Ngorongoro Crater

Ngorongoro Crater is home to approximately 30,000 animals in an area only 12 sq. miles wide and a wall 2000 ft. high at its highest point. Once a towering mountain larger than Mt. Kilimanjaro, the eruption two to three millions of years ago created a caldera, a bucket-like geological splendor.

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Resident animals. A group of stripped zebras always make for beautiful pictures.

Why Ngorongoro Crater should be a must-see on your Northern Tanzania Safari? 

One.
The animal population in this small area is dense. With only 12 sq mile wide, this little eco-system increases the chances of seeing lions or the long tusked bull elephant close by the road. Cheetah walking, zebra grazing, hippos lazing – all close encounters possible. Endangered black rhino – maybe – we were lucky to see one cross the roadrhino_crater

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There were at least 20 + elephants at the exit gate of the crater. This may be the same herd Jo Anderson, our elite guide has mentioned about. Read our Elite guided Safari post.

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Hippo at the hippo pool have a fun time splashing around in the muddy pond. Close your nose.

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The vultures or the ‘cleaning crew’. They are an integral part of the food chain.

Two.
The crater eco-system makes for stunning views. From many points on the crater rim, you get to see the whole ‘bucket’ eco-system and from every angle the crater is beautiful. After many Safaris here, it still takes my breath away. On the crater rim which is around 7-8,000 ft in elevation,  can get quite cold during the cooler months. The early mornings tend to have a blanket of heavy mist which can result in not getting a glimpse of the crater. When you are on the ground, you have to admire the soaring 2000 ft crater wall.  Early in the morning, the clouds cover the wall which adds to the beauty.

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The beautiful crater. This was taken near Lemala Gate.

Three.
Ngorongoro Crater is a world heritage site, the largest intact volcanic caldera and has been known to be called the 8th wonder of the world. If you are going to Tanzania for the first time, it should be on your list of places to Safari.

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The wall of the crater covered in clouds.

How to avoid the crowds?
Because the crater is small and everyone wants to see the caldera for the above reasons, your guide will help you avoid the pitfalls.

Start early in the morning.
If you can reach the entrance gate by 6 am, you are likely to share the crater floor with fewer vehicles.  The government is trying to figure out how to speed things here as well. The paperwork at the main gate and the crater rim gate takes a while – patience is key here.  Spend time with the baboons at the entrance gate.

Drive the other way to avoid the crowds.
Our guides will drive the other way when they see a ‘herd of vehicles’.  But there are exceptions. Our guide Elissa was not comfortable with us being with the ‘herd of vehicles’ when we were admiring the black rhino and would have prefered to guide us in another direction. He asked us our preference and we said we were okay sharing the rhino.  We were also on Safari during the low season so there were not that many vehicles.

Low season.
If you can go during low season , April to June and November, chances of sharing the crater with fewer vehicles are higher.  But if high season is when you are on Safari, relax and enjoy the experience. You are on Safari!

Ngorongoro Crater, a must see destination especially for the first timer on Safari! 

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Make memories on your Journey To Africa Safari.

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Email us – Safari@JourneyToAfrica.com
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Safari Diary 2014 – Rhotia Valley Tented Lodge [Lodge Review]

As you turn from the main tarmac road connecting Tarangire National Park and Ngorongoro Crater, past the beautiful sunflower field and the corn/ maize farms, towards Ngorongoro Highland on the slightly bumpy road toward Rhotia Valley, you are welcomed with refreshments by managers Evelyn and Arjan and their dog.

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Karibu Rhotia Valley Tented Lodge on a Journey To Africa Safari.

Rhotia Valley Tented Lodge.

Rhotia Valley Tented Lodge.

Rhotia Valley Tented Lodge has a wonderful soul. A portion of the proceeds fund the Children’s Home that is about a 10 minutes walk from the lodge. The Children’s Home takes care of about 40 kids, orphaned or some whose parents can’t afford to take care of them. They have made the home stand on its own by setting up a bakery. They produce enough bread to feed themselves and sell the surplus in Karatu. A win-win situation.  The children who played with us [my two kids were with me] greeted us as they were coming from school and spoke great English which they have picked up from volunteers as well as school.

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Rhotia Valley Children’s Home.

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Fun playing with the kids at Rhotia Valley Children’s home. From swings, football to talking about becoming pilots. Dream Big!!

