safari day 2

Tuesday morning we began the second day of our safari with a drive through the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.  None of Tanzania's reserves are gated; however, an entrance fee is required and you do have to check in and check out of each reserve.  Unfortunately, when we arrived at the gate of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, we did so with many other safari-goers, and it took almost an hour before we were cleared for entry.  Fortunately, Ibrahim was in charge of this check-in process, so all we had to do was try to stay out of the strong sun and away from the nasty tsetse flies.

The peak of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area sits at 7,500 feet, so with each turn the car wound higher and higher up the rim of the caldera.  We stopped to photograph the crater below before winding all the way down the other side to the "endless plains" of the Serengeti, the breathtaking scenery only aggrandized by the occasional presence of a giraffe, elephant or zebra.  Then we passed under the gate of the Serengeti National Park where thousands of impala and gazelle and zebra and wildebeest just seemed to materialize from the grassy savannah like the baseball players from the corn in the Field of Dreams.

With the hatch of our Landcruiser popped and the hot sun streaming in, we bumped along the dirt road toward Lake Masek, where we discovered a wildebeest graveyard. The tires crunched on the bones of the fallen prey as we made our way deeper into the bush and encountered a large family of elephants.  We got so close we could count the wrinkles of their crackled gray skin, and laughed at the posturing of the baby elephant.  He stomped his foot, flared his ears and snorted his trunk, only to be gently led away by his mother who didn't find our vehicle as threatening as he.

We passed flocks of pelicans and pink flamingos, pausing to photograph a herd of hippos taking a mud bath in Lake Ndutu.  They smelled almost as bad as the blunt and bloody limb toted by the very hungry and very pregnant hyena we saw next.  Dark clouds rolled in with the dusk, but we drove deeper into the bush before arriving at camp.  Though a waiter met us at the car with delightfully cold towels and deliciously fresh passion fruit juice, our experience that night would be far more rustic than any other night on our trip.

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