Honeymoon Part III: Tanzania Safari in Ngorongoro Crater

After typing up our Safari experience, I decided to break it into two posts because each leg is pretty unique. If you haven’t already, be sure to read Honeymoon Part II: Tanzania Safari in the Serengeti before diving into this post as it provides more context on how/when we arrived in Tanzania and our first few days on Safari. We traveled with andBeyond for both legs and absolutely loved our experience in the Serengeti.

October 3, 2018 – Nature Walk around Ngorongoro Crater Rim

We were scheduled to leave the Serengeti and move to andBeyond Ngorongoro Crater Lodge around midday so we skipped the morning game drive, slept in a bit and enjoyed a relaxing breakfast at camp, which we had all to ourselves. After breakfast, our game driver, Felix, took us back to Kogatende Airstrip for our flight to Lake Manyara Airstrip. [We flew Coastal Aviation arranged via andBeyond. The flight took about 45 minutes. The drive from Lake Manyara Airstrip to andBeyond Ngorongoro Crater Lodge took about two hours.]

{First glimpse of Ngorongoro Crater}

Once again, we arrived to a warm welcome from the full staff at andBeyond Ngorongoro Crater Lodge – singing, dancing, drinks, a warm towel and some resident Zebra grazing in the lawn. We were then shown our cottage for the next two nights and OH MY, I don’t think I’ve ever stayed anywhere as unique, intricate and beautifully designed. It looked like a little Hobbit House out of Lord of the Rings. It had a cozy fireplace, wicker thatched roof, crystal chandeliers and a bar stocked with supplies to make our favorite cocktails. The best part though was undoubtably the views from our room of the Ngorongoro Crater below.

{Resident Zebra at andBeyond Ngorongoro Crater Lodge}
{Our Honeymoon hut at andBeyond Ngorongoro Crater Lodge}

Since we spent most of the day traveling, there wasn’t time to do a Game Drive down into the Crater because they close the descent gate at 4PM. [The park is open daily from 6AM – 6PM. It does take about one hour to make the descent into the Crater.] So after a quick lunch, we elected to take a nature walk around the mouth of the Crater. We were escorted by a guide carrying a loaded and cocked rifle in case we were to encounter any bull elephants along our walk. Thankfully, we only came across a few Giraffes snacking on the Acacia trees lining the Crater. [We learned that there are no Giraffes in the Crater because they eat the Acacia trees that grow around the Crater Rim.]

{Kevin with our nature walk guide as strolled around the Ngorongoro Crater rim}
{Giraffes snacking on Acacia trees on the Ngorongoro Crater rim}

In addition to the Giraffes, we saw spectacular views of the Ngorongoro Crater below and learned about much of the wildlife that grows in that region. We also encountered a few Maasai who were looking for naive tourists to pay them for pictures. Luckily for them, we were willing prey. [You are able to visit the Ngorongoro Crater Maasai Village and experience their culture and customs but we did not have the opportunity to go.]

{Ngorongoro Crater views from our nature walk}
{Posing with the Maasai on the Ngorongoro Conservation}

That evening back at the lodge we enjoyed a few cocktails in the library and got the opportunity to chat with Irene, a hotel manager who regaled us with stories of years past, her family and growing up in Tanzania. We then had dinner at the hotel restaurant and learned that all andBeyond chefs are masters at their art.

October 4, 2018 – Nogorongoro Crater Game Drive

The following morning, we set out early on a game drive since the animals are most active in the morning and at night. We were hoping to see a Black Rhinoceros and complete the Africa Big Five – which also includes the Lion, Elephant, Leopard and Buffalo – since there are about 60 currently living in the Crater.

{Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania}

Our first sighting in the Crater though was Caracal Cat which is a rare sighting, much more rare than the Black Rhino sighting, and a good omen for the rest of the drive. We then started making our way around the Crater. It is much, much smaller than the Serengeti and there is absolutely no off-roading. In the Serengeti, if you saw an animal in the grass or rocks, you could drive right up to it and get a good view. Here, most animal sightings are at a greater distance so binoculars are key.

{A blurry picture of the Caracal cat in Ngorongoro Crater}
{Looking for the Black Rhino in Ngorongoro Crater}

We did get nice and personal with a couple of Elephants, a few of which looked ready to charge at us. We also saw a bachelor herd of Buffalo – a group of older male Buffalos that have left the breading herd and stick together until they die or get killed. As the day wore on we spotted a Golden Jackal, several Water Bucks, Zebras, the biggest Warthog of all time, Saddle Billed Storks, mating Ostriches [a bizarre sight for sure], Grand Gazelles and Hartebeests. Then we finally got a LONG DISTANCE view of a Black Rhinoceros. We were hoping it would come closer to the road but it retreated quickly so we only got a few looks through the binoculars. Still, we were happy to say we came to Africa and saw the Big Five!