About the lodge //

Rhotia Valley Tented Lodge is a rustic yet comfortable lodge. Each of the 15 rooms are comfortably sized with double beds or two double beds for our family of four. Hot water bottles were tucked in at night to keep you warm in the cold June nights.

In the bathroom,  they will explain why there is bucket near the shower – it is to collect the initial cold water before the hot water comes through. Keep the cold water bucket – they will use it to water their organic farm where they
grow a lot of their vegetables and herbs. Water heating and lights in the room are controlled by both solar power [9 -7 pm] and generators during the peak shower hours of [7-9 pm]. Drinking water that is provided will be plastic bottles or water purified via biofilter.

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Comfortable inside of the room. You can see the hot water bottles on top of the bed that will be filled up when you come back to your room after dinner.

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The organic farm where they grow most of their vegetables and herbs.

The food at night was delicious as well as the packed lunch. From the dining room, you can see the hustle bustle of the open kitchen and the charcoal fire that is preparing good food.

The views // Two sides //
From the fire-light front lounge deck and some of the rooms, you get the greenery from the farmlands of fertile Karatu Region. Corn or maize as Tanzanians call it, beans, sunflower … the list goes on. From the side facing the Ngorongoro Highlands, you have the greenery from the thick forest. Either way, you are in for some great views and amazing sounds of the birds in the morning.

Rhotia Valley is a wonderful place to spend a few days on Safari.

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You can see the children’s home in the distance. Rhotia Valley does a wonderful job supporting the kids of the Children’s Home.

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Room view from the south side of the lodge.

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Room view looking at Ngorongoro Highlands.

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The beautiful lounge area where you can enjoy your drink before dinner and enjoy the fire place. The dining area is right behind the lounge. At night, they close the canvas in the back to keep the cold wind out.

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The lovely deck. Lunch is sometimes taken from here.

Safari Client Post – Carlos M

Journey To Africa client Carlos M wrote this lovely blog post. He loves cats! When he and I first started planning his first Safari with his son Jeff to Tanzania in 2011, he told me he has watched every NatGeo show and going on Safari is a dream. As soon as he came back, he told me he is hooked. He took 3 of his friends for his second Safari in 2013 and this time we added Kenya’s Masai Mara.  Asante Carlos for this post.

Carlo M at Oliver's Camp in Tarangire with his cuban cigar.

Carlo M at Oliver’s Camp in Tarangire with his cuban cigar.

Here goes // Carlos’s top 10 //

… Mefi, it’s been less than a year since I returned from my second safari, and I have to admit, I can’t wait to go back. You going brings back so many memories. For some reason, other trips I take leave me with memories, but not great memories as safaris do. It is such a different experience from other things I have done.

I don’t know what people expect to see when they go on a safari. All safaris are different. Below I have captured my favorite memories to give others an idea of what they might experience in a safari to Tanzania and Kenya.

My top 10 Journey to Africa safari wildlife memories (in no specific order) are:

  1. While on the walking safari at Tarangire, about ½ a mile from camp, and about 15 yards in front of us, a young male lion raises his head out of the tall grass, looks at us and runs away. It was so unexpected!!!

    Young male lion.

    Young male lion.


  2. Rhinoceros are getting increasingly hard to find. Beside a dwindling number, they are very shy animals. My son and I were very fortunate to see a mother and calf within about 40 yards. We had seen rhinos in the distance, but watching them this close was special. A few weeks before, one had been poached.
  3. While staying at Olakira in the northern Serengeti, we saw 4 or 5 wildebeest Mara River crossings. There were wildebeest everywhere, running in a single file in every direction. We saved the best crossing for last. On the last game drive before heading for the air strip, we saw a great crossing. Our vehicle was right in the middle of the herd as we inched our way along. They were grunting (I can still hear them) and kicking up dust. They got to the river and stopped. They left and returned several times. By this time we had left the herd and positioned ourselves at a high point to see the crossing. All of a sudden, a lone zebra starts across. When it got to the other side, it was pandemonium. The crossing started in masses. We watched for about 40 minutes and headed for the airstrip. WOW!! What a way to end the trip.

    Wildebeest in Northern Serengeti.

    Wildebeest in Northern Serengeti.

