Tanzania - Ngorongoro Crater
Travel pictures from Tanzania
by Günther Eichhorn
Ngorongoro Crater is in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. The crater is a volcanic caldera, created when a volcano exploded and then collapsed, some two to three million years ago. Is about 610 m (2000 ft) deep and about 20 km (12 mi) across. There are between 20,000 and 30,000 wild animals living in the crater.
The lake in the center of the crater is a salt lake, it doesn't have fresh water. I saw many of the large animals. There is a good population of African Bush Elephants (Loxodonta africana) in the crater. I even did see a Black Rhino (Diceros bicornis), but it was very far away. There are no Giraffes in Ngorongoro.
The highlight of the crater tour was watching a Blue Wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus) give birth. The process took over ½ hour. It then took the newborn 7 minutes to get on its feet, and another 10 minutes to get to the milk.
Blue Wildebeest all calve within a period of about three weeks in February. There are on the order of 500,000 births in the Serengeti area in that time period. Synchronized calving helps to ensure survival of enough calves. The young calves are vulnerable to predators, but since there are so many of them at the same time, the predators can't get them all, so sufficient numbers can grow up.
Grant's Zebras (Equus quagga boehmi) too calve all at the same time; their time is in December. I saw many young zebras as well.
There is a large population of African Buffaloes (Syncerus caffer) in the crater. I watched a couple of males have a fight. The buffaloes are pretty fierce looking. It is disconcerting that they always intently stare at you. They can be pretty dangerous because they are quite aggressive.
There are Grant's Gazelles (Gazella granti) and Thomson's Gazelles (Gazella thomsonii) in the crater, but no Impala. I did see some Eland Antelopes (Taurotragus oryx), the largest antelopes.
Of the predators I did see Lions (Panthera Leo) and Spotted Hyenas (Crocuta crocuta), but no Leopards or Cheetahs.
There were quite a few birds in the crater. Some of them, for instance the White Stork (Ciconia ciconia), are migrants from Europe, over-wintering in Africa. Others, like the Kori Bustard (Ardeotis kori), are locals.
|Scene in Ngorongoro Crater with Spotted Hyenas (Crocuta crocuta), Blue Wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus), and Grey Crowned Cranes (Balearica regulorum). (496k)||Mud wallows with Hyenas in the front and African Buffaloes (Syncerus caffer) in the back. (576k)||Mud wallow with Hyena and a Warthog (Phacochoerus africanus). The Hyenas are very careful around warthogs. It seems that the warthogs are quite vicious and can injure or kill a hyena. (874k)||Skull of an African Buffalo. (690k)||Sparring Grant's Gazelle males (Gazella granti). (621k)|
|Grant's Gazelle male (Gazella granti). (595k)||Thomson's Gazelle male (Gazella thomsonii). (664k)||Close-up of a Thomson's Gazelle male (Gazella thomsonii). (515k)||Eland Antelopes (Taurotragus oryx). (455k)||Blue Wildebeest herd (Connochaetes taurinus) with many babies. (725k)|
|Wildebeest herd on the move. The babies closely follow their mothers. (783k)||Nursing Wildebeest baby. (696k)||Close-up of a Wildebeest. (744k)||Close-up of a Wildebeest. (654k)||Grant's Zebras (Equus quagga boehmi). (725k)|
|Grant's Zebra with a baby. (783k)||Grant's Zebra baby. (834k)||Nursing Zebra baby. (572k)||Close-up of a Grant's Zebra. (696k)||Warthogs (Phacochoerus africanus) in a wallow. (732k)|
|Warthog in a wallow. (724k)||Warthog scratching on a rock. (989k)||Close-up of a Warthog. (622k)||Black-backed Jackals (Canis mesomelas). (704k)||Black-backed Jackals (Canis mesomelas). (881k)|
|Vervet Monkey mother with baby (Chlorocebus pygerythrus). (368k)||African buffaloes (Syncerus caffer), as usual, all staring at us. (711k)||African buffaloes. (783k)||African buffaloes. (606k)||African buffaloes in a mud wallow. (794k)|
