Derrick Shannon Derrick Mr.

Neuburger English Composition 101 18 February 2011 Descriptive Essay The Ngorongoro Crater It was a cool morning in the African bush. Like early morning in the Ozarks, the sun


glistened on the horizon and the sound of birds chirping in the background welcomed the day. It was the absence of the hustle and bustle of daily life that loomed as a constant reminder that we were far from home. The visitor center was filled with colorful, handmade crafts ready for purchase by the wanting tourists. Ebony and ivory trinkets of every God created creature that called the crater home were neatly lined on the store shelves. Just outside the visitors center stood a large, wooden, hand painted sign that read ³Welcome to the Ngorongoro Crater´. The jeeps that would take us on our journey were skillfully painted with bright colors that detailed their company logo Each jeep was equipped with a detachable, pop-up roof to provide its passenger a safe and unforgettable journey into the crater. Our driver was a young man named Ndabu. He wore khaki pants and a bright blue shirt advertising his employer. He was a polite young man that had been slightly educated in the English language, which meant our conversation was as awkward as those at a Junior High dance. As we piled into the Jeeps, the excitement that I felt reminded me of Christmas morning as a child. I was finally going to experience the African wildlife in its purest form. The road up the side of the mountain had obviously been traveled many times but had not been maintained at the level we were accustomed to. Large, deep potholes and erosion ditches

Derrick cut through the roads making the ride as enjoyable as setting in the backseat of a school bus traveling down a road filled with speed bumps. As we slowly bounced towards our destination, we all became keenly aware of the need for two spare tires. The friendly neighborhood fix it shop wasn¶t right around the corner and cell phone service was out of the question. We were


deep in the bush and being prepared for the worst is a normal part of daily life for the people that called the Serengeti home. The first sign of wildlife was a family of baboons walking the road like a gang from the streets of Chicago. By the way they acted, it was difficult to tell if they were looking for food, fun, or a fight. The babies clung to their mothers like a frightened child getting ready to be dropped off at the dreaded babysitter. The adolescents played and picked on each other like a bunch of teenage boys. Slapping, hair pulling, chasing, and tackling was enjoyed by all. It was amusing to see how it doesn¶t matter what species you are, it¶s always fun to pick on your buddy. The adult males had a much more deliberate and meaningful demeanor about them. The roughhousing and playfulness was traded for the seriousness and intensity of a professional fighter getting ready to enter the ring. Even though we were inside the protective confines of the jeeps, making eye to eye contact made my heart pound just a little harder while I contemplated the thoughts that were going through their minds. As they stared back with fiery, yellow eyes, course, bristly hair standing on end, and teeth slightly barred, it was obvious that they were warning us that provoking their anger in any way would be a serious mistake. Continuing up the mountain was like traveling through a botanical paradise. Beautifully colored flowers, plants, and trees blanked the landscape. The undergrowth was so thick, it looked as though a mouse would have difficulty maneuvering. Vultures and storks perched high above on outstretched limbs greeted us with loud voices as if they were begging for a free

Derrick morsel. Majestic bull elephants peacefully stood along the roadside enjoying the abundant supply of food. As we neared the top of the mountain, glimpses of the opposing crater wall became visible through the white, fluffy, low hanging clouds. Inside the crater would be a paradise of African wildlife unlike any zoo or documentary we had ever seen. At the top of the crater wall


stood another large, hand painted sign that displayed the rules & regulations of the park. Respect of the wildlife and the land was to be in the forefront of each decision that was made throughout the day. Traveling on the designated paths, staying in the vehicles, and resisting the urge to feed the animals were just a few of the expectations our driver made a special point to heavily emphasize to the group. The two thousand foot descent down steep, rocky, interior road seemed to take hours as we clung tightly to the handles inside the jeep. The bumps and bruises we would endure were soon to be forgotten as we marveled at God¶s creation. Surprisingly, the interior of the crater didn¶t portray the same abundance of vegetation. The dry, parched ground longed for the lifegiving rains that blessed the neighboring slopes. However, the dry, brown grass was more than enough to provide adequate camouflage for the stealthy, predatory animals of the crater. One phenomenon of the crater is the vortex of air created by the steep interior walls. Although the outside slopes of the mountain rival a tropical rainforest, the inside of the crater looks more like a land that has endured an ongoing drought for several years. Zebra, wildebeest, and gazelle grazed cautiously on the scarce growth always ready for the ambush of a hungry lion. The grunts and whinnies made by the hoofed animals rang out like the traffic on a big city freeway. Brief glances were given by a few of the younger animals, but

Derrick for the most part, they had grown used to the presence of vehicles filled with picture hungry tourists waiting to capture a memory of this once in a lifetime experience. A mile down the road stood a small pride of lions. Four females with sleek bodies and golden brown coats were the main breadwinners of the pride. One adolescent male was still allowed to be a part of the family although he would soon be exiled from the pride by the dominant, no-nonsense male. Three lion cubs made up the rest of the pride. The cute, cuddly, fat little lions were loved by all, but it is a reality of nature that they would soon follow in the footsteps of their mothers to be relentless killers. It was a daily lesson of survival for all adolescent predators in the crater. This was demonstrated by one of the female lions as a warthog mistakenly walk into the viscinity of the pride. As she crouched down in true cat-like form and began to stalk the warthog without making a sound, the other lions quietly settled into the grass so the stealthy attack would not be discovered prematurely. Fortunately for the warthog, a gazelle buck was on the look out and sounded the alarm with a three short, quick blasts of air from its nostrels. The hunt ended as


suddently as it began. Animals scattered like a fraternity party busted by the police. Success and failure are both daily events for the predatory animals which meant another opportunity would present itself later in the day. For now, the lions would return to their lazy, relaxed, and playful ambition as they enjoyed the warming sunshine. Lunchtime along the Ngorongoro Lake was as tranquil as a walk in the park. Hippos in the water, monkeys in the trees, and birds by the thousands provided endless opportunities for the avid photographer. It was at this moment I realized how blessed I was to have the opportunity to experience the wonder of Africa in its truest form. How quickly the mood would turn from peaceful grazing to a frantic race for life.



The evening was spent at the Ngorongoro resort located on the rim of the crater wall. As we enjoyed authentic African dancing and delicately prepared hors devours, I reflected on the events of the day and sat in amazement as I looked over the twelve mile stretch of the crater. It looked so peaceful from such a distant view, but on the crater floor, I knew that the daily struggle for survival would continue for each creature that called the Ngorongoro Crater their home.

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