. There were groups of hippos there too. Along the way to it we had seen to lion cups in the grass about 1 year old and a bit further down the hill their mother was stalking zebras but was unsuccessful in getting near enough to make a kill. We stopped at the waterhole and had a loo stop at the toilets there and then continued to the other side of the crater where we saw a group of elephants in the green vegetation. Soon the drive came to the exit road and we climbed up the dirt one way track out of the crater and as the clouds had lifted some more we had stunning views looking back into the crater. For me the crater was the highlight of the trip here and a truly amazing ecosystem. Some described the crater as like a scene from Jurassic Park the movie and I must agree it was like that driving into some preserved animal environment but totally natural as the crater is a place where the animals climb down into and many never leave as all they need is there. Amazing. Was it worth the money? Yes for the crater alone but it was overpriced in terms of food and lack of drinks ( tea/water) and severely lacked in communication about the trip and the guide was not very forthcoming by way of explanations or the animals etc. Still we enjoyed the company on the trip and we got to know the other group members well as we chatted and shared our stories. Being the older group members we were mostly all together and bonded as a small group. After the crater visit we packed our tents and the truck again had lunch and began the long drive back
. It was still cold up on the rim so I think it is always cold up there whatever the time. Returning to the Arusha snake camp we arrived around 4pm, showered and relaxed in the bar chatting. The snake park has a collection of African snakes and crocodiles so I had a wander around there and viewed safely the deadly snakes including the Black Mamba, cobras, pythons and constrictors. The crocs are fresh water ones and can grow to huge sizes and are deadly unlike the Australian freshies, more like the saltys of northern Australia. Dinner was at the campsite cooked by the group and we were warned it was another early predawn rising to set off tomorrow towards Dar es Salaam. So again an early night in the tent. By now we are ready for bed early and becoming used to the early starts. I had had 2 beers only and had a huge headache which I am now sure was due to dehydration from not drinking enough on the previous 3 days trip so I drank heaps of water and with some panadol recovered overnight.
Thursday 6th August. Up again before daybreak it was very chilly and we ate our egg and toast brekky and set off down into the crater. The cloud was thick as we were above the cloud line on the campsite rim and as we descended the cloud layer were arrived through the rainforest like rim and onto the drier crater floor. Almost immediately we saw 2 cheetahs out in the open sitting and resting, so clear and serene. My binoculars are great for getting close up views of the animals. In the crater there were many more animals and the huge salty lake in the centre was rimmed with the pink lines of the beautiful flamingos that were not out on the Serengeti. There were also pelicans and many other raptors and walking birds like ostriches and secretary birds. As we drove it began slowly to warm up and we saw hippos, gazelles, waterbuck, zebras and wildebeest. Towards the side of the crater we came to an amazing spring fed lake that was surrounded by lush vegetation which attracted many ,many animals as it was a wonderful watering place