August 24, 2010
The Ngorongoro Crater Lodge is one of the most beautiful and decadent hotels I have ever stayed at. After the disaster that was Serengeti Under Canvas, this lodge was a welcome change. The lodge is built into the rim of the crater and affords wonderful views of the valley down below. I had heard the lodge referred to as the Versailles of the Bush, and upon arrival with the white linens and chandeliers I quickly understood the reference. The lodge is split between three camps- north camp, south camp, and tree camp. The camps each have their own facilities (dining room, lounge) so you get a very intimate experience and never feel like you are at a large hotel. The lodge has no fence surrounding it and wild animals are frequently spotted walking the grounds. Like the other two lodges you must walk with a Masai guard at night in case you run into wild animals, and in fact every night we were there we saw a herd of buffalo (one of the most violently aggressive animals in Africa) on a grassy area between mine and my parents rooms. We also spotted some friendly zebras during the day and a few birds and lizards. The rooms were beautiful with large plush beds with electric blankets and fire places for the cold nights. There was also a large bathtub with a chandelier hanging over it and a large shower (again very welcome after the en plein air shower of the Serengeti). Each room also has a nice balcony with chairs so if you have a moment to relax you can sit and watch the zebras graze.
Like the other lodges we stayed at you can choose to eat in the dining room or plan ahead and have breakfast or lunch in the bush. Since all the game viewing is down on the crater floor which is about 90 minutes round trip drive, we decided on the first day to do a full day safari, which ended up being an 11 hour safari. We went out very early, around 6:30, (which I highly suggest) and by the time we stopped for breakfast at 10am we had seen cheetahs, baboons, flamingos and elephants. The sightings didn’t even stop at breakfast as a cheeky little monkey visited us to steal a piece of bread.
That wasn’t our only up close animal sighting. In the crater we had the most closeup animal sightings, which included: baboons, elephants, lions and cheetahs all walking within feet of our car. We were even visited by three elephants at the lunch picnic spot, who although they did not steal our bread rolls like the monkey, came awfully close for comfort.
The crater is famous for their flamingo population and you do see many of them, but we were disappointed that we couldn’t get too close. Our driver told us there used to be a road that brought the cars closer to the water, but it had to be closed to protect bird nesting grounds. Of course that is of the up most importance and I was happy to hear that the protection of the animals was being made a priority over tourism. However, our wonderful driver found another small strip of water right by one of the roads where a handful of lovely flamingos were eating and we were able so see them up close. This was luck though, and if they are only in the main body of water it is important not to go closer and never off-road in the crater.
We had a wonderful driver/ranger Vicky, who was one of the first women safari guides in East Africa. She was fascinating to speak with and we really enjoyed both her knowledge of the place and animals and her stories about herself and life as a guide. I highly recommend her to anyone visiting the lodge.