Nancy Fulton

THE RAINS BEGINThe_Rains_Begin.htmlThe_Rains_Begin.htmlshapeimage_1_link_0



© 2015 Nancy Fulton     All rights reserved

In the northern part of Tanzania, a country sitting just below the equator in Eastern Africa, there is a place called the Ngorongoro Crater. It is a place of lakes and streams, swamps and pools, rolling hills, forest and long views across grass savannas. This is world’s largest intact caldera, created when the cone of a volcanic mountain collapsed some two million years ago. The resulting depression is 12 to 14 miles across; a ring of mountains rises appropriately 2,000 feet above the caldera floor.

The caldera lay within the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, over two million acres adjacent to the southeast boundary of the Serengeti. As long as this is not a National Park (there is a movement to change its designation), the Maasai, a pastoral people who used to roam the Serengeti with their herds of cattle and goats, are allowed to live among the dense population of wild animals in this protected area, a Unesco World Heritage site.

Last year I spent a total of six days within the caldera, split between two trips. Neither was in high season, when, I’m told, the Crater is at times full of tourists. Both trips, one in March and the second in November, were at times of transition between dry and wet seasons. In November, at the end of the long dry, the grasses were parched; water was scarce; bellies were empty.

I was taken with the painterly beauty of the landscape. If you look closely at the photographs, you will see herds of animals in the distance. The rim, at an elevation averaging 7,600 feet, was often shrouded in fog in the cool of early morning. The mist burned off and then, in the afternoon, clouds heralding the edge between the wet and the dry formed on the rim and spilled rain into the caldera. The wind-driven clouds were at times soaring and at times darkly ominous, but the welcome rains brought hope, renewal, and needed water to both people and animals.