After our safari in Serengeti National Park we flew to Manara airstrip which is about a two hour drive from the magnificent Ngorongoro Crater. Again we went with the world-class safari operator &Beyond, this time staying at their world famous Ngorongoro Crater Lodge. Known by some as the game lodge at the end of the world, it is located right on the edge of the crater making for expansive, breathtaking views from just about anywhere on the property.
Very much the focal point of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area which is in the eastern part of the Rift Valley, the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania is the largest intact caldera in the world and has a permanent population of over 30,000 animals. The crater, which formed when a giant volcano exploded and collapsed on itself some two to three million years ago, is 2,000 feet deep and its floor covers 100 sq miles. Estimates of the height of the original volcano range from fifteen to nineteen thousand feet high. Aside from herds of zebra, gazelle, and wildebeest, and so many other East African animals, the crater is home to the Big Five of rhinoceros, lion, leopard, elephant, and buffalo. In fact it is one of the few places in Africa that you have a chance of seeing the entire Big Five during a single game drive. A modern day genesis comes to mind, given that there are not many other places on earth where you can see such a large diversity of life in such a, relatively speaking, small space.
The 30 minute drive into the Ngorongoro Reserve to get to the rim of the caldera took us through some of the thickest, most lush, rainforest that I’ve ever seen. We didn’t see any signs of logging which was a big relief.
Located on the edge of the caldera, the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge provides stunning views for its guests.
The bedroom area of our cottage at the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge. Yes, it was luxurious and gorgeous!
On a game drive down in that crater we saw this lone elephant gaze ahead as hundreds of flamingos took an impromptu flight all at the same time.
One of the many colorful birds we saw. All part of the massive diversity of nature in the crater.
The Thomson’s gazelle is not one of the Big Five, but it was still one of my favorites.
One of the lakes in the crater which is full of hippos. Several people on game drives ate their lunches nearby while enjoying the view.
Our guide explained to us that the crater has a lot more minerals for the elephants to eat which makes their tusks so much bigger than the ones we saw in the Serengeti. Unfortunately having larger tusks also makes them that much more attractive to poachers.
Male and female ostriches wandering around another one of the lakes in the crater.
Just like the lions in the Serengeti, the lions in the crater were extremely lazy and didn’t seem to care at all that our vehicle was right beside them.
A lone warthog wandering around an open grass field. The hair on the top of its back reminds me of the terrible haircut I had gotten the week before in Mombasa!
We often saw zebras leaning on each other like this. With lions and other predators constantly nearby they don’t get many other chances to rest.
A herd of gazelles graze while clouds roll into the 2000 foot deep crater in the afternoon.
Our personal butler at the lodge took us on a tour of the property. This is the main building of the Tree Camp area, and it is full of antiques from the early days when the camp was actually for hunters during the colonial years.
Like the Serengeti, the Ngorongoro Crater is certainly one of the best places in the entire world to do a safari. You are virtually guaranteed to see an abundance of wildlife that will blow you away, even if you only do one game drive. I don’t think there is any place like it in the world, and I think just about any traveler out there would find it to be one of the best travel experiences of their life. I certainly did.