  4. The Central Serengeti is loaded with cats. We saw more cats here than any place else. While on a game drive, we saw a very well fed lioness on a tree. We watched for a while and also noticed several lionesses beginning to congregate to our left about 50-75 yards away. They showed up one by one until there were 6. All of a sudden, the lioness in the tree climbs down, runs right in front of our vehicle, grabs one of the lioness, and they run to the left. In the meantime, we see a lone zebra coming to a nearby stream. The remaining 5 lioness get in crouch attack mode and start crawling forward. By this time, the 2 lioness circled behind the zebra. We see the zebra’s ears perk up, she starts to run, and in seconds all we see are 7 lions and 4 zebra legs sticking up in the air. It was perfectly orchestrated. It was spell binding and breathtaking. (By the way, this is my top memory)

    A young lion couple.

    A young lion couple.

  5. Late one afternoon, while in the Central Serengeti, a female leopard went on her evening hunt. We were able to watch her for about 15-20 minutes. She came within 10 feet of our vehicle. We found out that night in camp from a fellow guest that she had 2 cubs. They actually stayed near her den for 6 hours earlier that day hoping to see and photograph the cubs, and they did.
  6. Tarangire National Park is loaded with elephants. One of my favorite memories has to be watching 3 young elephants playing in the swamp. You could tell they were having a great time. The herd, consisting of several cows and babies was nearby. It was a beautiful sight. That same day, a lone bull in musk started chasing our vehicle. The guide said he probably wanted to mate with the Land Rover.

    Elephants playing at Silale Swamp near Oliver's Camp in Tarangire National Park

    Elephants playing at Silale Swamp near Oliver’s Camp in Tarangire National Park

  7. Shortly after landing at the Masai Mara on the way to Sekenani Camp, in the span of 1 hour we saw 4 of the Big Five. WOW!! We saw a large male leopard on a tree, several lions enjoying a Cape buffalo they had killed the night before, a herd of elephants, and a herd of Cape buffalo. Does not get any better than that.
  8. While on a game drive in the Masai Mara, we came across a large pride of lions which included several cubs. After a waiting for a while, all 4 cubs finally lined up, looked at the camera, and gave me the opportunity to take one of my favorite safari pictures.
  9. On nature shows, I have seen many cheetahs climb on a vehicle to get a better observation point for prey. Actually got to see it in person. We found 2 cheetah brothers lying under a tree. There were about 10-15 vehicles nearby. All of a sudden one of the cats jumped on the hood and onto the roof of one of the vehicles. Those of us in the other vehicles had the show of a lifetime. The occupants of the vehicle could not see a thing. We all thanked them for providing us a great show. The cheetah stayed on the roof for about 15 minutes then left. He did not even look at the occupants.

    Leopard on top of a Safari vehicle in Masai Mara.

    Leopard on top of a Safari vehicle in Masai Mara.

  10. On the afternoon of the last day, our Masai guide in the Masai Mara asked us if there was anything else we wanted to see. I told him I wanted to see a male lion, a friend wanted to see a large herd of giraffe, and another friend wanted to see one last cheetah. Within 15 minutes, we were parked near a large male lion, 10 minutes after that a herd of 17 giraffe was in front of us, and on the way back to camp we had our cheetah. I don’t know if he could smell them, but he found them rather quickly!!
  11. While these are my top ten memories, the list would not be complete without #11. While parked on a low hill, whether at the Serengeti or the Masai Mara, I found myself looking at the expanse of savannah below, and seeing wildlife in every possible direction as far as the eye could see. This was absolutely breathtaking and indescribable. This scene was repeated over and over.

    Lion looking at the open savannah. What a view!

    Lion looking at the open savannah. What a view!

May God bless the Serengeti, the Masai Mara, and all its inhabitants. This is a treasure to be preserved and enjoyed

Safari Diary 2014 – Gibbs Farm [Lodge Review]

Our first night stop on our Tanzania Safari was the beautiful Gibbs Farm in Karatu Region close to Ngorongoro Crater gate. You pass through schools and homes of people in Karatu to get to the gate. Then you turn into Gibbs Farm and are welcomed by amazing lush vegetation. A garden with hundreds of species of plants.  Truly a green feast to your tired eyes.

