The rest days allowed us to go on mini-safaris, an overnight stay at the Ngorongoro Crater, a four-hour drive from Arusha. The Crater is the world’s largest inactive, intact and infilled volcanic caldera. The crater formed when a large volcano exploded and collapsed on itself 2 to 3 million years ago. It descends 2,000 feet from the lip of the crater where we camped overnight, listening to the sounds of Cape Buffalo grazing by the tents. At the crack of dawn we descended a steep, twisty gravel/mud road to the floor of crate, which is about 100 square miles. Fed by various water sources, it is lush with vegetation and supports an enormous variety of wildlife (about 25,000 large animals). It is a place of remarkable natural beauty.

We were up close and personal with lions, wildebeest, zebras, hippos, gazelles, hyenas, jackals, caracals, elephants, Cape buffalos, and extraordinary bird life. A lake in the centre of the crater shimmers pink because of all the flamingos. We stumbled on two lion kills: the first by young male lions, who were feasting on a buffalo while jackals and hyenas circled waiting their turn. The other happened as we were approaching. Five lionesses stalked a herd of zebras, separated them into two and picked out their prey, with each lion taking turns to chase. Eventually they caught it by the hind leg and brought it down. The strangest thing was watching the zebra herd right after the kill. They stopped running, they remained in a large circle around the lions and the kill looking intently at the scene.

For all its wonder there was a disturbing feeling about the crater or more precisely how we, as humans, have eroded and confined the natural space. Yes, this was the wildlife’s natural habitat, except there were roads crisscrossing it and that day, being off season, only about 30 or so safari LandCruisers. In high season, I was told, there could be as many as 300 cars cruising the crater. I had the impression of watching a natural life variant of that 1998 movie, The Truman Show, where everything in Truman Burbank’s (Jim Carrey) life is part of a massive TV set contained within a bubble.