A few nights ago we camped on the rim of the Ngorongoro crater. As we pitched camp about 5 pm a herd of zebras were grazing about 20 meters away but by nightfall they had moved off into the bush. We went to sleep under the nearly full moon anticipating an O’dark thirty departure to descend into the crater.
This is the first national park camp we had been in with a night watchman and during the night I heard his footsteps crunching in the ground in front of our tent. Then at the same time I heard his footsteps crunching behind our tent and on both sides of us. Listening a bit more closely I realized the sound I was hearing was a herd of animals ripping up the grass as they grazed all around us.
Opening up the tent zipper I looked down on eight African Buffalo. Our tent sits on the roof of the truck and the two closest were directly underneath me. I could have dropped right onto their backs, though I doubt I would have made the 8-second bell if it was a rodeo.
African or Cape Buffalo are one of the “big five” game animals. Hunters actually considered them the most dangerous animal of all because unlike most animals that when wounded take-off running, a wounded buffalo will circle back and hunt the man that shot him.
The next day in the crater we had a guide for the first time on this trip. One bit of animal behavior he passed on to us was about the migration. Each year a herd of over a million wildebeest and zebra migrate between Tanzania and Kenya. The zebra lead the migration and the wildebeest follow along. However when they get to the dangerous river crossing where thousands are drowned, trampled or eaten by the waiting crocs, the wily zebras hang back and let the wildebeest cross first. After the crocs are full and the river banks worn into a smooth track then the zebras cross and return to the front lines continuing to lead the procession.
Our day in Ngorongoro was superb as we saw 15 lion including one lioness who was hunting and we followed her for over half an hour. Eventually the wildebeest scented her and took off- no lunch today.
We knew this trip we were undertaking was a bit unusual and adventurous but surprisingly in all of Serengeti we saw only 4 other private vehicles from So. Africa. In Ngorongoro we were the ONLY private car today- every other vehicle was a guided safari group.