The Road to Ngorongoro Crater

Trip Start Jan 18, 2012
Trip End Feb 04, 2012

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Sunday, January 22, 2012

January 22, 2012 – Day 2

Today is our first day of safari. After a great breakfast and briefing from Tauck, we take our safari group picture and head to the vehicles for our first game drive in Lake Manyara National Park. Founded in 1960, Manyara is a smallish park (127 square miles) and was once the place to go to see huge flocks of pink flamingoes.

We drive back through Arusha and to the road leading to Manyara. We pass Mount Meru, the second highest peak in East Africa. Our driver, Severin, points out sites of interest and explains the Arushan life style as we drive. Severin is a student of Tanzanian history and a strong advocate of Tanzania's first President, Julius Nyerere. He tells us Nyerere taught Tanzanians to place nation above tribe and that is why tribalism is not a negative force in Tanzania today.

We arrive at Lake Manyara and there are no flamingoes. The Lake’s water level has receded and the flamingoes have moved elsewhere. We see several Lake Manyara elephants; a few baboons; and some zebras at a distance. Just outside the Park, we spy several dozen giraffe and a small herd of gazelle. We also see an unusual sight of a ground hornbill in the open. At Noon, we eat lunch at the Lake Manyara Lodge where the food is unremarkable. In retrospect, I am not impressed with Lake Manyara. We might have been better off going to Arusha National Park.

We head for Ngorongoro Crater. As we near our goal, Severin pulls off the road so we can see the Crater from above. No one acted terribly excited. As we near the lip of the crater and gaze 2,000 feet below to the crater floor, I sense this is the moment our safari begins. The view is breath taking. As far as the eye can see, animals dot the crater floor. We pull out our binoculars and locate a herd of elephant.

A few hours and many bumps later, we arrive at the Serena Ngorongoro Lodge. The staff meets us armed with champagne, juice and hot towels. I had so much travel dirt on my face I was embarrassed to hand my towel back. All of us cleaned off sufficiently to enjoy the welcoming dance by a dozen Maasai moran (warriors).

Beth and I are in room 44. We enter the room – go immediately to the balcony door – and nearly feint. I have never seen a more beautiful view. We could see for miles and miles. It is difficult to contain our excitement.

Before dinner, a local group of Maasai drummers and a dancer on stilts entertain. Dinner is literally soup to nuts. The quality of the entrée was fair. It didn’t matter. We are all too excited to worry about a fancy meal.

Tonight we are tired and go straight to bed after dinner. The jet lag continues but is getting better. We are told drinking lots of water helps and we are certainly doing that.
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