Wonders of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area
We left the Serengeti today and drove across the plains into the neighbouring national park of Ngorongoro. Despite the distance being less 100 kms, the drive took us almost 6 hours due to the state of the roads – seems the rain we had the other day washed half of them away! It was an incredible journey – the scenery was amazing and along the way we stumbled across a cheetah that had just taken down a gazelle and was busy having its breakfast. We were close enough to see the flesh being ripped from the dead gazelles flank, to smell the iron tang of blood in the air, and to hear the cheetah breathing heavily as it gulped down mouthful after mouthful of meat. An unforgettable way to start our day!
Encompassing three spectacular volcanic craters, Olduvai Gorge, huge expanses of lush green savannah, forest and bush land, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area covers 8,300 square kilometres and is also the only place on Earth where mankind and wild animals co-exist in harmony. Unique amongst Africa’s national parks, Ngorongoro allows Maasai tribesmen to live and graze their cattle alongside giraffe, elephants, gazelles, antelope, zebra, rhino, lions and a whole host of other wild creatures. The Maasai live (mostly) in harmony with the wild animals, as they have done for centuries – here humans, livestock and wild animals live in peace. As we drove through the park we even saw Maasai cattle grazing alongside zebras!
The Ngorongoro Conservation Area also contains numerous paleontological, archaeological, and anthropological sites of exceptional quality. It’s here, at Olduvai Gorge, that the remains of the world’s first humans (Homo habilis) were discovered by Louis and Mary Leakey. With its rolling green hills, lush forests and wild animal population, Ngorongoro really is like a remnant of the Garden of Eden.
Central to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area is Ngorongroro Crater, which we’re going to explore tomorrow. For today however we had to satisy ourselves with peering over the rim of the collapsed volcano crater and marvelling at the view. Whilst we were standing at the crater’s rim, admiring the view, Charles our driver/guide informed us that the word ngorongoro means “cold high place” in Maa, the language of the Maasai. A fitting name considering we’re more than 2000 m up and it is rather chilly here!
After the long drive through the Ngorongoro highlands we were relieved to finally arrive at our home-away-from-home for the next couple of day: Ngorongoro Farmhouse. Set on 750 acres of private farmland, Ngorongoro Farmhouse is a fully functional farm that also happens to have a few cottages available for tourists like us, keen to explore the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. The farm is beautiful, with acres of maincured lawns, decorative gardens, tea plants, coffee plants and various other crops laid out all around us. And the old farm house – which has been converted into the “hotel’s” main bar, dining and lounge area – is lovely. What a great, “civlised” home base from which to explore one of the world’s most amazing wild places!