You are welcomed with a rhubarb drink before you are escorted to your lovely cottage.  Each of the currently 17 cottages are beautiful decorated with soothing colors. Little touches like slippers are provided to wear inside the room. There is a fireplace in each of the rooms as Gibbs Farm is located high in the Ngorongoro Highlands and it can get cold here in the mornings and evenings. The bathroom also shares the fireplace. Each of the bathrooms have 1 indoor shower, 1 bathtub and 1 outdoor shower for the hotter days and bath shampoo + wash +lotion are provided. A change from the Safari lodges where water is scarce but at Gibbs Farm, water comes from a bore hole.

A Farm-to-Table concept.
90% of the food at Gibbs Farm comes from the farm right near the lodge. In fact, we woke up early to see the cow getting milked and the chickens laying eggs.

The lodge has a well curated art gallery where every 6 weeks they feature a new artist. Their in-house artists offers activities like making recycled paper – a fun break from Safari activities.  And they have a Maasai healer who comes to your cottage to give you a personal massage. Start slow with Lengare. He is a strong Maasai.

We will definitely recommend Gibbs Farm to you.

The lush plants and trees hidding each cottage from view.

The lush plants and trees hidding each cottage from view. A welcoming sight.

The cosy rooms each with their own fireplace.

The cozy rooms each with their own fireplace.  This was a family room but they have double rooms as well.

The bathroom with 3 options on how to clean after a Safari. Indoor shower, outdoor shower or tub. Choices!

The bathroom with 3 options on how to clean after a Safari. Indoor shower, outdoor shower [surrounded by all the greenery] or tub. Choices!

The lush view from the room. Enjoy your morning coffee from here.

The lush view from the room. Enjoy your morning coffee from here.

The morning mist from the main lounge area. The coffee plantation is hidden in the mist.

The morning mist from the main lounge area. The coffee plantation is hidden in the mist.

Art Gallery in the main lounge area. They offer shipping to your home.

Art Gallery in the main lounge area. They offer shipping to your home.

The cow heading to the barn after getting milked. A morning activity to enjoy.

The cow heading to the barn after getting milked. A morning activity to enjoy.

An assortment of breakfast jams. Majority made at Gibbs Farm from their own produce.

An assortment of breakfast jams. Majority made at Gibbs Farm from their own produce.

The dining room with large windows  and beautiful fireplace.

The dining room with large windows and beautiful fireplace.

Make memories on Safari with Journey To Africa.
Get in touch //
Email – Safari@JourneyToAfrica.com
Call us – 1.877.558.6288

Hippo Pool in Ngorongoro Crater

News from the bush //

When having lunch around the hippo pool in Ngorongoro Crater, keep your eyes peeled.

After viewing the packed hippo pool – lots of baby hippos here including twins – we were enjoying our Rhotia Valley Tented Lodge packed lunch when our entertaining guide Elisa told us to look at the two male hippos having a heated argument. They were really having a go at it and managed to have a few rounds of tussling around. Elisa told us male hippos tend to be aggressive. We would too if we had to stand packed in our own poo in a crowded pool.

Our front row seat in this tumultuous experience!

Hippo fighting in Ngorongoro Crater - June 2014.

Hippo fighting in Ngorongoro Crater – June 2014.

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Hippo fighting – getting rowled up

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My, what teeth you have!

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You are going down mate!

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It’s not over yet. We are going to have a go at it again.

Photo of the week

A family affair

A family affair

When you are around Lake Manyara area or at the gate of Ngorongoro Crater, you tend to see large groups of congregated baboons. They are usually grooming each other or camping right in the middle of the road having a conference of some sort.

And sometimes, you see a family going on their own Safari.

Let us help you plan your family’s Safari to Tanzania + Kenya and beyond. We use lodges and camps like Mara Bush House in Mara North Conservancy or Rhotia Valley inKaratu. Kids not only learn about wildlife but also get to interact with children or have activities that are geared to have then enjoy their time on Safari.

 

Photo of the week

Taken by client Reggie and Bill Hepp in Ngorongoro Crater.

Taken by client Reggie and Bill Hepp in Ngorongoro Crater.

Beautiful black rhino, with a peaking crested crane, in Ngorongoro Crater.

To save our rhinos from poachers, please remember to never buy rhino horns. Their horns do not aid in fertility, give you strength or aid in fever reduction.  Horns are actually made of keratin, the same material our human fingernails and toe nails are made off.  Do not buy artifacts with rhino horns. Say no to bracelets or daggers made out of rhino horn.

The only place a rhino horn should be is on a rhino!

For more information and help, visit //
http://www.savetherhino.org/
https://biglife.org/