Ngorongoro Crater, Ngorongoro Conservation Area: December 29, January 2, 2011

The start of our five-day trek in the Ngorongoro Crater highlands was a half-day game drive on the crater floor. This is the most reliable site in Tanzania for black rhinoceros, and there are unusually large numbers of big game, including lion, buffalo, and elephant, as well as leopard and cheetah. It was a game drive that Aimee and I had been fantasizing about for many months, but within a few minutes I knew that something was wrong with me. Slipping quickly into a delirious and feverish state, I could hardly raise my binoculars to witness the incredible wildlife around us, electing instead to lie down on the backseat of the Landcruiser with a sleeping bag wrapped around me. From the photographs that Aimee took, I can see there were thousands of Lesser Flamingos on the alkaline lake, large numbers of Grey Crowned Cranes, and a distant rhinoceros, as well as a number of lions blocking traffic in the road.

At the picnic site, Aimee, Mark, and the guides discussed what to do with me, as our five-day adventure had already been paid for and begun, while I started shaking uncontrollably and hyperventilating. Wisely, Aimee called the trip off and had the driver take us into a village a few hours away where there was a health clinic run by an American doctor. After receiving some muscle relaxants and malaria medication, I settled down into a sedate but very sick state, slowly regaining my strength at a hotel over the next few days under Aimee’s care. Mark smartly made the trek on his own, visiting Olmoti and Empakaai Craters as well as Lake Natron, which is supposedly an excellent birding site. This was a disappointing and costly end to our adventure in northern Tanzania, but I was lucky to get medical attention in such a short time. Had we been several days along in the trek, I would have had to walk out twenty kilometers on my own.

Notable birds seen: White Stork, Grey Crowned Crane, Blacksmith Lapwing, African Harrier-Hawk.

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