As we drove off from Serengeti, bidding goodbye to the last glimpse of the savanah , I thought to myself, there could be nothing left to explore; we had done it all. But I was wrong.
Later that morning, we entered into an area where it seemed as though land was suspended in time. We slowly ascended uphill, and once we reached the top, we soaked in the sight of the world’s largest intact caldera.
A caldera is typically a lake that forms at the crater of an extinct volcano. As time goes by, it may not necessarily be water bearing.
The Ngorongoro crater
For us, it was difficult to grasp the idea of a big hole that was 260 square kilometres in area, with 610 metre high mountains along its periphery. These natural formations seemed to enclose the caldera at an elevation of 5900 feet.
A magical place with mountains and lakes, the Ngorongoro crater is home to thousands of birds, animals and plant species.
As we stood there, a surreal sight befell us. There were numerous lions, hundreds of buffalos and wildebeests — all trotting around with their young ones.
We watched in silence and listened to the constant sound of their hooves, and marveled at their sheer numbers. The intrinsic rhythm we were audience to sure left us in a sense of awe.
The massive buffaloes were ominous but their symbiotic relationship with the small ox-pecker birds was amazing to see firsthand. With a feeling of wonder and respect, we watched the mighty beasts at such a close distance that we could even smell the strong odour of their bodies.
As dusk approached, we saw a pride of lions on the track. A pair of lionesses and their cubs were lazing around while a few males crouched off to one side. We waited there till they gave us way to continue our tour.
An enriching journey called life
In one corner, we spotted three female ostriches fluttering their wings and dancing on a flat dusty strip of dirt. We were blown away by this rare sight.
We ended up chasing a secretary bird for a long time and took plenty of pictures of its different postures. Another bird that stole our heart was the grey crowned crane. Its predominantly grey plumage contrasted sharply with its black and white wings. It had a crest of golden feathers on its head, and a bright red pouch on its neck.
While returning, the silhouette of the hills in the distance looked familiar. As we drove off, leaving behind a cloud of dust, I contemplated on the picturesque scene that lay in front of me. And I couldn’t help but feel a sense of profound happiness within me.
Africa’s spell lingers on
I realised that in comparison to other parts of the world, Africa stands apart. This ancient land oozes charm with its very own ingenuous spirit, and its unsophisticated way. Its indigenous culture and natural beauty are both outstanding as they are captivating. Africa can, quite easily, lay claim to being the best place in the world.
One everlasting memory that I came away with was how each night, after having driven for eight-nine hours, our hotel would have an elaborate meal laid out for us. It was pure indulgence to say the least.
There was ugali, sukuma wiki, grilled tilapia in white sauce, collard greens sautéed with tomato and onions, and nyama choma.
But what I savoured most were the slow grilled lamb ribs. The gourmet meals were the perfect therapy for our fatigued selves.
We’re ever grateful to the people in the countries we visited for their hospitality and for allowing us to experience the abundance of their lands. To them, we say ‘asanti-sana’ — meaning thank you in Swahili.