Up at 5am, breakfast at 5:30 and off we went into crater at 5:59am. The gate opens at 6am, and the gate is just outside of camp. I prefer to camp at Ngorongoro because of a few reasons:
1) Fastest access to the crater floor. The lodges on the other side of the rim have a minimum of 45 minutes to drive around the rim and then down the descent road (which sucks). We are down in 10 minutes.
2) Privacy. 'Nuff said.
3) Sights and sounds of the bush. Yes, the lodges hear the same, but not from your insulated room!
4) I get to control the dining schedule. This means I get a warm meal at 5:30am, instead of 6am at best. If you are at a lodge, you are in the crater at 7am at best. Early bird gets the worm in my book.
Ok, back to our day today.
We arrived at the crater floor and quicly intercepted the majority of the pride that works an area we know very well. The pride has 12 lions, and we saw all but the large, dark-maned male. We had to shoot at ISO 6400 due to the low light, however we stayed until the light was ample and the lions moved up a hill and away. What a great way to start the day. The rest of the morning and afternoon were filled with plains game, and I took the opportunity to teach blurred panning shots. A heavy rain came around lunchtime, and we waited it out for a while near Ngoitokitok Springs.
The crater is green and lush these days, as the long rains seem to have arrived early. In a typical year it would start in mid March, however rains have been plentiful for at least the past month. Some sightings have been challenging due to the high grass, however there are enough opportunities that it hasn't been an issue. Serengeti may be a different story, but I doubt it.
We ended the day watching and photographing the same pride that we saw in the morning. Boy, were they active. With four young males that were about 2 years old, they were playing jumping all over each other. It was a very rich opportunity for some behavior shots. Oh, and I shot it all on video, but I did wish that I had my Nikon equipment with me. My only camera is a 6x24cm panorama film camera. I have shot 9 exposures so far (3 rolls of film). Crazy, I know.