We came to Africa for the Great Migration of wildebeests, zebras and other wildlife from Serengeti Plains of Tanzania to the Maasai Mara in Kenya. The Migration is an annual spectacle following a cycle where animals search for greener grass, risk lives and limbs crossing the Mara River where their predators lurk to spot the weakest among them. It’s a “food trip” for all of them migrants and predators. So Ngorongoro is a breath of fresh air as we spotted happy, fatter wildlife who seem like they found their “happy place”. A Paradise. No one is moving from here. No migration. The animals co-exist, seem playful and no kidding, they’re fatter!

The ancient name of Africa is Alkebulan which translates to “mother of mankind” or “garden of Eden”. The Egyptian word “Afru-ika” literally means “motherland”. There is a conservation area in this important prehistoric site where the discovered fossils are claimed to be earliest known evidence of the human species. After the discovery of human footprints here, it’s plausible that humanity was born here! I leave it to you to debate in your mind if this is likely the Garden of Eden. But there are more interesting facts to consider. Ngorongoro Crater is in Northern Tanzania where lies the Eastern Great Rift Valley. The area is actually an extinct volcanic caldera — the largest in the world — resulting from a volcanic eruption 🌋 where the cone collapsed some 2.5 million years ago. It is believed that the former volcano was as big as Mt. Kilimanjaro – the highest in Africa — before the implosion. Today, it is a mosaic of grassy plains, swamplands, forest, and lakes which act as one big playground for an assortment of wildebeests, rhinos, hippos, lions, cheetahs, leopards, flamingos, Egyptian geese, gazelles, hyenas, warthogs, waterbucks, elands, zebras, elephants, vultures and many species of migratory birds. Birders would love it here. Maybe they can name the countless birds we found. There are no giraffes as they can’t enter from the steep sides down to the crater lake, but they litter the volcanic rim.

If you’ve watched the epic film “Out of Africa”, you’d recall the scene where Denys (Robert Redford) flies over the Maasai Mara and Ngorongoro Crater. That breathtaking scene from the air while the soundtrack of Out of Africa was playing — remember? Unlike the Maasai Mara and Serengeti Plains, wild animals here are in plain view. As we drove from the rim down to the crater lake, we found so many things going on it’s almost insane. Wildebeests at play, mommy and baby ellies out for a leisurely stroll, hippos grunting and snorting, some zebras playing “dead” on the sun-kissed ground, the cape buffaloes don’t seem as threatening, ostriches a-strutting, impalas, gazelles and other antelopes looking like they’re just waiting to be photographed by strangers. The area sure looks like some Membership Club or playground. If you’re only visiting one park and limited to one safari drive in as little time as possible, try Ngorongoro. The Big 5 is here. There are rare black rhinos here. And the densest population of lions in the world is here. It may not even require as much effort to find these cats. Besides, it’s cooler and less dusty here!

A permit is required to enter the crater and gorge. Mercifully, responsible tourism is observed here. Is it the Eight Wonder of the World? Frankly, I still couldn’t grasp the idea that a mighty volcano the size of Kilimanjaro once stood here. Even mind boggling is the fact that the volcano erupted and collapsed inward! Do volcanoes do that? And what were the animals that may have gone extinct with that volcanic eruption 2.5 million years ago? Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Yeah, we’re both thinking dinosaurs. They did find some Dino bones here, along with stone tools used by humans. Now, I’m thinking Fred and Wilma. You guessed it. The Flintstones. On a more serious note, the beauty of Ngorongoro is truly remarkable. But even more intriguing is the mystery it held. For now though, I’m content with what I’ve seen and experienced. I’m happy the animals are happy. I’m hopeful the Tanzanian government maintain the “sanctity” of this site and not compromise for the sake of tourism bucks. God bless Africa!