Ngorogoro Crater Lodge, Tanzania
Stunningly perched on evergreen hills the Ngorogoro Crater Lodge looks over the spectacular Ngorogoro Conservation Area (NCA), which is the extensive eastern highland branch of the Rift Valley. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is administered by a part of the Tanzanian Government. This must be the most majestic property combining old world glamour with rustic African charm. Breathtaking landscapes lay before you across this area of outstanding natural beauty.
This conservation area was founded to protect the amazing array of wildlife as well as the indigenous Maasai herdsmen who graze their cattle with the area. The famous crater itself is the focal point of the lodge that is home to elephants, the endangered black rhino, wildebeest, cheetahs and a variety of species that number thirty thousand all year round. A variety of ecosystems exist in and around the crater as well as significant archaeological sites from the very earliest ancestors of mankind.
Luxury is taken to another level in the lodge with a symbiosis of baroque French chateau interiors with Maasai thatched clay stilted suites scattered across the hill. Ngorogoro Crater Lodge is often referred to as ‘the game lodge at the top of the world’, which is exactly how it feels. It is a sublime utopia crouched on the craters rim like a magical fantasy kingdom in the mist filled with beautiful creatures in natures cauldron below.
The camp has thirty stilted suites all catered too by warm and wonderful butlers who cater to your needs and help to create an unmatchable bespoke safari and stay. The suites are crafted from local materials and have banana leaf ceilings eccentrically and eclectically mixed with chandeliers, antique furniture and a lavish bathtub with a one of the most wondrous views in the world.
The main lodge is an enchantingly elegant creation where you can enjoy staggering scenes from a relaxed and refined retreat. The domed dining room is reminiscent of 1920’s deco mixed with the taste of Tanzania to create crater chic and fine dining in a comfortable and cozy atmosphere. Three course delectations are served with a northern African influence. Gastronomy in the grasslands can also be enjoyed within the suites for privacy, as each one possesses a sitting and dining area.
Days are spent exploring the outstanding spectrum of wildlife within this fascinating ecological area. The Ngorogoro Crater lies in the tropical belt but because of its high altitude it experiences a temperate climate. The crater floor is at 1800 meters above sea level and the lodge is at 2375 meters meaning it can be quite cool at night. Various ecosystems flourish around the crater from rich verdant forests on the slopes, down to the grazing grassland on the base of the forest and the marshes encircling the flamingo filled Lake Magadi.
An estimated 25,000 large mammals are residing in the crater including lions, buffalo, sixteen critically endangered black rhino, elephants, leopard and nomadic cheetah. Those wanting to see the ‘Big Five’ can within the NCA. Huge herds of buffalo, zebra, Thomas gazelle and wildebeest also roam with sightings of spotted hyena and baboons up the slopes.
With the plethora of wildlife to see and the distances down into the base of the crater, game drives here are an all day affair. Butlers wake you gently and then slowly bustle you to land rovers to begin the adventure that lies below. Winding down to the vast valley is through the low lying clouds while the world is slowly illuminated takes you back to the time when the cradle of life was forming in this natural arena.
Silhouettes of game emerge from the mist and as you meander through the miraculous sights of the Ngorogoro Conservation Area, as the sun rises you can make out the different areas of vegetation and hippos hiding in the lake, big tusk elephants that lurk in the forests of the rim and if you are lucky a big cat meandering through the tall grasses. Black Rhinos are one of the most critically endangered species in the world and sadly are now completely extinct in West Africa, so to see them in the safety of this their terrain is a rare and awe inspiring privilege.
The highly trained guides will give you the most in depth safaris you can experience with endless information about the flora and fauna. Endless options are possible if you have certain game you are particularly interested in viewing they will try and make it happen. For more romantic interludes then a bespoke banquet picnic on the crater floor or soothing sundowners seated on the valley can be incorporated into the day to weave memories that will last an eternity.
Sustainability is at the forefront of the And Beyond Safari experience. In addition to creating a low impact safari they also endeavour to protect the ecological environment. Thirty thousand trees have been planted around the lodge to help reforest the area damaged by degradation. Ngorogoro Crater Lodge also provides logistical support to the park authorities and data on species, such as Black Rhino, Elephant and Lion.
Community is also a huge part of this sustainability, &Beyond along with its Africa Foundation (see Eco Heroes) actively supports the nearby Embarway Secondary School providing fees, additional desks and supplies. They also run a wellness programme to encourage healthy immunity through diet and natural vitamins and minerals. This is intrinsic in fighting chronic diseases such as HIV/AIDS that sadly affect the local inhabitants.
The natural phenomenon that is the NCA is truly one of the most majestic to behold in the African Continent. This is the place where dreams and reality are interwoven in the grandeur of Ngorogoro Crater Lodge and the sweeping scenery. This is one of the most enthralling experiences one can hope to encounter in a lifetime.