African Safari - NgoroNgoro Park
Updated: Apr 23, 2019
It was an interesting night sleeping with no walls and hearing the wind blow through our room. The canvas was flapping outside & there were animal noises throughout the night. But it made for such a comfortable, cozy, deep sleep and I really didn’t want to leave that room when our alarm went off at 7AM! But onwards to the next adventure!
We had a lovely breakfast and Freddy was waiting for us for a 9AM departure. We drove for about an hour, a steady uphill, winding, rough & bumpy dirt road, until we reached 6000 feet at the top of the crater and to the park entrance. Freddy registered and paid new fees for this park for the next two days. Then it was back down into the crater, which took about 45 minutes to get to. It was crazy how vast and big this crater is. It was miles and miles and we drove and drove… so many dirt roads, which snake through the park. It was very open, no trees here. Only a few in certain pockets or edges of the park. And again, a lot of dust to deal with.
The Maasai live right in the crater with the wild animals. When I first saw this, it blew my mind – I was completely shocked. They were taking their cattle to the same watering hole as the wild animals drank from. We saw a child herding the cattle to the watering hole!
Today we were rewarded by seeing lions. As soon as the jeeps stop, they immediately come over and lay under the bumpers for the shade. Today we also saw hippos, jackals, hyenas, water buffalo, male & female ostrich, gazelles, impalas, waterbucks, warthogs, zebra, wildebeest, koke heartybeasts, hare, vulture, elephants (but distant) and one black rhino but he to was to distant to photograph. Again, a ton of neat birds and storks such as yellow billed stork, Kori Bustard, Crowned Crane, guinea fowl, weaver bird, Pied crow, black kite, egrets… and the list goes on.
We were gone all day and finally called it quits around 4PM. We headed out to our next lodging called Lemala tented lodges. This was very different from last night. This was a tent but a huge tent, very similar to a hotel room, with a full ensuite and a real flushable toilet and a shower. The floors are raised and made from hardwood, but the walls are canvas, which can all be unzipped to just have the screens as your walls. This was an eco lodge, so all the electricity is solar powered and the hot water is stored in canvas buckets outside which is actually heated by the sun during the day. We were situated right in the bush with possibility of wild animals showing up at any time. We had strict orders not to walk from out tent to the dining tent alone. At all times we were accompanied by 2 Maasai warriors to and from our rooms.
Once we got ourselves situated, we went outside for pre-dinner drinks and appetizers and were welcomed with 6 chairs, draped in the Maasai blankets and a nice bonfire.
Four other guests joined us and we all exchanged our Africa experiences to date. Dinner was served in the larger dining tent, with a setup at one table for six, as if we were in someone’s dining room. To the other side were two massive overstuffed sofas for lounging in if we so wished. It was a very intimate, low light environment, with fine dining being served and again some great conversations with complete strangers but which felt as if we had been friends forever.
When we returned to our tents we were pleasantly surprised to find a heater on and two hot water bottles in between our sheets. OH so luxurious!! The temperatures had dipped down quite a bit once the sun went down and it got quite cold, so this was such a wonderful treat.
The next morning Freddy wanted a very early start so that we had better chances of seeing animals and some morning activity. We checked out at 6AM and headed back down into the crater at dawn.
We headed to the waterhole for 8am to have our breakfast (which the lodge packed up for us) and it was the most amazing place on earth! We were the only ones there (unlike the previous day when we had lunch and there were literally 20-40 jeeps there).
We were rewarded with the most amazing view of zebras coming down the hill and heading to the waterhole to drink. The sky was so pretty that morning with the sunrays streaming through the cloud formations.
Then the best part were the hippos, which were literally only 10-20 feet away from me. They were in the water and at first I thought it was only one but soon realized there were a whole bunch including one big one that wasn’t too keen on me and started grunting at me. Made me boogie a bit faster back to the jeep!
It was also great to see a whole group of them out of the water. That is hard to come across most times as its too hot for them and they need to protect their skin from burning by being in the water.
We loved all the different birds we got to see in Africa. Some of them have amazing colors. Very vivid and bright. This one was a very pretty bird but I find that its eyes look kinda mean!
We then came across 6 lions which brought a lot of excitement to about 12 jeeps. The lions hung around the jeeps and a couple sat under them for shade. What I found interesting is that they dont make you feel threatened. I had to remind myself that these were wild animals and free to roam, not in a zoo, so can be unpredictable.
But after we left the lions, not far away, there were more Maasai herding their cattle to the watering hole for drinks. It was surreal to watch as they were walking amongst the wild and dangerous animals. Freddy explained that the lions wont bother them and if they did, any Maasai could easily take them down. WOW! Impressive!
A while later we ran across another large group of jeeps, so we went over to check it out because you know there is something there of interest.
In the distance we could see one male and one female lion, with a bunch of jackals following closely behind. We could see that the male was dragging something along and would stop as if to rest, and then continue again. Finally we could make out that it was a large chunk of zebra. After about 20 minutes of this, he brought it literally right to our jeeps and dropped it. He then abruptly decided to leave and then the female started to eat. She most likely hunted it and killed it, and he ate first, but then he was nice enough to drag it away from all the vultures and jackals and allowing her to eat her fill. We watched for at least ½ hour in fascination and as much as it sounds morbid, we were all a bit disappointed that we did not actually get to see the chase and kill.
We drove around for a bit longer but did not see any more cats. Still no luck in seeing a cheetah or leopard.
We only had a ½ hour drive to our next lodging – the Plantation Lodge. Another WOW! This place was an actual hotel complex, but with full individual apartments. It was stunning. We had two patios (one at the front and one at the back), full dining room, living room, a massive King bed with netting and the most impressive bathroom which had two showers and a massive Jacuzzi tub. Over the top! And then look back up at the Maasai homes … holy moly… what a life difference.
It also had a pool. We decided to go for a final swim of the season. How could we pass this opportunity up? We were the only ones there and enjoyed a ½ hour of solitude and sunshine. Pre-dinner drinks were in the main building on a beautiful patio bar overlooking the hotel grounds. We sat there for a couple of hours, chatting and reminiscing about our surreal African adventure so far.
We watched the sun go down and enjoyed the atmosphere of a lantern & candle lit patio with the quiet hum of voices from the other patrons there. Afterwards, we enjoyed yet another wonderful dinner and a beautiful evening before retiring for the night. Click here to read all about our continuation of the African Safari at Tarangire Park.