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First in the Crater

The next morning I rose super early because I wanted to be the first person in the crater. I convinced the newlyweds that they would enjoy the experience and it was always better to be early in because the animals were more active. Henry our guide drove us down and yes we were the first in line, waiting for the gates to open. He went through all the paperwork with the national parks staff and as soon as the gates opened off we went.

Our first encounter was a very hungry lioness. Henry thought she had just given birth and was not spending all her time looking for food because of the cubs. The morning light filtering down through the clouds, the proud stature of the lioness and the view beyond her was amazing. Such a wonderful way to start the day. The lioness slowly crossed the road and made her way around the side of the caldera continually looking down into the crater floor for any opportunistic chances to catch breakfast.

We made our way down onto the crater floor and started driving around to see what we could find. The sunrise was spectacular and thankfully it slowly started to warm up. My Haitian friends were completely unprepared for the weather and were were flip flops, shorts, singlets with 2 blankets wrapped around them each. They certainly weren't prepared for the fresh mornings especially around the edge of the crater.

The animals also started to wake up and greeted the morning sun eagerly as they started preening themselves, going to the water sources for drinks and also keeping an eye out for breakfast or to make sure they were not going to become breakfast. We went and visited a hippo pool which is always a laugh considering how they poo on each other and their tails fling it around like a helicopter blade, we found mating lions which were a little too far from the road to get any good photos/video, ostriches preened themselves showing off their stunning legs to us passers by, hyenas walked around trying to catch the scent of death from the night before, rhino stayed clear of the roads trying to enjoy their solitude even though many of us were watching from afar and bull elephants and buffalos eyed us cautiously as we drove around.

It was a very relaxing drive and I considered this part of my trip to be devoted to just watching and enjoying because the proximity to the animals was never going to produce the photos I wanted to keep.

After a few hours of animal watching we made our way to the picnic area beside a large pond which was inhabited by hippo and crocodiles. The birdlife around here was fantastic and they bombarded us constantly looking for crumbs and food from our hands as we were eating. These animals were thriving due to the presence of humans and were extremely bold little critters. We all enjoyed a lovely packed breakfast courtesy of the kitchen crew at the lodge in a setting that was beyond picture perfect. Soon after we made our way out of the picnic area for one last drive around the crater floor to see what we could find.

Without finding anything too spectacular we started to head back to the lodge. My Haitian friends wanted to purchase a Masai spear so we stopped by the "tourist" Masai village so that Henry could haggle for a spear. The village does a roaring trade and charges a hefty amount to visit what is essentially a "Disneyland" version of a Masai village. Clean, organised and ready to sell any gullible American tourist jewellery and knickknacks that are overpriced and sometimes just made in China. I refused to visit the village because I knew I was going to visit some real villages later during my trip and enjoyed chatting to the Masai who wanted to know about my GoPro cameras that I had set up on the car. It was nice showing them how they all worked via bluetooth and could be controlled by my iPad or iPod. I asked to share our drinks with them and we all enjoyed a cold beer or soft drink in the heat of the midday sun. These are the kinds of experiences money can't buy and I was very grateful to enjoy this.

After the exchange had taken place we continued onto the lodge. A late lunch was served and then I went to my room to enjoy the view, work on my movie for the day and catch up on some emails. The evening would entail a Masai display whilst enjoying drinks/nibbles outside and then another wonderful dinner. I felt so lucky to see and experience everything that Crater Lodge offered and hopped that the rest of my trip would be just as fortuitous.

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