Waking up to thick, moist early morning fog, we jumped into two land cruisers and our driver drove (somehow, with almost no visibility) into the crater; ‘mzunga in the mist’ as he put it!
Ngorongoro Crater’s walls are 600m high and it is just 20km wide. As we descended onto the crater floor, we got below the clouds and could see again. But be warned, this is the African winter and it was so cold all morning.
The fog made for some dramatic landscapes as we drove round, sighting Flamingoes, Zebras, Thomson Gazelles, so many Wildebeest, three groups of Hippos and lots of Pumbas trotting around.
We spotted 3 of the Big 5 in Ngorongoro Crater; two Elephants in the distance, several Buffalo right by the track, and seven Lions.
Oh the Lions! First we saw two males – every other animal stopped dead facing the direction of the Lions roaming on the horizon, eyeing them suspiciously. If you want to see Lions, see where all the animals are looking! One crossed right in front of the 4×4 and so we all scrambled to take a million pictures. Further round we saw two female Lions and three young Lion cubs play fighting and hunting in the long grass, which was just the best thing to watch and something new that we hadn’t seen yet!
Afterwards, driving up a winding mountain road to the rim of the crater, tropical-looking plants framing it, the view was fabulous. After taking pictures from the rim in the afternoon sun yesterday, it was great to finally see the terrain and animals within, because it was so beautiful and distant I just couldn’t imagine it.
Further up into the clouds, we stopped at a viewpoint, but the fog was so bad we couldn’t see a thing and just took a picture of ourselves in the fog!
Picking our truck up at the nearby Flamingo Safari Lodge and Campsite in a town called Karatu, which means ‘bush man’, we were on the road again. We saw loads of thick-trunked Baobab trees, Lake Manyara from above and bought some of the elusive red bananas Africa is known for (and a few bead necklaces) from a street seller by the roadside.
We arrived for a night camping at Meserani Snake Park in Arusha, pitching my tent with my tent buddy in record time! This camp is a meeting point for many trips run by companies including Africa Travel Co, G Adventures and Acacia Africa, and has a lively but relaxed atmosphere.
Our group were given a guided tour round the snake park which houses snakes found in Tanzania, and I held a little snake, a large turtle and a tiny seven year old one that fitted into the palm of my hand! I was going to hold the baby croc too but he got a bit snappy with the only other person in the group who held him, so I decided against it! Also free is a Masai art gallery, culture museum and Masai women’s market.
The Famous Bar is lovely; full of music, people and memorabilia of travellers’ trips from all over the globe with tshirts adorning every wall and ceiling space. I spent an enjoyable evening listening to the buzz of the busy bar, taking in the atmosphere, followed by the owner’s affectionate dog who took to keeping me company all evening!