It has been a wish for a long time to visit the Ngorongoro crater. Since childhood I’ve heard of the place together with Serengeti and Kruger National Park. And finally the possibility arouse to visit the place with the whole family. With three kids and a wife at my site obviously the target was not to find every lark, warbler or skulking forest specialty but rather to see some large animals that young and old could enjoy together.
We left Arusha in the morning and headed for Karatu just outside the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Between Arusha and Karatu quite a few birds were seen including lots of Pink-backed Pelicans, Yellow-billed Storks, Chesnut-bellied Sandgrouse and many more.
In Karatu we stayed at a catholic guesthouse and monastery. It was actually a very nice place with an awesome garden. In the garden Fischer’s Lovebirds, Emerald-spotted Wood-doves, Bronze Sunbirds, Spotted Morning Thrush and Rueppel’s Robin Chat were present. But the best bird for me was a flock of Black-faced Waxbills.
We woke up early and headed towards the gate. Before the gate a large elephant bull crossed the road – the safari had begun. We reached the gate and got through without too many complications with our pre-paid cards and continued to the head quarters to get a guide. But the drive from the gate to the head quarters and then to the crater itself is quite long – to it is almost impossible to get there before 8:00 even though you pass the gate at 6:00.
But the drive was quite enjoyable as we saw both a Water Buffalo and 3 Spotted Hyenas on the road at first light.
When we reached the head quarters we had to wait for a guide, but after a while we finally got one and started the drive towards the crater. Along the road we saw Rufous-naped Larks, Diedrick’s Cuckoo, Fisher’s Sparrowlark, Northern Ant-easter Chat, Dusky Turtle Dove, Olive Thrush, Long-billed Pipit and Martial Eagle.
On the crater floor there were loads and loads of animals. All in all we saw 6 Black Rhinos, 9 Lions, lots of Wilderbeest, Zebras, Eland, Waterbuck, Bushbuck, Thomson’s and Grant’s Gazelle, Warthogs, Golden-backed Jackals, 2 Velvet Monkeys and a single Giraffe (above the crater). There are virtually animals everywhere. And often they offer very close views. It is obvious that they are more used to cars than animals in Katavi or Arusha National Parks. And the reason is obvious. You can pretty much see other cars all the time.
But that being said: Ngorongoron is awesome!
Some birding highlights included Hartaub’s Bustard, about 10 Kori Bustards, Secretary Bird, Hildebrandt’s Starling, Cape and Hottentot Teal, Amur Falcon, White-headed Barbet and about 20 Ostriches.