Ngorongoro Crater and its Amazing Wildlife

April 23, 2013

This great update was given to us from one of our East Africa operators. Thanks so much Meg from Unique Safaris.

A typical day in October and November consists of cool and foggy mornings, with the fog usually evaporating and the weather heating up by the late morning. The Ngorongoro Crater was bursting with wildlife as the European migratory birds were beginning to arrive.

Expect close encounters with elephants, lions, black rhino, buffalo, wildebeest, zebra, gazelles and many, many hyena. This is the time to see large flocks of crowned cranes in the Crater and the Augur buzzard was a common sight as well. There were a number of young rhino calves at the Crater, we  were lucky enough to spot four in one morning.

Primates are often seen at the Crater. Travellers are warned about the vervet monkeys in particular, who have learned that vehicles equate to food. So be on the look-out, do not feed the monkeys and keep doors or windows closed when you are not in the vehicle.


Image courtesy of ABC News

Although the population of lions down in the Crater is precarious at times, they are also easily seen due to the small size of the Crater floor. Lions also are well habituated to the vehicle, often seeking shade from the sun and heat. One lion passed directly behind the vehicle and then decided to sharpen her claws on the tire cover, ripping easily through the protective cover.

Another great early morning in the Crater was when we were greeted by two big male lions who were rolling on the ground together,  obviously with full bellies. In fact, lying around is their favourite thing to do, as they are only active about four hours a day. A short distance away were another 5 females, 2 young males and 6 cubs, all feeding on a zebra. This was most likely the early morning kill. The typical behaviour is for males to eat first, then females, and the last to eat are the cubs. If hunting has not been good for awhile, it is always the cubs who suffer the most and this adds to the higher cub mortality.

Another highlight in the Crater was coming upon a very recent zebra kill and a solitary lioness dragging the kill into the brush by the Munge River. The kill was almost impossible to see (not to smell though) and the lioness was resting and calling to her pride members to join her.

Five cheetahs were seen in one morning down on the Crater floor. Two of them tried to hunt Thomson gazelle, but they had no success and soon drew the attention of nearby hyena.

The old bull elephants are always a delight to see. The bulls that remain on the Crater floor are usually quite old, have big tusks and roam the Lerai forest and swamp areas only occasionally moving to the rim of the Crater to find females to breed with.

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