The best time to enter the crater is early in the morning, so we left early, braving the fog which usually covers the crater rim. As we got to the floor of the ancient volcano caldera, the first thing we saw was a cat alongside the road. My guide got very excited, as this is one of the animals that he has only seen twice in his 20 years of guiding. It was a caracal, or the African lynx, which is usually nocturnal, not seen during the day. After this experience, we drove around the crater and saw many zebras, gazelles, ostriches, wildebeest, and birds. Twice, we saw lions just walking down the road. When this happens, many vehicles swoop in and crowd around. The lions in the crater are so used to these vehicles, that they come right up to the cars and even lay down in the car's shade for a while. It almost seems like they are tame animals in an animal park, and somewhat looses the adventure aspect of animals in the wild. It is still cool to get a close up view, but not the same feeling.
We searched everywhere for the rhinos, but they were nowhere to be found. There are only 16 rhinos left in the crater, and this is the one place to still see them, so everyone was asking around to see if anyone had seen them, but no such luck. So I guess I failed in finding the "big five", but that was not my main goal, so the disappointment was minor. We also saw flamingos in the salt wate lake, and hippos in the fresh water lake. You could even get out of the car and go right next to the fresh water lake near the hippos which seemed a bit strange. There are no impala or giraffes in the crater, so we did not see them. As a finishing touch, as we were driving out of the crater, we saw a serval cat, which is also nocturnal and rare to see, so I began and ended my trip to the crater in an exciting way.
We drove to Karatu to stay again at the Country Lodge. I had hoped to stop at an orphanage in town to donate some medical and personal hygiene supplies, but we could not locate it. I stopped at Gibbs Farm again to use their Internet, but it was very spotty. They said that they had been having problems, as there were new government restrictions on the bandwidths prior to President Obama's visit next month.