Friday, 30 December 2011

... Tanzania: Faster Than A Speeding Bullet?

Before leaving the Serengeti today there was one last morning game drive before heading to the 8300 sq km Ngorongoro Conservation Area, infamous for game viewing.

Hopefully I've managed to give you all the impression that each game drive has just got better and better. Today was no exception with a vast array of animals providing your camera with plenty of action. Even if you already had 16 shots of the same species you still could not resist a few more when you came across it again. However, the primary reason for such a stellar game drive was the viewing of not one but two Acinonyx jubatus raineyii... More commonly known as the cheetah. They were both lounging together on top of what looked like a flattened and disused termite mound surveying the savanna. Out of all the big cats the cheetah is my favourite. It can achieve the fastest land speed of any living animal: between 112 and 120 km per hr in short bursts covering distances up to 500 m and has the ability to accelerate from 0 to over 100 km per hr in three seconds. I was absolutely thrilled. If I was taken aback by the beauty of the leopards then these truly did take your breath away. I was awe struck and even though they were not quite as close as I perhaps would have liked it was still amazing to see these creatures in their natural habitat.

On the way to the campsite at the Ngorongoro crater rim we detoured to the Olduvai (aka Oldupai) Gorge. It is a ravine approximately 50km long and one of Africa's best-known archaeological sites that provides an inside into truly ancient life believing to go as far back as to the days of our earliest ancestors. In 1959 Mary Leakey discovered a 1.8 million year old ape-like skull which famously has given rise to the very heated debate about human evolution. Then in 1972, 3.75 million year old human-like footprints were discovered about 45km south of the Gorge. These are the oldest known hominid prints found to date. The museum whilst small is extremely interesting and well worth the visit with lots of information and fossils/replicas on view including the prints (a cast). The guides are only too willing to sit you down and chat about the Gorge. At certain times you can go down into the Gorge with one of the guides although our schedule didn't allow for this.

The sun was just starting to set as we pulled into the campsite on the crater rim making for some stunning views into the crater. I was very excited for my final day tomorrow, half of which would start with an early morning descent into the crater. In the interim it was time to refuel, sit around the camp fire and talk the evening away with such questions as "If you could be any of the animals you have seen so far, which would you be?"

My answer was simple... The beautiful cheetah.

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