Travel

DAY 16, THUS., NOV. 14, INSIDE NGORONGORO

Today was our day to descend to the crater floor, a set apart realm containing thousands of animals of many species. Dividing up into several Landcruisers, our group had to transit along the crater ridge to the down going road on the far side. Unlike the crater floor, the ridge is well watered and somewhat forested. This zebra found it pleasant:

1-ZEBRA

2-ZEBRA

Down on the crater floor, our driver, Steven, opened the roof of our vehicle to permit us to stand and take photographs.

3-LAND CRUISER

Unfortunately, my small Leica camera, so easy to carry and generally useful lacks a telephoto lens, so some of my photos have had to be digitally zoomed, reducing quality. These shots of warthogs, an ostrich, a Cape buffalo (said to be one of the most dangerous animals in the crater) and a hyena illustrate the problem:

4-WARTHOGS

5-OSTRICH

6-HYENA

7-BUFFALO

At a bathroom stop, a vervet monkey managed to snatch some food off the hood of a nearby Landcruiser. Here, he  looks back with a measure of contempt:

8-VERVET

Sometimes we got close enough for my camera to do its thing, as this photo of a wildebeest shows. Wildebeests are among the most numerous animals both here and in the Serengeti. They are a major food source for top predators like the lion. Not a lovely species, but apparently a very successful one.

9-WILDEBEEST

In a small wooded area below our track, I snapped this beautiful serval cat

10-SERVAL CAT

11-SERVAL CAT

And this elephant with its baby:

12-ELEPHANTS

Passing a length of reeds in a watered area, we saw this lazy fellow:

13-LION

14-LION

Traveling on, we encountered many of the ruminants that provide lions with their food. Not far away, a placidly grazing herd of zebras. The brownish ones are either females or younger males:

15-ZEBRAS

A Grant’s gazelle . . .

16-GRANT'S GAZELLE

and a Thompson (“Tommy”) gazelle

17-THOMPSON'S GAZELLE

Finally, in small pool made by a brook, a herd of hippos:

18-HIPPOS

19-HIPPOS

We returned to the Lodge for lunch and then, at 3:00 PM, a smaller group of us visited a nearby Masai village. As we walked toward their fenced in compound, a group of men greeted us

20-MASAI

As did the chief

21-CHIEF

and a group of women

22-MASAI WOMEN

One of whom is tending her infant

23-BABY

The men put on a dance exhibition (marked by enthusiastic solo jumping) . . .

24-DANCING

Showed off their elegant “Michelin” sandals:

25-SANDELS

And skills of twisting sticks until there was enough heat to start a fire:

26-FIREMAKING copy

The visit included a tour of a Masai wood and cow dung home:

27-MASAI HUT

28-INSIDE

29-BEDDING

It ended after a display of Masai tourist goods. This woman was obviously skeptical of our claim that we could pay no more for some trinket:

 30-WOMAN

The day ended with a fascinating lecture before dinner by Ingela Jansson of the Serengeti Lion Project.  Ingela (a Swedish woman) described the efforts the project is making to stabilize the declining populations of lions in this region. Among other things, this involves tracking lion movements between the Serengeti and the crater (using GPS collars) and also assessing the lions’ physical and reproductive health.

The Project is making a major effort, as well, to persuade the Masai to protect the lions. Traditionally, a male Masai came of age by spearing and killing a lion. Lions also attack the Masai’s cows, an additional reason why the Masai have hunted the predator. (Ingela reported that not long ago, she was tracking a collared female when her computer showed the animal stopping and then moving rapidly away. Going to the site, she found the lion dead and its collar gone. A group of Masai were sighted in the distance running off with the collar.) But the Masai realize that they and the region need a stable and healthy population of lions. Building on this, the Project has recruited the best lion warriors of the Masai and given them responsibility for monitoring and protecting their own groups of lions. These individuals are dubbed “Lion Defenders,” a title and honor that they seem to greatly value. Thus, masculine courage and knowledge of this species is being redirected to the animals’ protection.

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