Crater of Cats

Crater of Cats

This is not the best time to visit Ngorongoro, because so many of the animals have left during the dry season. And that meant for us, lots of cats!

Travel brochure description is a communication form that is often low on truth. And economies often motivate the travel companies to use the same description of a place – like Ngorongoro Crater – regardless of when during the year a visit might occur.

That might be understandable, given Americans penchant for exhaustive competition for the best price in travel, but once unmasked the reaction is often just as wrong. You can’t go on safari at any time of the year in East Africa and be visiting the many places you should each at their own best times.

Ngorongoro and the Serengeti have their lowest animal concentrations in the last half of the year, during northern Tanzania’s single one long dry season. But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad time to go. If you also visit the places that are at their best when you go (as we did in the Mara), you’ll find that even the less-than-best times elsewhere can be lots of fun!

Many animals don’t leave. Like the cats. Our visit to Ngorongoro started as we drove up the driveway to our lodge, Sopa, on the west side of the crater. We were greeted by two young male lions walking down!

Their bellies were empty and they looked a bit disgruntled. Their new manes were yet to color, so they had an appearance almost of being angel lions! Clearly, they had been recently kicked out of their pride, and they apparently were contemplating becoming the new pridemasters of Sopa Lodge!

Our game viewing in the crater was truly wonderful. It was cat dominated, although we did see several rhinos, many resident wildebeest and had a beautiful picnic breakfast beside a lake filled with hippo. In fact, the lake was so beautifully filled with hippo that Bill tried to capture the whole scene by stepping further and further away until we had to corral him back.

Even as we ate breakfast, a cat hunt unfolded within view! We watched several females who may have been hunting zebra and buffalo that were hardly 150 meters away.

We also found one of the big tuskers near the forest, which I regret to report is diminishing so quickly that I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s gone in just a few years.

And the scenery of the crater, of course, never gives up its premier position in our memories. Chris is a painter, and her sketchbook start to fill with several pages of beautiful crater landscapes.

But the cats abound! Males on kills, females with cubs, disgruntled youngsters… it was truly a crater of cats.