Greeted once again by our flight attendants (now in beautiful saris) we departed Jaipur for our long (7 ½ hour) flight to the Kilimanjaro airport.
Our route took us over the Arabian Sea, down the coast of Kenya, and then a sharp turn to the southwest into Tanzania. On landing, we divided into two groups for the final leg of our trip on bush planes, with the largest group going to the open plains of the Serengeti and the smaller one (about 12 people, including me) going to a very small airport about 80 kilometers from the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge.
The road trip up to the Crater Lodge took about two hours. Passing through one town, I snapped this photo of two side-by-side enterprising commercial ventures. (The one on the left says, “Mr. Barack Mobiles.”)
Our destination, Ngorongoro Crater is a large caldera (collapsed volcano) about 20 kilometers in diameter. To get to the Crater Lodge, we had to transit half the circumference of the caldera on unpaved roads, quite a bumpy and dusty ride in our Toyota Landcruisers . . .
but because the ridge of the caldera towers 2,000 feet above the crater floor, we sometimes had extraordinary views of the crater as we proceeded.
The entire crater constitutes the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA), a multi-use zone where Masai herders are permitted to live, while strict protections exist for the wildlife and the environment.
We received a warm welcome at the Lodge, with many “Jambos” (Hellos) from the staff. Dinner was served immediately, so there was little time for picture taking, but I managed the following. The first is a picture of the huts that constitute our residences (two huts form a single dwelling). The crater is just beyond. We are at an altitude of 7,500 feet, so the chimneys are for small fireplaces that are lit at night to take the chill off the rooms.
Here is the bedroom that greeted me (I couldn’t capture the crystal chandelier overhead):
And, here in my second hut, is the bath and shower (to the left):
Dinner was served in the main lodge. This is its terrace, overlooking the crater,
and this, the dining room:
Following dinner, as night descended, each of us had to be personally escorted back to our room lest we have an unhappy meeting with a Cape buffalo or a lion. (Over dinner, we signed indemnity agreements freeing the management from responsibility should we end up being dinner ourselves for some wild animal.) Walking down the pathway to my small lodge in the dwindling light, I managed to quickly pull my iPhone from my pocket and capture this final photo of the day: