November 1, 2014 (9 lions + 4 black rhinoceros + 1 serval cat) Stayed at Sopa Lodge at Ngorongoro Crater
We got up at 5:30 and headed into the crater by 6:30. The sun came up and we saw cape buffalo, kori bustard, a dazzle of zebra, a family of black backed jackals with pups hiding in the grass, a secretarybird, and a couple of Egyptian geese. Then we saw a pride of 9 lions with cubs, and another zeal of zebras. Some were nursing; some were playing. It was very cute. We saw an auger buzzard, a sounder of warthogs, and some crowned plovers and then we saw what we had been hoping for: A family of three black rhinoceros. We saw them in the distance, and there were several safari vehicles parked near them. Michael surveyed the situation and parked far away. He said that the others would startle them and with luck, they would come our way. He was right! They did start running towards us. The male kept a little distance away from the mama and calf, but all three were coming fast! We noticed that one of the mama’s horns had the tip broken off. The calf was right on her heels. It was amazing. The male rhinoceros had an oxpecker on him back that stayed with him while running. They veered off and ran behind us as they got close. It was exciting. A group of rhinoceros is known as a herd or a crash. I’m glad we didn’t find out why they are called a crash! Then we saw a sedge (a sedge is a marsh or grassy area) of grey crowned cranes and some wildebeest together. We also saw wildebeests rutting. It’s interesting as they got down on their knees. I also got a photo of a Martial eagle in flight. We saw Grant’s gazelles, pied avocets, and Thomson’s gazelles. Then we saw a male ostrich dancing for a mate. He started following her and puffing up his neck and it turned a darker shade of pink in color. Then he got down on his knees and was bobbing and weaving his head back and forth while pulling his wings forward and backward like he was bowing down for her. She was disinterested in him and ran away. Oh well, maybe next time he will find a girlfriend. We also saw a pink flower called a Scundaxis. We saw another siege of grey crowned cranes with some wildebeest. Then, we saw our first golden jackal next to a lot of lesser flamingos on the lake. The water level in the lake was really low and we felt lucky to see as many flamingos as we did, as it isn’t the right time of year to see the massive numbers that sometimes are in the crater. There were wildebeest and zebra walking by the flamingos, as well. The golden jackal looked like he was trying to pick out a flamingo for dinner, but eventually, decided to move on. We continued on and saw a pair of African fish eagles and a hyena. Around the bend, we saw the hippo pool. They were packed in like sardines – no wonder it’s called a bloat. There were black crakes standing on top of them. On the other side were a lot of sacred ibis. Farther down the road we saw a den of hyenas. There were six. Parents with cubs. Next we saw a sounder of warthogs, a pair of ostriches, a kori bustard, and a pair of Coke’s hartebeest. Then we saw another female rhinoceros with a lot of oxpeckers on her. She was far away and with the wind and the atmosphere (the heat radiating off the ground) made it difficult to get a good photo…but I tried! We saw an elephant skull, and a live elephant in the marsh with some zebras and gazelles close by, and a bloat of hippos lying by the pool with a bunch of oxpeckers on them. We stopped for lunch and took a photo with Michael. After lunch, we saw a kori bustard, and a tawny eagle. We drove out through the Lerai Forest. The word lerai is a Maasai word meaning yellow-barked acacia. As soon as we moved out of the trees, we saw several tawny eagles. A few were soaring, a couple were sitting in a tree. One was squawking. Michael thought they could be squawking about a snake, but we didn’t see one. Then we saw two golden jackals. Maybe, they were squawking about the jackals? They could have been juveniles, and may have been squawking because they were hungry. We see that with red-tailed hawks in Colorado. Then we saw Thomson’s gazelles. We also saw a herd of cape buffalo. There was a calf nursing. There were also some wildebeest. Mark spotted a serval cat! This was unusual because they usually aren’t seen during the day. Next we saw an implausibility of wildebeest. There were thousands. There were zebras and gazelles with them. We also saw a large olive baboon. On the way out of the crater, we saw three more black-backed jackals, ostrich, and a herd of cape buffalo. We made it back to Sopa Lodge, but it had started to rain so we didn’t take the 360 degree time lapse of the lodge outside. We headed over to the lodge in our rain coats and relaxed with a beer and glass of red wine. We noticed a bunch of people in the bar having drinks together, but instead of conversing, they were all on their technology devices. I guess it’s a sign of the times. In all fairness, the lodge is the only place with wifi, so it’s their chance to get caught up with the outside world. It’s a bad habit for a lot of people. We saw white necked ravens on the terrace at the lodge, and there also was a small black and white bird with red on his rump, outside our room, but we didn’t find out what it was. After a good dinner (Mark had red snapper and I had vegetarian lasagna). As we were being escorted back to our room we saw Midnight, the black kitty. We were tucked in by 9:15 as we would be up at 5:30 and meet Michael at 6:30 for our last day in the crater. Sweet dreams. ~ Mary & Mark
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