The People of the Crater
The charm always lies in the story of a destination and every place has a story to tell! 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.
For thousands of years various cattle-herding people have passed through this region of Tanzania, then the Maasai people settled here about 200 years, living peacefully carving out an existence with their goats and cows, and still following 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.
This is a traditional village that works closely with local NGOs and safari camps, allowing visits from travellers interested in their culture. A great opportunity for interaction, visitors can buy handmade crafts and even visit their school. This is the new way of working, creating 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 rhythm and soon end up joining in – it is just infectious! After a visit to one of the tiny clay clad homes, we end with a visit to the school. The children are over excited as we arrive armed with gifts of pre-loved clothing, school supplies and more. This experience is both heart-warming and humbling, witnessing their sheer joy. My heart was won by a little girl who loved her new green dress so much she hid it under her beanie for safekeeping!
Of course, the prime reason for visiting the Ngorongoro Crater is the wildlife inhabiting the 600m deep crater floor, and we head off at the crack of dawn to enjoy several hours there. 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 living at this World Heritage Site, with over 25,000 mammals inhabiting 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 – a veritable all-you-can-eat buffet!
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 its greater area received, the place where people and wildlife have co-existed since the beginning of time…