Name ID 161

See also

Crile, Grace Skyways to a Jungle Laboratory: An African Adventure
Page Number: 164
Extract Date: 1927

A night on the escarpment

It recalled to the Chief and me a night we spent on the escarpment, in 1927, when from our lookout over the world, we watched the red sun emerge and finally clear itself above the towering peaks of the Great Rift Valley. As we climbed the wide elephant trails, worn deep into the sandy soil, shrubs, ablaze in color, waved in the early morning light. At the top of a little kopje, we turned aside, Mr. Ulyate leading us to a never-to-be-forgotten sight.

There it lay before us-an emerald lake, sunk deep in the bosom of an ancient volcano, whose sides were green to the water's edge with primeval forests. It seemed the very edge of the world. It was like a leap into the blue.

Fifteen hundred feet above this enormous crater, we stood, looking down on its still green surface, and curling at its edge, floating serenely, was a mass of pink, a solid mass of life-hundreds, thousands, could it be millions of flamingoes? There was not a ripple. There was not a sound.

Suddenly our rifle shot echoed and re-echoed, awakening deep-toned reverberations that must have slept for hundreds of years. With a slow, undulating motion, the entire surface of the lake began to move. The streak of curling pink at the side was spreading. Our glasses revealed birds actually on the wing though, to us, so high above, they seemed still to be floating on the surface of the water.

We stood enthralled. This emerald lake, a mile wide, two miles long-who knows how deep-embosomed fifteen hundred feet below in this ancient crater, snowy Kilimanjaro, silvery Oldonyo-lengai, Kitumbiene, Meru, all serving as guard of these secret fastnesses. It was a scene of enchantment.

As the Chief and I watched these thousands of flamingoes this morning, we could not but wonder if they had cleared those towering peaks to find new hunting grounds, for there in front of us stood the ring of ancient craters.

I'm guessing that she is describing Lake Empakaai

Extract ID: 4524

See also

Ngorongoro and the Serengeti Plains

From the rim of Empakaai crater

From the rim of Empakaai crater one can enjoy the superb view of the still intermittently active 'Mountain of God' [Ol Doinyo Lengai] , with the pale glimmer of Lake Natron beyond it and eight thousand feet below. The last eruption [as of ~1950] was in 1940, when at times a column of smoke, lit at night by glowing internal fires, rose as high again as the mountain to nearly 20,000 feet and spread a film of ash far and wide over the highlands and north Serengeti.

Extract ID: 756

See also

Ngorongoro and the Serengeti Plains

The most impressive sight of the Crater Highlands

The most impressive sight of the Crater Highlands is at present [~1950] one of the most inaccessible, involving a long walk from where the track ends at Nainokanoka ('the place of heavy mists'), beyond the far northern rim of Ngorongoro and at least one night's camping.

The crater [Empakaai] is set in the summit of a 10,000 ft mountain, is four miles wide and over three thousand feet deep. Often as the clouds roll over and perhaps a single shaft of sunlight strikes down into the depths, the scene is eerie and awe inspiring and one can little wonder at the tales of monstrous serpents lurking in the dark waters. In fact there are two cattle tracks descending to its shores and the only monster likely to be encountered are rhino and buffalo, which although extremely common are never harried and seldom aggressive. ....

Extract ID: 219

See also

Fosbrooke, Henry Ngorongoro: The Eighth Wonder
Page Number: 196
Extract Date: 1954

50 cultivating households in the Crater

It is not generally realised that in 1954 there were about 50 cultivating households in the Crater, comprising 67 adult males, 57 females and 119 children.

In addition to the village clustered round the old Siedentopf farm at Lerai - where the remains of the sisal hedges surrounding their fields can still be seen - settlements had sprung up at Koitoktok and the Lonyuki stream. Homes for these people were found outside the area and they were assisted by the Government in their move.

Likewise Empakaai crater was inhabited by 50 families, who were similarly moved, but infiltrated back again and in the period 1961 to 1965 presented a difficult problem to the Conservator, eventually solved by my successor.

Extract ID: 692

See also

Smith, Anthony Throw out two hands
Page Number: 208b
Extract Date: 1962


We spent a second night at that place, having passed the day walking to the crater of Embagai, I had seen it from Hugh's aircraft, and already knew some of its wonders; but the joy of walking over the tussocky grass, with zebras whinneying all around, with solitary wildebeest taking turns to hurtle down the slope, was something I had imagined only inadequately. I had also forgotten quite how exhausting it can be walking at a high altitude, and the crater rim was above 10,000 feet. The effortless ways of the balloon, and the disdain it had shown for the problem of changing height, had not acted as a reminder that mere muscles require more air to feed them when it is rarefied.

