24 hours in Ngorongoro, Tanzania

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The Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania was created three million years ago when a giant volcano exploded, leaving behind a 600m-deep hole. This natural caldera is now home to a spectacular array of African wildlife, where it’s possible to spot the ‘big five’ during a single game drive.


The dry season, Ngorongoro Crater

Within the 260km2 extent of the crater are prides of magnificent lions, who have learnt to take kills from hyenas, rather than hunt themselves. There are also nomadic cheetah, leopard, and 16 black rhinoceros – one of the most endangered animals on the continent – all of which make up just a fraction of the 30,000 resident large mammals. While you can visit for a day’s game drive, staying within the crater ensures you make the most of the experience, with the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge (www.andbeyond.com), on the rim of the crater, being the place to stay. Each suite is raised on stilts and built with traditional Maasai volcanic ash and mud, topped by thatched roofs. Inside it’s an oasis of elegant opulence with a free-standing bath, sparkling chandeliers, graceful antiques, teak panelling, a wood-burning fire, a luxurious four-poster bed, and whimsical African touches. Relax on the private balcony and take in the panoramic views of the crater below, as mists rise in the morning and stars puncture the black canopy at night. This is Africa at its best.

As dawn warms the morning sky,
a soft knock on the door announces your butler with a wake-up call and a fragrant cup of tea or coffee. An air of anticipation for the day ahead hangs over the breakfast table.

Load up with camera gear,
binoculars, memory cards, and batteries for the day’s game drive. Check the weather forecast, as cooler, cloudy mornings will see predators more active for longer. Your guide will offer a preview of what to expect.

Staying inside the crater
ensures you’ll be one of the first to descend. The road edges show evidence of early morning hoof and paw prints. Look out for warthogs, their tails bolt upright, as they dash in and out of their dens.

Pop up the roof and explore.
The plains sprawl out in front of you. Zebra, wildebeest, ostrich, buffalo, and all manner of antelope are all around. The Lerai Forest is the place to spot an elusive leopard, usually found languishing in the branches of a fig or acacia tree. Being early still, watch out for lions on the prowl, hyenas plotting a kill, and elegant cheetahs. It’s possible to spot the big five in a single day: buffalo, leopard, rhino, elephant, and lion.

Follow the waterways
to see a variety of both predators and prey taking a drink. In the deep pools you’ll find hippopotami resting in the cool water, with the white egret standing guard on its voluminous back.

Step outside the Land Rover
and savour a delicious lunch on the crater floor, as your knowledgeable guide looks after your needs. Then head to the seasonal salt lake (Magadi) for flocks of flamingo.

As you return, experience traditional Maasai life
– and buy beautiful souvenirs – at one of the villages. Back at camp, your butler will have a hot bath waiting for you, decorated and scented with rose petals.

Enjoy sundowners
on the crater rim, and share stories and sightings with your fellow guests. Look out for zebra dusting themselves in the grounds of the lodge, and enjoy the cacophony of birds.

A line of 200
chanting and dancing Maasai warriors, bearing flaming torches, creates an incredible atmosphere ahead of dining in the lodge’s magnificent dining room. Retire for the night, wholly content.

Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania
Distance: 3,790 km
Flight Time: 5 hours, 40 mins
Frequency: Twice Daily

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