During the night we hear lions roar not far from camp. They’ve been hunting. Our hosts bring tea to the tent and give us a wake up “call” by standing on the path outside our tent and softly saying “Good morning”. They’ve brought two thermoses, one with coffee for Sharon and another with hot water for me to make tea. We slip on our socks and go sit under the awning to experience the start of the day in this stunning landscape. Two dozen giraffes stride gracefully among the trees two hundred yards from our tent. They stop to graze among the tops of the acacia trees.
We dress for the day in a combination of layers. So far we’ve been lucky that there are no bugs but I still cover up to reduce my risk of exposure to a tsetse fly, mosquitoes or the sun. Breakfast is served, as is every meal, in the open air dining tent. Everything is fresh and delicious.
I ask the camp manager if it would be possible for me to see the kitchen, but only if it won’t bother his staff. I explain that I work in hospitality and always interested in seeing how lodging and dining services work. He’s kind enough to walk me across the camp to the kitchen. All the prep and cooking are done in a fairly small canvas tent, relatively speaking. It’s large enough to sleep perhaps 12-16 people, which is large, but in terms of the quality of food they create and the equipment and space they need to do it, it’s not. Im very impressed. They run coolers and freezers on propane and store a lot of their supplies and food in a container to keep from attracting predators.
Sylvester is ready to go, so we load up and head out for the day. We spend the entire day spotting animals and exploring the park. There are as many safari vehicles here as there were in Masai Mara but there’s so much more land that it doesn’t feel crowded.
Sylvester takes us to the western edge of the park and we stop for lunch at a ranger post that has bathrooms and a couple of picnic tables. We spend hours standing on the Landcruiser seats while bouncing across the savannah looking for animals. We see cheetahs with a kill, wildebeest stampeding across a creek, and cultures fighting over the remains of a young calf.
At the end of the day we return to camp. The porters deliver hot water to our tent, 5-gallons at a time for us to rinse the dust off ourselves before cocktails in the main tent and dinner. We spend another evening by the fire and listen to the birds calling. One in particular makes us giggle with its squeaky, repetitive call. I dub it the boxspring bird because it sounds like a squeaky bed.
In the morning we enjoy our tea and coffee on the front porch again, and pack for the journey onward. Well spend the day in the park and then return to the crater for the night.
Our second day is as filled with surprises as the first.
Late in the afternoon we retrace our steps down the long road the entrance gate and visitor center, and back to the Ngorongoro Crater. We climb up the outside of the rim to the top and then drive along the rode that rides all the way along the rim, making our way 2/3 of the way around to our hotel.
The view from the terrace is mesmerizing. We sit and enjoy a cocktail before dinner until a bartender comes to ask us to move to the next higher terrace. Cape buffalo are grazing nearby and have come too close for comfort. I’m grateful he’s been keeping watch, since I certainly wasn’t.
Before dinner a group of young Masai perform a dance in the lobby, while their songs echo around the room. The hotel isn’t very full. We get the best seats in the house, right up front.
It’s not hard to go to sleep. I’m exhausted from the day. But I’m excited for tomorrow. We still haven’t seen a rhino, our last of the Big Five, and I’m hoping we’ll get the chance to see one.