We left Ngorongoro Crater after a full day of photography on the 19th. The safari experience at "The Crater" surpassed our expectations and will forever be among our most treasured travel experiences. My only regret is that we had a single day to explore this unique and iconic location in Tanzania. While most tours limit a day's crater experience to about six hours of photography, Terry (our tour leader) and Joseph (our lead guide) extended our shooting time to nearly eight hours... for this, I am especially grateful.
From the crater we traveled south and east towards Lake Manyara National Park and spent a beautiful evening at the Serena Lake Manyara Lodge. Like all of our previous Serena Lodge experiences, this was an exquisite location to stuff ourselves with fine cuisine and sleep off another exhausting day of photography.
We were up by 6:00 a.m. ate a quick breakfast and piled our bodies back into the Land Cruisers for another full day of photography and travel. We would begin our day in Lake Manyara National Park, and end at the Sopa Tarangeri Lodge.
Lake Manyara National Park lies on the edge of the Rift Valley and encompasses a mere 325 square kilometers. Although it is not nearly as large at Serengeti National Park, it is more biodiverse. The park consists of six distinct ecosystems that include: a rift valley lake, shoreline, open savanna, dense wet woodlands, and steep mountain forests. Lying within this narrow strip of land is the long alkaline Lake Manyara. The biodiversity of the park includes tree-climbing lions and leopards, forest ungulates, elephants, and a dizzying diversity of avian fauna. While our trip was not a birding expedition, this park has been listed as a birder's paradise.
As we traveled throughout the park, the distinctly different ecosystems were identifiable by the diversity of trees. Tropical ficus plants dripped with water in the wet forests while dry acacia and grasses dotted the savanna. It was here that we saw our first boabab trees, I now regret not looking for a way to capture an image of these leafless beasts that appeared to be growing upside down. We spent much of our driving time in search of leopards and treed lions, but saw neither.
Although we did not have an opportunity to photograph any of the big cats today, we did have one unique photographic experience. Hiding within the brush between the edge of a dry forest and grassland was the diminutive Kirk's Dik-Dik. A dik-dik is a tiny antelope with a prominent black eye encircled by a white ring of fur. Lying below the eye is a distinctive preorbital gland and prehensile nose. Dik-Dik are unique in their monogamy and territorial behavior. Family groups engage in dunging, a ritualistic activity in which individuals urinate and defecate on distinct middens.
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