For those who don’t know, I have a minor obsession with the rhinoceros and from our back porch I can see the Ngorongoro Crater, which is full of them. For weeks I’ve stared at it’s rim over morning tea and evening beers. Naturally, I needed to look inside.
Tourism in Tanzania is very expensive. It costs fifty bucks a person to get into a park, two hundred bucks to get a vehicle into the park, and then you need to hire a guide at going rate, and when all is said and done you need to tip the guide. But a friend of a friend knows a ranger, just “tell the park guards that you are from the ecological society.” We also signed a document stating we were East African residents, the text of which we only discovered later.
This didn’t save us much, but as a ranger’s guest, it bought us the right to go off road. So when we saw a huge male lion wander off into the brush we were able to run our little Land Rover right in after him. My door, coincidentally didn’t really shut and rattled delicately on its hinge. It also bought me the freedom, provided no one was looking, to get out and take pictures, but though he looked well fed, I stayed in the vehicle to see the lion.
If you can imagine Crater Lake, the Ngorongoro is bigger, warmer, and with a lot less water. It’s sparsely forested in spots, but otherwise flat enough and big enough to host the 2010 World Cup, all games played simultaneously.
Along with three of the other big five, we saw eight rhinos scattered thru the park. The black rhinos are endangered so we gave them respectable space. “That’s M7, male seven over there. His mother is F7, female seven, off in the distance.” My pleasure at seeing those magnificent and peacefully grazing tanks is beyond my ability to articulate. But as we stayed and watched I chose to think of them informally as Roslyn and Jeremy, though I kept that to myself.