On the climb my lungs sucked it in and blew it out again offering scarcely any opportunity for the precious oxygen to be absorbed. - They alone worked overtime, while the rest of me slowed down appreciably. I contented myself with putting one foot slowly after the other, and wondering how a more efficient pulmonary system could have been introduced in evolution. After all, the fishes have a through-way method, and do not have to blow the water out through the same small hole by which it has just come in. The fault lay with the air-bladder, that convenient stabilizing device. Had it not acted as a primitive lung for the first mud-based fishes to survive and become creatures of the land, something better might have been adapted from the gills. As it was, that Devonian mistake had led to the general tetrapod employment of a system which most plainly has its drawbacks. At least, that was how I felt as I panted with unceasing fervour to the lip of Embagai.

As with all mountains, the effort was more than worthwhile. We did not walk down to the lake at the bottom, but lay about in the soft grass on the rim, savouring the breeze which blew over it. Birds must get a pleasure out of flying, for some kites were also enjoying that same current of air. A few yards above us, with nothing more than an occasional twitch of their tail feathers, they hovered unendingly. Then, with no obvious adjustment of the controls, they would swoop away, and poise themselves over some other identical spot. It was while we were up there that the evening came. This is not an abstract man-made division of the day, at least not so far as tropical latitudes are concerned. Quite suddenly the sun loses its strength. At the same moment, as if the world had been in black and white beforehand, colours break out everywhere. The hills become blue, the water black or silver, and the hard dry dusty earth the most brilliant shades of brown. Evening has arrived, and with it even the air seems to change its substance.

Extract ID: 3774

See also

Ngorongoro's Annual Report
Page Number: 28a
Extract Date: 1966

The death of game

The death of game around Empakaai Crater, in close proximity to Lengai, can only be explained in relation to this year's eruption of the volcano. The ash from Lengai covered the grass with a coat of up to three-quarters of an inch on the rim of Empakaai Crater. Game and cattle could not get under the ash to feed and it would appear that the animals either starved to death or succumbed from toxic properties in the ash,

Extract ID: 3922

See also

Fosbrooke, Henry Ngorongoro: The Eighth Wonder
Page Number: 031
Extract Date: 1972

What a trip a circular tour round Empakaai would be

What a trip a circular tour round Empakaai would be. For this is another of the Big Six which has remained intact, a complete caldera, five miles across, the rim ranging from about 8,200 feet to 10,700 feet. Its floor, at over 7,350 feet, is half covered by a lake two miles across, which is kept filled by small streams coming off the forest-clad inner slopes. As is natural with drainless basins, the lake is brackish: it is about 200 feet deep - this I know as I was the first person to take a boat there and plumb its depths to expose the legend that it was 'bottomless'. ...

There is enough flatland at the bottom to attract cultivators, and it has been a constant fight to keep this gem unsullied for the delectation of future generations. I have always held the view that, like Ngurduto near Arusha, this crater should be preserved inviolate from motor roads, but that unlike Ngurdoto a cabin should be established in the crater which the more adventurous visitors could visit on foot. What a place for youth groups tired of the town environment which will inevitably characterise the lives of many future Tanzanians.

Extract ID: 1427

See also

Matthiessen, Peter The Tree Where Man Was Born
Page Number: 182
Extract Date: 1972


... I camped on the rim of Embagai, in the hope of going down into its crater. The rim was an alpine meadow dense with flowers, like a circlet around the cloud in the volcano, and under the cloud a crater lake lay in deep forest. All day we waited for a clearing wind, to locate a way down the steep sides, but instead the cloud overflowed onto the meadow, smothering the senses. Uneasy, Martin said: "It is so quiet," and was startled by the volume of his gentle voice: we could hear a mole rat chewing at the grass roots and the tiny wing flutter of a cisticola across the mist. In a bed of lavenders and yellows, cloud curling past the white band of its ears, lay a big serval. The cat remained there a long moment, shifting its haunches, before sinking down into the flowers and away.