|African buffalo, fresh out of a mud wallow, staring at us. (574k)||Fighting African Buffaloes. (656k)||Winning Buffalo is chasing away the looser. (526k)||Group of Hyenas (Crocuta crocuta) in a mud wallow. (508k)||Group of Hyenas (Crocuta crocuta) in a mud wallow. (767k)|
|Hyena in a mud wallow. (642k)||Close-up of a Hyena. (666k)||Close-up of a Hyena. (574k)||Is there food up there?? Hyena having a close-up look at me. (450k)||Feeding Hyena. (816k)|
|Lion couple (Panthera Leo). (568k)||Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) in the distance. I didn't get any closer to a Black Rhino. (407k)||African Bush Elephant (Loxodonta africana). (669k)|
|The birth had started a few minutes before. You can see the legs. (601k)||The Wildebeest was laying down and standing up again and again. (712k)||Resting for a bit. (704k)||Getting up again, more of the legs visible. (648k)||Feeding a bit. (696k)|
|Kneeling down for a bit. More of the legs is visible. (696k)||Here is the newborn baby. (795k)||The baby immediately is trying to get on its feet. (783k)||After 7 minutes it was on its wobbly feet. (795k)||Trying to find milk, still on the wrong end. (725k)|
|It took the baby 10 minutes to find the milk and start feeding. You can still see the placenta on the mother. (733k)|
|Long Tailed Fiscal (Lanius cabanisi). (524k)||Eurasian Bee-eater (Merops apiaster). (411k)||Black-winged Lapwing (Vanellus melanopterus). (648k)||Spur-winged Goose (Plectropterus gambensis). (720k)||White-naped Raven (Corvus albicollis). (467k)|
|Tawny Eagles (Aquila rapax). (662k)||Tawny Eagle in flight. (383k)||Flock of Abdim's Storks (Ciconia abdimii). (797k)||Abdim's Stork (Ciconia abdimii). (732k)||White-backed Vultures (Gyps africanus). (670k)|
|Female Black-bellied Bustard (Lissotis melanogaster). (748k)||Male Black-bellied Bustard. (685k)||Black-headed Heron (Ardea melanocephala). (661k)||White Stork (Ciconia ciconia). This is a migrant from Europe who over-winters in Africa. (663k)||Marabou Stork (Leptoptilos crumeniferus). (513k)|
|Kori Bustard (Ardeotis kori). (689k)||Close-up of a Kori Bustard (Ardeotis kori). (489k)||Ostrich (Struthio camelus). (621k)|
Oldupai Gorge was named after the sisal plant that grows in the area. The Maasai word for this plant is Oldupai. When the Leakey's came to the area and asked for the name, they misunderstood it and used Olduvai.
This area was settled by hominids as far back as 2 million years ago. There are five beds of formations in the area. The bottom is a lava plane. Bed 1 is about 2.1 million years old and is 60 m (197 ft) thick. Bed 2 is 20-30 m (66-98 ft) thick and is 1.15 - 1.7 million years old. Beds 3 and 4 are from between 1.15 and 600,000 years old. They are together up to 30 m (98 ft) thick. Bed 5 is the recent top.
In Bed 1 fossils of Zinjanthropus and Homo habilis were found. In Bed 2 are the remains of Homo Habilis, Homo erectus and Australopithecus boisei. In the upper bed are Stone Age fossils.
Excavations in this area started in 1939 by Louis and Mary Leakey. On 17 July 1959 they found the skull of Australopithecus boisei, about 1.75 million years old. In 1960, they found fossils of Homo habilis, in 1963 fossils of Homo erectus, and in 1971, remains of Homo sapiens. In May 1977 the famous footprints of Laetoli, not far from Oldupai Gorge were discovered. These footprints were made by Australopithecus afarensis, 2.2 million years ago.
|View of Oldupai Gorge. (613k)||View of Oldupai Gorge. (710k)||Sisal plants. The Maasai word for this plant is Oldupai. (640k)|
|View of Ngorongoro Crater. (427k)||View of the eastern part of Ngorongoro Crater. (296k)||View of the western part of Ngorongoro Crater. (512k)||North side of Ngorongoro Crater. You can see the migration paths that the animals take in and out of the crater. (436k)||South side of the crater. The clouds seemed to flow over the crater rim. (396k)|
|Butterfly. (546k)||Monument to Bernhard Grzimek and his son Michael, who were instrumental in creating Serengeti National Park with their film "Serengeti darf nicht sterben" (Serengeti Shall Not Die). (754k)|
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