joining a group tour.
For 45 days I traveled from Kenya (Nairobi) to Cape Town with Intrepid Travel. This was my very first group travel experience. At first I wasn’t sure what I had gotten myself into, but as time progressed, I began to relax and fall in love with this type of travel. In fact, I would definitely travel with Intrepid again.