Inside the Ngorongoro Crater


The Serengeti is perhaps the most famous park in Africa and the Ngorongoro Crater is its most coveted section. So special in fact that it has become a World Heritage Site and conservation area of is own to protect its densely populated wildlife, varied landscape, and the Maasai tribes that lives there. Wild, exquisite, riveting and like no other place on earth, Ngorongoro Crater is a safari dream and our stay at Beyond’s Ngorongoro Crater Lodge took heaven to the next level.

Millions of years ago Ngorongoro was a massive volcano, allegedly bigger than Mount Kilimanjaro, but with enough internal eruptions and diversions of lava it began to cave to the point of becoming one gigantic caldera. The result is a wild hybrid of misty forested walls and arid grassland floor housing 25,000 animals in 100-square miles.

The Serengeti is famous for the wildebeest migration—in the summer they head north to the Maasai Mara for grazing and in the winter they come back to Ngorongoro to have their babies…over 300,000 little beest! Their erratic running patterns (meant to confuse the lions…and photographers), and odd looks provide countless hours of viewing pleasure.

Once we settled into our rooms at the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge (more sumptuous details on the hotel in our next post), we descended into the crater for our first game drive. After coming from the thick bushveld of South Africa and Zambia, we were in awe of how easy it was to spot animals in  wide open grassland. We saw 13 lions, cheetah, jackal, zebra, warthog, water buck, elephant, corey bustard, our first Thompson gazelle, rhino, hyenas, and plenty more.

So many spectacular events are happening in the wild at any given time …it’s just a matter if you are there to see them. On this game drive we were lucky enough to catch a full ostrich courtship. The male builds a nest to impress and if he can find a lady who fancies it, they mate in their new home together.  Sniffing around, picking at the nest, and ruffling her feathers, this lady bird gave his creation careful inspection and was apparently not impressed.

Before we started the day’s safari our guide took us to see a Maasai village. We weren’t sure if this was going to be overly touristy but the Maasai of the Serengeti are said to be amongst the most traditional and with their colorful dress, elongated earlobes, and diet of cow’s blood, we could not resist the desire to take an inside look. We entered the boma of mud and dung-covered houses and touristy it was not. The Masaai were just going about their normal day and they invited us along (without a single other tourist). We milked cows, spent time with the Maasai chief in his home, and learned a bit of Maasai jewelry making.

In the Maasai culture, there are various steps to reaching manhood but the culminating moment after circumcision and isolation in the wild has historically been to kill a lion with a spear. Thankfully, this is happening less and less and is strictly forbidden in the park. After teaching us a bit about their customs, the men of the Maasai village performed a ceremonial dance for us.

Our andBeyond guide Mudy, was not only incredibly knowledgeable about the local culture, animals, and plant life but he was such an incredible host! After a great morning game drive, he set up this gourmet and scenic picnic by a hippo pool.

For more on the out-of-this-world service and accommodations at Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, don’t miss our next blog.

Much love from the Ngorongoro Crater,
Anne & Mike

Note: Ngorongoro Crater Lodge invited us to to be their guest; however, all opinions are our own.

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