In the late afternoon, the meadows cleared. Not far off, a band of ravens connived on a dead Haegenia, the lone uncommon tree left at this altitude. Before the mists reclaimed it, I climbed the tree and with a panga chopped down dry limbs for a fire. Already, at twilight, it was very cold, but in this hour of changing weathers, odd solitary light shafts, fitful gusts, the mists were lifting, and treetops of the crater sides loomed through the cloud, then the crater floor, and finally the lake, two thousand feet below, where a herd of buffalo stood like dark outcrops on the shore. Out of the weathers fifteen miles away, the Mountain of God loomed once and withdrew... Then the mists closed, and, around the rim of Embagai the fire tones of aloes and red gladioli burned coldly in the cloud.

... By morning, clouds had settled heavily into the crater, making the descent impossible. We returned south fifty miles to Ngorongoro across a waste of coarse tussock, wind and bitter cinder where the swirls of ash, puffing through each crack, burned nose and throat. In summer the moors are parched despite dark stagnant clouds that shroud the circle of old volcanoes, ten thousand feet and more, that in many trips across the Crater Highlands, summer and winter, I had never seen. The three villages here are the highest in Maasai Land, and once the car was caught in a tide of milling cattle, a maelstrom of shrouding dust and rolling eyes and a doomed bawling, as if at last the earth had tipped on end. At one time there was forest here, and water was more plentiful, but the Maasai have cut and burned the trees to make more pasture, as they have done also on the west slopes of the Mau Range, and so far they have paid no heed at all to those who tell them they are ruining their country.

The three villages between the volcanoes have some seventy people each, and because the moors are treeless, the villages are fenced with long split timbers brought up from the ravines; the bony staves, bent black on the barren sky, give a bleak aspect to the human habitations.

Extract ID: 3667

See also

Bechky, Allen Adventuring in East Africa

Crater Highlands

Empakaai is most easily reached by driving through the Ngorongoro Crater to the track that leaves its north-eastern side. Beyond the red thorn (Acacia lahai) woodland that spills over the rim, the country opens out into tussocky mountain grassland, composed of tall makutian (also called manyatta grass) and wire grasses. Games is sparse - the odd bushbuck or mountain reedbuck will appear - but there are plenty of Maasai. The road goes through the Maasai hamlet of Nainokanoka, where the Munge River waterfall can be seen plunging from the flanks of the nearby Olmoti Volcano (10,167 ft.). To the east stands Lolmalasin (11,969 ft.), tallest of the crater peaks. Soon Empakaai�s cone comes into view, and the track narrows as it runs around the circumference of the crater�s knife-edge rim. (The track may no longer be open beyond the Empakaai Ranger Post and picnic site, but the most scenic views are to be had from there).

The rimroad is often shrouded in mists but, when clear, the views are astounding. On one side, you look straight down into the Rift Valley. The cones of Lengai and Karamasi volcanoes are immediately below, with Lake Natron close behind. Further to the east is Mount Meru, with Kilimanjaro visible a hundred miles away. Just on the other side of the track, Empakaai�s thickly forested walls plunge to a crater floor shared by a 259-foot deep lake and virgin grasslands. You must bring along an armed guide if you want to hike into the crater, which is heavily grazed by buffalo. The trip to Empakaai is long and rough: when clouds close in, as they often do, the moorlands take on a sombre mood. A round trip from Ngorongoro can be done in a day, but an overnight camp is recommended if you want to do the crater hike and catch the best Rift Valley views, which are most reliable at dawn and dusk.

Extract ID: 3704

See also

Amin, Mohamed and Willetts, Duncan Spectrum Guide to Tanzania

Crater Highlands

Although not as spectacular as Ngorongoro, the extinct craters of Olmoti and Empakaai to the North-east are worth a visit for their scenic beauty and sense of solitude. They are not on the regular tourist trail and permission is needed from Ngorongoro Conservation Area HQ before visiting them. Both are reached from the ascent road on the eastern side of Ngorongoro Crater through thick strands of Acacia lahai trees.

To reach Olmoti Crater either ask for directions at Nainokanoka village or take the last track leading left at the end of the village. This will take you past the Ranger Post where you can leave your car and hire a guide for the rest of the thirty minute walk along the cattle tracks through buffalo country to the summit.

From the crater rim at about 3700 metres, eland and bushbuck can be seen grazing the shallow floor of the grassy caldera. Water collects in this natural basin and flows out of the south side as a waterfall, just below the path to the summit. This cascading sheet of water is known as the Munge Stream, named after the Maasai word given to their ceremonial anklets made from the skin of the colobus monkey. The white water falling down the dark escarpment is analogous to the black and white monkey flashing through the high forest branches.

Oddly though, colobus are not found anywhere in the Ngorongoro forest, even though it is quite a suitable habitat. It may be that the monkey has never crossed the open plains from its nearest home, the western Serengeti.

Whereas Olmoti Crater is relatively shallow and dry, Empakaai's 300 metre deep caldera is dominated by a soda lake. Unlike most soda lakes which are quite shallow, Empakaai's measures 85 metres in depth. Even so, familiar waterbirds like the black-winged stilt, cape teal and flamingo still dot its shores.

The crater rim of Empakaai can be walked (32 km, 20 miles), with spectacular views along the entire trek. The walk begins outside of Nainokanoka village, gradually ascending though silent stands of Nuxia, figs, crotons, and the high-altitude Hagenia abyssinica, with its feathery eaves that collect and drip water from the misty atmosphere.

When skies are clear there are views of the still active volcano Ol Doinyo Lengai to the north, Lake Natron, and even Kilimanjaro far to the east. From the eastern section of the rim a path leads to the crater floor through woodland where sunbirds feed from bright flowers. Beware - buffalo and bushbuck are not uncommon......

Camping is permitted at ....Empakaai crater, with a number of basic accommodation options...Spring Water is available....All food and provisions should be brought with you.

Extract ID: 3703

See also

Else, David Trekking in East Africa

The Crater Highlands

The Crater Highlands is a range of extinct volcanoes that rise steeply from the side of the Great Rift Valley in Northern Tanzania. ...

To the north and south of Ngorongoro are several impressive peaks, with steep escarpments, crater lakes, dense forests and grassy ridges, streams and waterfalls. There's even an active volcano. It's also home to many Maasai people who have grazed cattle on the grassy hillside here for hundreds of years. This part of the highlands is an excellent walking area, but is very seldom visited, and is completed upstaged by the Ngorongoro Crater just a few km to the south.

The Crater Highlands range is roughly oval in shape, measuring about 80 km by 40 km, and is pinched at one end. The range rises steeply from the surrounding plains at about 1500 metres to heights of between 2500 and 3500 metres.

Like many of East Africa's mountains, the Highlands are volcanic in origin, although the different peaks were created over many millions of years by a series of eruptions connected with the formation of the Great Rift Valley. The older volcanoes have been eroded and most have collapsed to form the craters (more correctly known as calderas) from where the range takes it name. ...

To the north of Ngorongoro Crater is the main part of the highlands, where the trekking described in this section takes place. Only a few km away, the mountain of Olmoti rises to 3100 metres on its western side, with a flat topped peak which can easily be seen from Ngorongoro. This mountain also has a small crater. ... North is Empakaai (also spelt Embagai), with a steep sided circular crater, half filled by a lake. In between the peaks of Olmoti, Loolmalasin and Empakaai the ground dips to form the large Embulbul Depression.

... Beyond lies Ol Doinyo Lengai (2878 metres), a classic volcanic cone ... still active. The last eruption was in the mid 1960's, and at the top of the mountain today you can see hot steam vents and growing ash cones. ...

After driving from Arusha, it is usual to camp or stay at one of the lodges at Ngorongoro village on your first night and go down into the crater for a few hours wildlife viewing. Late afternoon or early morning is best, as this is when the animals are more likely to be active. On the second day you can drive across Ngorongoro Crater and leave by the Northern Track. Here you will meet your Maasai guides and donkeys.

... From the northern side of the crater you walk through the forest on a good track to reach the ranger post near the village of Nainokanoka. From Nainokanoka you can side track up through open forest to reach the summit of Olmoti Mountain where there's a small crater and the spectacular Munge Waterfall. Water collected in the Olmoti Crater flows down this waterfall and eventually into the lake in Ngorongoro crater. ...

From the base of Olmoti, continue on the track, aiming north around the edge of the Embulbul Depression, towards Empakaai Crater (20 km, 6-8 hrs). As you gradually gain height, the forest thins out and you pass through open grassland on the dry side of the mountain, to reach the highest point of the western rim. The view from here down into the crater is stunning. The steep inner walls are densely forested and drop to the flat crater floor, partly covered in grass, and partly submerged under a lake. The Maasai are not allowed to graze cattle here, and there's a good chance of seeing wildlife. ...

You could do a complete circuit of the spectacular rim. This is about 32 km, mainly on good paths and tracks, and takes all day. The northern side of the mountain is particularly impressive, with great views down into the crater to the south and north to the conical peak of Lengai some 13 km away, with Lake Natron and the flat plains of the Rift Valley sometimes visible beyond.

Extract ID: 3702