African Safari: Part 2 Ngorongoro Crater
If you started following my African adventures then you’ve already read Part 1 on the Northern Serengeti, Tanzania. Quite the experience and one that if you haven’t had the opportunity to read, and view my photos, I hope you’ll do it now.
After visiting the Northern Serengeti we hopped on a commuter plane and headed about 1.5 hours out to stay at Ngorongoro Crater Lodge in the Northern Serengeti, home of Ngorongoro Crater.
Once a gigantic volcano, it is now the largest intact caldera in the world. Some maintain that before it erupted, it was higher than Mt Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa. Today, long since having collapsed and eroded, it is an extensive highland area with the famous 600 meters deep (1968 feet), Ngorongoro Crater as its focal point.
Nearly three million years old, the ancient caldera shelters one of the most beautiful wildlife havens on earth. Endangered black rhino are protected within its rim, giant tusked elephants wander the forests, black-maned lions stalk the grasslands, and flamingos crowd the soda lakes.
An estimated 25,000 large mammals are resident in this bowl of plenty, including a population of approximately 6,000 resident wild beast, 16 highly endangered black rhino, and around 70 lions. Cheetah move in and out of the Crater, while leopard are most often encountered in the spectacular Lerai Forest.
Since our trip was arranged through &Beyond Travel we stayed at their luxury accommodations, the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge. The lodge sits right on the edge of the Crater, offering spectacular views of one of the natural travel wonders of the world.
Upon our arrival flying from Lobo to Manyara airstrip we were greeted by our private guide Peter, who drove us to the andBeyond Ngorongoro Crater Lodge.
The ride was about an hour along a bumpy dirt road. Winding up into the mountains surrounded by lush forest trees, and vines. I immediately looked to see if any monkeys were swinging like Tarzan from tree to tree.
Along the way we had to stop to register at the visitors center. While our guide got out to sign us in, we were advised to keep the windows closed since Baboons love to ransack cars and run off with whatever they can grab.
Although we were in the dead of summer in Africa the weather was quite mild. I often wore long sleeves or a light jacket, and mosquitoes we never an issue.
We continued our journey to the lodge with a sightseeing stop to view the Ngorongoro Crater. OMG it was stunning! It was hard to imagine the scope of the crater. It looked empty from our vantage point high up in the mountains, but obviously home to 1000s of wild animals.
I tried taking a panoramic shot with my iPhone, but it still didn’t capture its beauty.
Once arriving at our destination we were greeted by the staff singing just as we were at Klein’s Camp. Once out of the Land Rover we were served a tropical beverage. We were formerly introduced to our guide, butler, and then taken to our room.
The rooms were individual huts overlooking the Crater and huge. As unique inside as it was outside.
After unloading our luggage we went to lunch. An incredible 4 course meal with choice of wines, overlooking the Crater. I felt like I was in heaven.
After lunch we met our guide for a safari through the Crater until dinner, to see what of the Big 5 we might see, along with other animals.
Our first safari drive in the Crater seemed uneventful. We didn’t see as much as we thought we might, plus in the Crater you travel on roads. The adventure wasn’t the same as the off road safari around Klein’s Camp in the Serengeti.
Dinner was amazing and full of flavor and warm spices. After heading back to our room and crawling into bed for the night I was awakened at 3am by something walking outside on the rocks behind our cottage. Our cottage looked out over the Crater so I couldn’t imagine what that could have been. Then it sounded as though someone was trying to open our door. I totally panicked and nearly shoved my daughter out of her bed. Of course she didn’t hear anything and went back to sleep but I was up most of the night.
That morning when I mentioned that to the staff, they said it was the buffalo that swarm the property at night. They were probably rubbing up against the cottage to scratch their bodies. It made sense but truly scared me to death!
We were up bright and early the next day for another safari in the Crater. Leaving at the crack of dawn seems to be the best time to view the animals in action. There were 4 of us that loaded into the Land Rover that morning. A newlywed couple from Australia joined us. The couple had worked in New York and oddly enough worked with someone from St. Louis that was in my sons high school class. Small world!
The day was filled with excitement from the start. We saw a family of elephants, 12 lions, 3 baby cubs, zebra, and hippos wading in a large pond.
Since the animals have to catch their own food we unfortunately saw some spotted hyenas eating literally a newborn gazelle. That was so sad and to witness the mom & dad watching as their newborn was being devoured. I can’t even imagine how those parents felt. I realize it’s life in the wild but it can be sad, and exciting all at the same time.
We enjoyed another outdoor breakfast with our guide and a trainer who was kind enough to loan me his camera lens that took closer shots than my lens.
This little guy decided to join us for breakfast.
By far the best part of the day was when a lion and his lioness were approaching our direction. As we all sat in the vehicle waiting to see where they would go, they came right up to the car. With windows that slid sideways, our windows were open halfway. Large enough for a lion to get his head in and certainly their arm and claws.
Snapping pictures as quickly as I could, the lion approached the car. He got close enough to look at me in the eyes, but then turned to walk along the side of the car without stopping as he passed me by. Once at the back tire he stopped, lifted his leg and marked our tire with his urine. He then walked to the other vehicles that were stopped to gawk at the lion and his lioness and marked each vehicle. It was amazing.
The lioness however walked directly up to the side of the truck that my daughter was on. She stopped right at her window where she was taking photos, and lifted her head up looking directly in my daughters eyes. With that, my daughter sunk down onto the floor for fear the lioness would jump up and lunge at her face. Apparently the lioness is more dangerous than the lion.
We all got great shots! It was so exhilarating!!!
It was getting late in the day so we started to head back but not without seeing an elephant approach a lion. While the lion may be king, there’s no question who rules. All the elephant had to do was get close to the lion, and he’d start running while looking behind him. It was actually quite comical.
We headed back to the lodge only to find a bubble bath drawn with rose pedals at the base on the floor. I thought they only did that for honeymooners.
That evening was another amazing dinner, with each course better than the last. By the time we got done with dinner it was quite late. We were escorted back to our rooms since the lodge was surrounded by buffalo. We needed light and protection in the event one would start getting angry or feeling unsettled.
Our 2 days at Ngorongoro Crater had come to an end. We packed up and got ready to head out bright and early in the morning (4:30am) to catch our next flight to Rwanda to do a Gorilla trek.
My daughter and I both agreed that the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge was our most favorite place we stayed. It was magical, the staff bent over backwards to assist us, as they did at the other lodges as well. The environment was just different. While we enjoyed the excitement of the off road safaris best, the vast number of wild animals that we encountered in the Crater was remarkable, and proved to be an adventure around every turn.
Next up – Rwanda for Gorilla Trekking!
Which photo is your favorite so far from Part 1 & 2?
If you missed my African Safari: Part 1 Northern Serengeti check it out here.