Yesterday, was my favorite day here so far--and that's saying a lot. This Ngorongoro Caldera (look, one r! I'm getting it!) is absolutely incredible. We are lucky, apparently. Doug and Nancy Van Howd, who are leading our group, have been here many times over the past 12 years and they say they've never seen it so lush and green. So it has that going for it, in addition to all of the wildlife.
As we descended we saw an elephant family. There were maybe 30 of them and they were foraging among those trees I told you about yesterday--the ones that had been knocked down. Behind them was a mountain with clouds breaking over the top. In front of them, right near the road, was a huge male elephant with one broken tusk. I could watch elephants all day. They are simply fascinating, the way they move and the way they relate to each other. It was a fantastic spot for a photo and I took lots. And boy is it something to have this immense animal so close! The guide said to be very quiet and not to make any sudden movements because sometimes an elephant will charge the car! We were very obedient, and he didn't seem to be bothered by us, just kept pulling grass with his trunk and putting it in his mouth.
We got to see so much, yesterday, there's no time to tell you everything. (I'm already 1/2-way through my computer time.) It rained some in the morning and instead of ruining the excursion it made it better because the animals were much more active. One of my favorite moments was watching a zebra scratch himself against this rock that was right near the road. He scratched his belly and his neck and the side of his head--getting into lots of uncomfortable-looking positions in order to reach everything. After a little while he was done and moved on and no more than a minute later a warthog comes over to the same rock and starts scratching himself! It was awesome! The rest of the day we kept noticing these rocks with bare dirt rings around them, clearly used by the animals as "scratching rocks". We never would have noticed if we hadn't seen them in action!
The warthogs are so cool! Later in the day we were stopped near a herd of zebra and wildebeest and a warthog family with a couple of adults and about 7 piglets. At one point a hyena appeared and started freaking all the animals out. We were worried too after seeing hyenas chomp down on that baby wildebeest carcass yesterday. And everywhere the hyena went, the animals broke and ran, giving it lots of space. With one exception. The warthogs! I took a great picture of a mama warthog, all her babies behind here, facing down the hyena. It was so impressive! The hyena was completely intimidated and ended up backing off. Go warthogs! (Although I realize hyenas have their place and are part of the ecosystem here, yadda, yadda, yadda. Still, I can't help rooting for their prey!)
We also saw some adorable golden jackal cubs, a mound of elephant poop covered with fluttering yellow and white butterflies, and the highlight, a rhino! I added many, many pictures to my almost filled-up 8 gig memory card! There are two safari days left and I have 500+ pictures remaining. I'm going to have to ration myself!
Today we are off to Manara (sp?). And we are going to a Maasai village on the way. I haven't decided yet about taking their picture...