Mar 1 - 3
Flew over the crater and again had to marvel at its sheer size. Hundreds of millions of years since any eruption and it is a 4-500 sq. km crater inhabited by 35,000 animals of all kinds. It is lush forest on the top and sides but a flat hot and shade less (almost) plains in the centre.
1 ½ hour drive from Manyara Airport to the crater and it is easy to see how much money tourism has brought to this part of Tanzania. Many motorcycles, shops including two shops selling cell phones etc. side by each entitled respectively Michelle Obama's Mobile Shop and Hillary Clinton’s Mobile Shop. Another interesting one was the Deluxe Bull Washing Service Station- we still have no idea what it was – but the three guys gently squeezed their legs together as we read the sign.
The &Beyond Ngorongoro Crater Lodge is on the edge of the crater with an incredible view of the crater some 800 metres below. Once again as we had thought the accommodation could not get better from the Volcanoes Safaris Lodges and the &Beyond Canvass Tents we were stupefied to realize the &Beyond was saving the best for last.
Here perched on the rim of one of the world’s most famous natural formations sit three clusters of 8-9 individual lodges made of solid concrete/brick and timber. There are 150 Staff who offer once again incredible service. Sylvia and Glenn were assigned Lodge number seven and were introduced upon arrival to our butler and separate housekeeper.
The pictures will tell the story but this was all constructed around 1996 and was designed by an Italian Architect. The floors were solid Tanzanian teak. The artwork, quality of material and sheer luxury of our three rooms lodge is almost beyond description.
Showers to die for (especially after the Kia Lodge experience) and service second to nothing we have ever experienced.
Four of our party opted for a walk after arrival while Sylvia and Glenn decided to chill (another good decision). Fabulous dinner with entertainment by a troupe of African dancers and singers all drawn for the Lodge Staff.
Early to bed as our only trip down to the crater was the next day. As it turned out we were in our vehicle from 06:00 to 18:15, so indeed it was a long day – but worth every minute of it.
Picnic breakfast and lunch watching the hippos and grazing buffalo were fun. We saw all the big five except the leopard that eluded us. Although the rhinos were a fair ways off, through the magic of Sylvia’s 500mm lens, we in fact have now seen all of the big five in the wild.
Saw many elephants so our drought in Serengeti was made up for. Big number of warthogs, wood pigs, pink flamingos, hippos, hyenas, jackals. Great viewings of lions close –up. Hundreds of baboons and fun as there were some very young ones being tended to by the adults. Monkeys, gazelle, wildebeest and thousands of birds. We enjoyed the strutting and dancing of the male ostrich as he tried to make a move on his female companion – but to no avail. No doubt there are many others I have omitted as this crater is home to so many species.
The highlight – going through the forested part towards the plains and as our vehicle turned a corner (we were going very slowly) we came parallel to a female elephant about six feet from us merrily chewing of the vegetation. We were taken back but marvelled at her and her young one while all the photographers of the group indulged themselves.
There are some great YouTubes, documentaries on the Ngorongoro Crater and it does not disappoint those who have the opportunity to visit.
Last evening we were entertained by a group form the local Maasai Village who did an outstanding job at dancing and singing for us. As it turns out, it was private for our Party of six and again we were in awe at the setting overlooking the carter at sunset, the torches, and the spread laid on for us and the entertainers themselves. Unlike our previous experience, these Maasai were engaged, happy and seemingly very pleased to be involved.
Slept into 06:00 the next day (a treat), travelled to Manyara and then a twenty-minute hop to Arusha, which is at the edge of Mt Kilimanjaro. Booked into a beautiful lodge Arusha Coffee Lodge Shop. Visiting the planation in the morning.
Were to have left the day after next at 03:15 to get our flights to South Africa. Opted to change plans and travel to Kilimanjaro in the afternoon and stay again at – yes- the Kia Lodge as described in an earlier post. Sure hope there is more than two jets of water in whatever room we occupy. International flight leaves at 06:00 the next day and we shall be twelve hours travelling to George with Letizia and Ric.