We couldn’t leave northern Tanzania without seeing one its top safari parks. The Ngorongoro crater is ideal if you want to see as many of the big five as possible in a short space of time. The crater is the world’s largest intact volcanic caldera and lies east of the Serengeti National Park. The crater floor supports large numbers of wildebeest and zebra who are always found together. Near the swamp area is the best chance to see elephants. A leopard sighting would have been great but they are far too shy and they head towards the forest to live up in the trees.

From the main park gate, we took a track that followed the crater rim. We raced along the track to make up a bit of time before then descending into the crater that is 600 metres below. We picked up a guard at the top. We were required to take one as we were travelling in our own vehicle.

The first animals we saw were water buffalo as they crossed the road in front of us before quickly running off. Our guard then started texting his fellow rangers to find out where the best game animals could be found. We passed quite a few safari jeeps all with tourists popping their heads out of the top looking through binoculars.

A lot of the animals need to be found and it’s more like a treasure hunt as we drive around snififng out wild animals. The crater floor is huge and we zig zag our way around it on the prowl.

As it’s the start of wet season, the grass is quite long, so that makes it harder to find lions. We got very excited as we saw more and more animals. Bun sat with the big five list from the guide book ticking them off as we saw them.

Our guide wasn’t much use in the back of the vehicle but he was good at identifying the  animals or birds we didn’t recognise and what time of day is better to see certain animals. We were both wanting to see a rhino and some lions.

Another tick in the book, we saw two lions after we observed  a safari jeep parked overlooking some tall grass. We moved on before heading to the lake to see the flamingoes.

The real treat came after lunch. We finally got rid of our guide who said we were free to drive around the park before the park closed. Off we went like hunters into the vast expanse of the park, except that we were in a giant landcruiser which probaly looked like a elephant if you were looking at us from a distant.

Rhino. Two of them! Stop Bun, lets get the camera. They were a bit to far to get a proper picture. The rhino of the Ngorongoro Crater are different because they appear white. They get like that after they have bathed and rolled in the saline lake and fringng salt flats of Lake Magadi in the middle of the crater floor.

We then went in search of the two lions we saw earlier in the day. On the way Bun noticed a large gathering of safari jeeps all huddled together in the distance about half a mile away. Something was going on over there, so we got a move on and ventured over to see what was going on. We slowed down as we approached and got sight of a pride of lions in the middle of the group of trucks.

They were half sleeping and rolling around. As we made our way round the bend to get a better view, we caught sight of one hiding in the tall grass, just about visible. We couldn’t believe our luck. We were very close but we felt like there was no bridging the gap and getting a stroke of one, however tempting it was. We switched the engine off and waited to see what they would do next. they continued to bake in the sun, their chests pumping up and down. We just wanted to take as many pictures as possible so we passed the camera back and forth as they moved around.

After a while the real joy was seeing them get a wind of something and becoming very alert as they got out from the grass. They scanned the horizon and as we looked in the same direction as they were, we noticed a group of wildebeest in the distance. A sudden transformation as they switched from sleeping doormats to killing lions. They were off! Bun coudln’t even try to grab one of  thelions tail to stop it from going!

Now we sensed that there was going to be a kill. We watched them go as a pack and waited to see what they would do next. it was hard seeing what they were up to in the grass, but as one went off on it’s own, we thought there was going to be some cunning move to kill one of the wildebeest.

The single vunerable wildebeest got sense of it and was off like a shot. It was hard to see what happened next but as I looked through the binoculars, I could make out the legs of an antelope upside down in the grass.

We were buzzing from watching that. We missed the actual kill but could see the pride all around the antelope.

We then drove  off towards the park exit, leaving in a different way than we entered, to get to the gate before it closed.

photos for now http://www.flickr.com/photos/amillerphotos

Google map of the crater: http://maps.google.co.uk/maps?ll=-3.196301,35.59018&z=10&t=h&hl=en