What I mostly look for photographically from the Ngorongoro Crater is images of animals surrounded by the stunning habitat of the crater walls. These images tend to work best when it’s cloudy as the weather brings so much variety and drama to an already fantastic scene. This time we had a nice veil of clouds in the morning and we looked for a subject to feature in the landscape. A drive on the north side of the crater often is rewarded by sightings of Elephant bulls descending from the crater walls to the marshes. This morning was no exception.
Later we found a beautiful Black Rhino though a bit far. I liked the different layers of color in the background.
After lunch we drove on to the endless plains around Lake Ndutu. On the first morning we had a beautiful encounter with four new beautiful male Lions, the new kings in the area, after chasing away the two old males we have followed in the previous years. What a sight as they walked together. During the five days we stayed in the area we came across them regularly around the marshes.
One morning we drove out early to the Big Marsh. It’s a wet area where water is collected from the surrounding plains. A lion pride resides regularly in the area. In the fading darkness we spotted three big lionesses descending the slopes of the marsh. They followed one another, heading inside the tall grasses of the Marsh. We parked on the edge, in very dim light, watching them.
They walked further deep and suddenly a Cheetah bolted out of the marsh. She had been hiding in the reeds, unseen to us.
When I saw her turning back to look inside the marsh I understood why she was in there. She most likely had small cubs hidden among the reeds. Cheetahs often do that. She kept her eyes on the Lionesses who kept walking in the area where she came from.
Suddenly in the distance one Lioness popped out with something in her mouth. I grabbed the binoculars. A tiny Cheetah cub. A terrible scene was unfolding in front of us. To a lioness, a Cheetah is a competitor. Though the Marsh is Lions’ territory, Cheetahs often have cubs here. They love the safety the reeds provide. The problem is, the Lions like to have their cubs there too. The Lionesses kept circuling around the spot.
A good half an hour went by before the lionesses lost interest and left the spot. The Cheetah had retreated in the bushes above. It was only late in the morning when the Cheetah reappeared and walked back into the Marsh. She wanted to check if there was any cub left alive. We were hoping to see her come out with some cubs. We only saw one killed for certain but we didn’t know how many she had. She sniffed around her lair. And then she walked out alone.
Our days in Ndutu brought some more nice sightings of Lions and Cheetahs. Some images here. Not as many Cheetah sightings as previous years. Ndutu was very dry and the migration was not in the area. The large herds were further southwest, mostly in Maswa Game Reserve.
One evening we heard word that some Wild Dogs had been spotted in the open plains south of Ndutu. We rushed there. After a long search we finally found them and were rewarded with an interesting mating session. There were only three dogs. It was good to see them and hope that a bigger pack will build up from that moment!