The dense and heavy fog that filled Ngorongoro was just starting to abate as we reached the crater floor. Having spent the night sleeping on the rim of the dormant volcano, we woke invigorated by the splendour of our natural surroundings. We begged our guides to make sure we were the first truck inside the crater, and we got what we asked for.
Just as I was clawing the remnants of sleep from the corners of my eyes, we spotted a pride of lions sprawled in tall grass. As we approached, they barely flinched. The stains of blood smeared across their faces left them nearly comatose, burdened with the meat of a fresh kill. Behind them, we spotted a destroyed zebra carcass, picked clean. Hard to argue with the efficiency of nature.
I woke up before the sun. The crisp morning air was amplified by the altitude of camping on the ridge of a dormant volcano. I was on the last day of a week long safari through the pristine national parks of Tanzania. The last stop was Ngorongoro Crater, the world’s largest inactive caldera. It is considered to be one of Africa’s greatest natural wonders and according to fossil evidence has been inhabited by various hominid species for over 3 million years.
We tore down our campsite as fast as we could and piled into the Toyota Landcruiser that had been our home for the last week. We were the first group to get to the entrance of the crater and hoped to catch the animals while they were still active.
The crater was filled with low hanging clouds as we descended the winding roads to the crater floor. As we pulled on to the pathways that crisscross the crater, we immediately came upon a pride of lions. We slowed the truck and approached at a crawl. As we got closer, the faces of the lionesses came into focus. Splashed across their powerful faces were the red remnants of the nights feast. We stopped our truck and peered out the windows at the carnivorous creatures as they licked their lips. With full bellies fuelling their indolence, they were in no hurry to move on. So, with time on our side we soaked in the majesty of these powerful predators and contemplated the flourishing life, and death, inside a volcanic crater.