{Elephant sighting in Ngorongoro Crater}
{Bachelor herd of Buffalo in Ngorongoro Crater}
{Warthog and Ostrich in Ngorongoro Crater}

That afternoon, most cars retired from the Crater and we had it mostly to ourselves. Things were pretty quiet as most animals nap in the mid-day sun but we had a few cool Lion encounters. One that was perched on a log only a hundred feet from where we stopped to picnic and others sleeping on the bank of a small river. However, my favorite sighting of the day was a pregnant female Lion meandering down the road solo who walked directly along the length of our Jeep without a care in the world.

{Pregnant female Lion in Ngorongoro Crater}

Back at the hotel we were treated to yet another honeymoon surprise by andBeyond. We walked into our room exhausted from the long game drive and found our room filled with rose petals, a warm bath drawn, candles lit and a bottle of chilled champagne standing ready. It was the perfect way to unwind after a long day bumping around in the Jeep. One of my favorite aspects of andBeyond is the effort they put in to make us feel truly special on our honeymoon. For a company that sees hundreds of honeymooners every year, we felt like one in a million and that meant more to us than the delicious food, bottomless drinks and luxury accommodations.

{Honeymoon surprise by andBeyond after returning form a game drive in Ngorongoro Crater}

October 5, 2018 – Travel Day [Lake Manyara to Zanziar]

In the morning, we woke up to giant Buffalo grazing along the Crater Rim directly outside our bedroom window. We slowly packed up our things, sad that our Safari experience was coming to end, and went to grab breakfast before catching our ride to Manyara Airstrip. Ever the thoughtful ones, andBeyond packed us bagged lunches to eat on the go and off we went to Zanzibar, the final leg of our dream honeymoon! [We flew Auric Air direct to Zanzibar and flight time was approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes.]

{Buffalo grazing outside of our hut on the Ngorongoro Crater rim on our last morning}

Accommodations & Country Specific Details

Stay: andBeyond Ngorongoro Crater Lodge

The andBeyond Ngorongoro Crater Lodge is probably the most charming place I’ve ever stayed. As I mentioned in this post, our little hut looked like a small Hobbit House but the inside was beautifully adorned with a fireplace, large bathroom and dark, rustic furniture and decor. It has unbeatable views directly into the Ngorongoro Crater below and there are often wild animals grazing just beyond your window – we saw Baboons, Zebra and Buffalo during our short stay. The staff are all welcoming, thoughtful and very accommodating. The food & drinks are amazing and the property is tranquil and neatly kept.

I will say, I went into our stay here with super high expectations and I do feel that the property felt a bit dusty. Almost like it’s a bit past its prime and could use a makeover. Not that it isn’t beautiful or clean – it is – but it’s been clearly well loved for many years and to compete with other destinations of similar caliber – both in experience and price – it could use a mini refresh.

Aside from that, I have absolutely nothing negative to say about our experience at Ngorongoro Crater Lodge. I would return in a heartbeat and recommend all andBeyond properties to anyone who will listen. If forced to pick, I would say I preferred our experience in the Serengeti under canvas over Ngorongoro Crater.

Transportation:

To Ngorongoro Crater Lodge: From the Kogatende Airstrip in the Serengeti we flew Coastal Aviation to the Lake Manyara Airstrip. The flight took about 45 minutes. The drive from Lake Manyara Airstrip to andBeyond Ngorongoro Crater Lodge took about two hours. All travel between the Serengeti to Ngorongoro Crater was arranged by andBeyond.

Around Ngorongoro Crater: As soon as we arrived in Tanzania, andBeyond took care of all our transportation needs around the country and while on Safari in both the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater.

Currency: Tanzanian shilling [TSH] but most vendors also accept USD and EUR. Honestly though we had no need for money while we were there. However, we did tip our Safari Guide and Butler at the end using the USD and EUR we brought. [andBeyond recommends $20 USD per couple, per day for Safari Guides and $15 USD per couple, per day for Safari Butler.]

Language: Swahili but could communicate using English in most cases. Did learn a few fun words including: asante [thank you], karibu [you’re welcome], jambo [hello].

Outlet Adapter: The standard voltage is 220-240V. The standard frequency is 50 Hz. The power sockets that are used are of type D & G. That said, everywhere we stayed had USB outlets or standard US power sockets type A & B.

Passport/Visa Requirements: U.S. Passport valid for at least six months from date of travel. Visa is required to enter Tanzania but can be acquired upon entry for $50 USD. Visas can also be issued ahead of time by applying online.

Vaccinations/Medicines: List of vaccinations recommended for Zanzibar, Tanzania found here. We both got Yellow Fever to be safe [we had a layover in Kenya which is a yellow fever country but since we were only in the airport for less than 8 hours, it technically wasn’t required], we also received updated Typhoid and DTaP vaccines and Malaria Pills. We’ve both already completed both Hep A & B series vaccines.

Weather: We visited Tanzania in early October, their late spring. We had sunny weather but it was a little cooler in Ngorongoro Crater than in the Serengeti. During the day, we were fine in pants and a long sleeve top with an extra layer for the morning game drives before the mist lifts out of the crater. In hindsight, I wish I had packed a few casual but cute outfits for the evenings at camp. I really only had resort wear from our time in the Seychelles which wasn’t the most appropriate and what I wore during the day on our game drives. It worked but it wasn’t ideal.

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