Ngorongoro in Tanzania
A strange sound wakes me up. When I open my eyes in a moment of confusion, it takes some time before I sense the unfamiliar surroundings in in the gloom. All the new and unfamiliar sounds arouse my curiosity. I go out in the living room to boil some water for my coffee. I open the door to the large terrace and the sounds from the outside increases in strength. To be almost on the equator it is surprisingly cold. After a visit to the bathroom I could enjoy my coffee. Wearing a bathrobe I sit on the terrace and listen to the increasing diversity of sounds.
It`s just before 6 o`clock and I see dark clouds covering the sky and a green ridge 3-400 meters away. On my right side there is a dark rain forest stretching down from the ridge to the valley, only 50 meters away. The Lodge we stay in is situated on the opposite hillside in the hilly terrain. I find myself 6-700 meters under the edge of the enormous Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania. The sun is rising and the concert increases in strength.
The dark clouds are gradually getting lighter. They will dissolve when the sun rises higher. Now I can see the valley on my left side. It`s a beautiful landscape with coffee plantations and cornfields like a patchwork quilt stretching south. On both sides I can hear the rhythm section in the bird orchestra growing in intensity. A mysterious, suggestive basic rhythm fills the morning time. Soloists fall into the choir in ever-increasing numbers. One from the right and with exactly the same tunes answers a quick solo from the left. The symphony dominates my mind until I feel guilty letting my wife sleep away such an extraordinary experience.
Within few minutes we are both sitting with our morning coffee in this amazing environment and enjoying the shifting clouds. Eventually we can se more and more of the hillside with all its shades of green. The umbrella acacia are silhouetted on the hillside. And in only a few minutes the sky is clear and bright. The birds still entertains us with their languorous music. We can see the crater ridge not far away and are looking forward to enter it in just some few hours. This submerged volcanic crater is the largest in the world. But before we can explore it we must have breakfast and meet the guide for the day. But its hard to break free from this garden of Eden, fortunately there will be many more early mornings at Exploreans Ngorongoro Lodge.
Ngorongoro Crater and nearby places like Serengeti and Lake Manyara are together with Mount Kilimanjaro 5 hours drive away, one of the most visited places in Africa.
In September the savanna is dry and dusty. But the hillsides at Ngorongoro and the Rift Valley are green and lush. At the Lodge we were told that elephants and buffaloes are passing in the bottom of the valley, by our bungalow, during night. We never saw them. Probably because we were too tired and exhausted after the day`s activities and went early to bed. We prioritized one day to visit the Crater. The next days we would enjoy walking in and outside Ngorongoro National Park.
Exploreans Ngorongoro Lodge is situated just outside the gates to Ngorongoro National Park. Exploreans is a luxurious lodge with an all-inclusive offer. On these lodges far from any other establishment offering food and drinks, this is a straightforward scheme. The place has 20 bungalows; all comes with 2 big rooms and a large terrace. Most of the bungalows have a view of the rain forest on the edge of Ngorongoro National Park.
The food at Exploreans is excellent and they have a very nice cook from Sri Lanka. He was a bit concerned when he heard that we were eating his food for 6 days. He offered us special treatment. We just had to tell him what we wanted without thinking about what was on the menu. The dining room is large and nice. It’s also possible to dine out on the terrace overlooking the swimming pool. It gets cold at night in September so it was only lunch we had on the terrace. But the last night there was a barbeque by the pool and after dinner all the guests gathered around the fire. That was a very nice, enjoyable and social event.
Ngorongoro Crater was the goal the first day, the main reason we were here in Tanzania. We let the Lodge organize it all for us and we got a nice guide for the day. At 7.30 we were ready and went off with our cameras and lunch boxes from the Lodge.
First stop is the main gate to the National Park or Conservation Area. Here you have to pay the park fee and fill in some forms, but the guide will take care of all this. In the meanwhile the local Baboon family can entertain us. They hope to meet some tourists, stupid enough to feed them.
We stop at a viewpoint to get an overview before we drive down in the crater itself. The crater is 18 km in diameter and the bottom more than 250 km2 are filled with wild animals. I cant help thinking about that this lush landscape was a burning hell in a distant past. On the way down into the Crater we pass herds of goats and cattle with their Masai shepherds. During the dry season the take their herds to the bottom of the crater to drink water. In 1979 the Ngorongoro Conservation Area including the Crater became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Earlier the Masai also lived down in the Crater but was forced to move around 1976. They are still allowed to live in the Conservation Area and the let the herd get water down in the Crater during the dry season. You can visit a Masai village if you pay the chief some money. We found it a little bit too much as a show, but OK anyway!
Well down in the Crater we drove around to see the different habitats. Here are savanna, small forest and lakes. Large herds of animals live inside the Crater. But still the experience is not what we expected. There are fewer animals than we thought.
The highlight was a pair of lions mating close to the car. They did not care about us witnessing the romantic act. We have maybe become blasé after many years with safaris in Africa, but safari is also enjoying the landscape. We have just as much joy just walking in nature, getting out of the car is great. Naturally it’s not always possible to do walking safari in the National Parks.
And the rest of our time in Ngorongoro was just that; long walks in the areas around and in the Conservation Area. We walk at a comfortable pace, able to enjoy flowers, trees and landscape. When walking you also meet people and can chat with both children and grown ups. And with a local guide we learn new things all the time and have an interpreter if we need it.
Among other things, we walked on the ridge of Rift Valley and climbed down to the village Mto Wa Mbu in the north end of Lake Manyara. A great long walk in a fantastic landscape. We saw Big Baobab trees and herds of baboons and met children herding goats and fetching water.
Then we had a nice lunch at a local restaurant and visited a pub serving banana bier.
Next stop is Babylon Lodge at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro.