I Went to the Ngorongoro Crater

So I know it’s been awhile since my last post, but it’s been incredibly busy over here, with us having just returned from our last expedition. There’s so much that’s happened that I’ve chosen to split it up into multiple posts in order to give the places the attention that they deserve. We went to the Ngorongoro Crater the other day, and in case you’ve never heard of it, I’ll give you an extremely brief overview. The Ngorongoro Crater is both a wildlife conservation area and a world heritage site, since it’s theorized by many scientists that the first humans originate there. Some refer to it as the “cradle of mankind.” Now, though, it’s a protected area that provides a unique environment for the wildlife inside of it. Though the animals have the ability to come and go from the crater, some species do not like the climb and so their populations remain in the crater. Surrounding it are semi-preserved areas and farming/pastoralism. Most of the people living around the Crater are Maasai who herd their cattle and other animals on the wide expanses of grassy hills there. On our way in, we passed about 20 school children in uniform on their way to school, and I couldn’t believe that they got to go to school in such close proximity to the Crater. Though I’ll add some pictures of the Crater to this post, they will not do justice to the view of the area from the rim. I’ve been lucky enough to see a lot of beautiful things in my life, but the Ngorongoro Crater instigated the strongest response in me that anything I’ve seen has. Inside the Crater, we also saw 5 rhinos, including a baby (see later for my incredibly blurry far-away photos). There are so few left in this area that you can only really see them in the Crater and in the Serengeti. The fact that I got to see them in real life is absolutely incredible, and I continue to be in disbelief that this is my life right now. Though it’s been difficult getting past homesickness and adjusting to a very different lifestyle to my usual, the struggles have been well worth it even if just for the Crater. Hope you enjoy the pictures, and there are more to come!


The view from the rim of the Crater at the entrance to the park. The fog was rolling up the hill like in a fairytale.

An elephant looking out onto the crater.

The view of the pond/lake in the middle of the Crater. Since it’s the rainy season here, it was quite full.

A very large pack of lions chillin by the water…they later had a bit of a territory dispute with some cape buffalo.

Some lions taking a cat nap in the sun as a storm formed in the background.

An extraordinarily blurry photo of a mama and baby rhino.

A Post About Elephants

Of course I’m writing one of these posts about elephants; though the prolific animal already receives so much attention, I can’t help but feel the need to write about my experience being so close to them in this past week. Before leaving for our expedition to camp outside of Tarangire National Park, we watched a movie on Netflix called The Ivory Game, and I recommend anyone interested in the issue of ivory poaching in Africa give it a view (though, to be warned, it is terribly sad to watch). For a slight, surely botched overview, African elephants are regionally extinct in Northern Africa, with their numbers being very low in West Africa, and most healthy in East Africa as of now. Unfortunately, despite government efforts to conserve the species in countries like Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda, poaching of elephants has been a continuous issue in the region. Approximately one elephant every 15 minutes is killed for its ivory. The brave people who work as rangers and soldiers to protect these animals consistently put their lives on the line, a job that sometimes turns fatal as some big-game poachers don’t always restrict their fire to the elephants.

I know it’s a bit depressing to read about human’s hunting of elephants just for the sake of their tusks, but it was really important to have an understanding of how big a blow we as a species have made to elephant populations before spending hours watching and admiring them in the field. At one point, while waiting in our car watching a big 30-elephant family graze in the bushes, a huge male elephant—easily double the size of any of the others in the group—came out from behind a tree and walked across the dirt road. The sheer weight of his steps shook the ground, and even our professor who has hours and hours of field experience with elephants was shocked that we saw such a large male so close. Though it was incredible to see, we all commented how sad it was to know that his size and beauty put a big target on his back. Elephant poaching in Tarangire isn’t a huge issue in comparison to other parks, luckily, but that by no means ensures these elephants safety.

On a lighter note, we passed countless groups of more than 50 elephants grazing, playing in the water, playing with each other, and nursing and it was absolutely incredible. Apparently, we’re here at perfect timing for calving season so I’ve seen at least 100 baby elephants and oh boy are they cute. We watched one struggle for at least 2 minutes to get up off the ground and it was precious. The elephants often huddle in groups around the babies so as to protect them from predators, so seeing the babies out front was real special. We also saw a pack of about six lions try to hunt some of the babies, and as soon as the biggest female charged them and roared, they jumped out from under the cover of thick grass and ran away. I felt like I was in the middle of an episode of Planet Earth, it was amazing.

In case you were too lazy to read, my weekend was full of observing elephants, and I easily saw more than 500 in a matter of just a couple days. I feel so incredibly grateful to be studying these amazing animals, and still cannot believe that I had a graded school assignment to watch and write about them. Not to cheese too much, but life can be really incredible sometimes and our expeditions through Tarangire surely reminded me of that.

As I go to school here, I am learning how to speak Swahili (it’s going slow but that’s what I expected). So as long as I’m learning, I’ll share some here.

Elephant: Tembo (though there are several words for it)

Lion: Simba (yes, like the Lion King)

Leopard: Chui

Cheetah: Duma

Impala: Swala Pala

Giraffe: Twiga

Student: Mwanafunzi (or Wanafunzi for plural)

Sorry that was a bit long, but here are a bunch of photos of the elephants I met this weekend.


A mother and baby walking side-by-side. The mother was very protective, always alert of any dangers.

A mother elephant hydrating under the very hot sun.

This little baby was checking us out making sure we didn’t smell too sketchy.

We caught the sad sight of a lion eating the carcass of a baby elephant just before this. All the elephants were on high alert and this one had a stand-off with a lion from the same pack.

This is the huge male elephant we saw. Though he may not look too big in this picture, he was by far the largest elephant I have seen so far.

A very protective mother not too pleased with the humans looking at her baby.

It was very hot out and we were all very jealous of these elephants.

Just as we were leaving the park, this group of elephants crossed the road right in front of us and it was absolutely spectacular to watch.