The crater just never fails. Even now when drier than normal, we had the game drive of our lives!
As usual, we were first down. Which is a substantial effort, especially now in the cold season when three sweaters and gloves barely keeps you warm. The rim was shrouded in thick cloud and there was mist.
When we got down on the floor and headed towards the Mugie River before the ranger mound, it was still pretty dark.
I saw a lot of hyaena. Too many hyaena for there not to be a kill nearby. We moved further down the road, and hardly 100 meters of the road were nine lion in a food feast.
They had killed a young wildebeest and were dispatching it with great efficiency. One female had had her fill and walked away with blood on her chops. She got another 100m away and started to call for her cubs, who seemed to pop out of the tall grass. She took them further away.
But the remaining eight went at it with vigor. A yearling wildebeest is not enough for a pride this size, so they ate much more of the kill than they might normally. Before it was over, younger cubs were taking legs away.
Towards the end of the feast, we saw a magnificent male with a huge mane appear from the Mugie River and start towards the kill. The lions on the kill seemed nervous, and the male stopped several times, as if he were being very cautious about approaching.
At first I thought it was one of the brothers who live together near the river. If so, there would be, as Ari put it, a “rumble in the jungle.” We all got very excited, and the cubs seemed to move away from the kill as he approached.
But I was wrong. His belly was full and he must only have gone down to drink before returning. There were some grumbles, but he was licked by the youngsters that he would have killed had he not sired.
That was only the beginning of a fabulous crater game drive! I was with Nicky and Ezra. Ezra went nuts at the kill and Nicky went nuts later counting wildebeest! We saw a lot of wildebeest, zebra, gazelle, another lion with very young week-old cubs, two big tuskers and a cheetah!
The crater just never seems to fail. It’s drier than usual, as everything is, but there are good fresh water streams into the central lake. Despite it being very small, there were still flamingoes.
Our experience in Tarangire, Manyara and Ngorongoro, suggests that there were heavier than usual and later than usual rains, but that there is a still a serious deficit of rainfall over the last several years. Let’s hope it improves.