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January 14, 2002

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We woke early to explore the Ngorongoro crater. Ngorongoro is a Masai word which means Ďhole like a pot." Itís a big hole, over 20-km wide, created when the volcanic mountain collapsed on itself millions of years ago. Now the crater is a self-contained ecosystem, with many animals living as permanent residents on the crater floor. A fair number of other animals visit during the dry season in June; their tracks have formed narrow roads up the crater wall. The man made roads here arenít much better. We bumped and jived up to the crater rim to see a magnificent view. Mist spilled into the crater, playing with distances and obscuring the other side. A soda lake lay at the bottom where red lava once flowed. We heard wildebeest and zebra braying, a hyena called to its mates. It seemed like another world.
Ngorongoro crater view, the 'hole like a pot' and Lake Magadi, the soda lake on the crater floor.
The crater has a healthy hyena population. This family of fifty killed a wildebeest for breakfast. Contrary to common belief, hyenas are more than just scavengers; they often kill their own food.
Atrocious table manners: they laugh, cackle, and fight amongst themselves over the carcass, observing a strict hierarchy. The females eat first because they're in charge. Male hyenas are smaller and get the leftovers. Hyenas have the strongest jaws, they can chew through everything, so they'll finish off the bones and skin too.
Jackals will scavenge off hyena and lion kills, so long as they aren't killed in the process.
The young lion sleeps and works on his tan.