The People of the Crater
Five minutes from the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater – one of the world’s most amazing natural environments and wildlife habitats – lies the Maasai village of Irkeepusi.
The village sits atop the ancient caldera and enjoys undeniably one of the most spectacular views in the world. The Maasai landlords of the area live peacefully carving out an existence with their goats and cows, and still follow most of their ancient beliefs and customs. It is believed that the Maasai cows with their tinkling bells gave the crater its name – the sound of the “ngong ngong” of the bells echoing all around the crater became Ngorongoro Crater. The charm always lies in the story of a destination and every place has a story to tell!
This is a traditional village though it works closely with local NGO’s and also camps such as Lemala Ngorongoro, whereby the visits by travellers allows for local interaction, buying handmade items and visiting their school. It all creates a sustainable tourism activity that benefits both the travellers and the village directly.
The welcome begins when you arrive with a fabulous greeting song and you just cannot help getting swept up in the exotic sounds and soon end up joining in – it is just infectious! After a visit to one of the clay clad homes that are so tiny they seem only to be built for hobbits, we end with a visit to the school. The children are over excited as we arrive armed with goodies to give them such as pre-loved clothing, school supplies and more. This experience is both heartwarming and humbling, seeing their happiness and the little girl who loved the green dress so much she hid it under her beanie for safekeeping!
Of course the prime reason for visiting the Ngorongoro Crater is the living zoo that inhabits the whole crater floor and we are lucky enough to be the closest camp to the access road so the following morning we are off at the crack of dawn and enjoy several hours in the crater before the hordes arrive. It is just magical, and particularly good when there are fewer vehicles around us so we really make the most of it. There is a plethora of wildlife down in the 600m deep crater floor of this World Heritage Site, where over 25,000 mammals inhabit the greater area. During migration time you can see over 2 million wildebeest, zebra and gazelles moving through as well. One of my favourite sightings of the day is the lioness on her recent buffalo kill enjoying her morning feast, and the hordes of wildlife in the background. It just makes me imagine those cats have a buffet at their table!
Nearby is the Olduvai Gorge which is largely regarded as the cradle of mankind. Remains of the world’s first humans were discovered here in 1959! Hence the very apt Man and Biosphere Reserve title that the Ngorongoro Crater and it’s greater area received, the place where people and wildlife have co-existed since the beginning of time…