Tanzania: Ngorongoro

I really can’t say enough good things about our travel agent, Natural World Safaris. This is my second time using them, and each time my expectations are exceeded. They specialize in wildlife-focused holidays, and always use sustainable properties and local staff, so the money we spend helps support the local economy. And as you’ve seen, we haven’t exactly been slumming it.

For our final leg of the safari, they recommended we stay at Gibb’s Farm. It’s a very different experience from our tents in the bush… This is an actual working farm with 22 cottages and an impressively large vegetable garden. 90% of what they serve in the restaurant comes directly from their farm and you are welcome to help pick some vegetables yourself. Absolutely everything we’ve eaten has been so delicious and fresh – it was the epitome of “farm to table”.

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This is just the start of the vegetable gardens…
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This photo doesn’t do the gardens justice… they stetch out on all sides.

The grounds are the definition of “lush” – there are trees, flowers, and vines creating privacy for each guest. From our veranda I see nothing but plants and flowers, and hear nothing but birds (and at night, the bush babies).

Our cottage is enormous and has both an indoor and outdoor shower, as well as a fireplace you can see from both the bed and the gorgeous bathtub.

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A bit floral for my taste, but otherwise very comfortable.
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To the left was also an incredibly deep tub, plus the indoor and outdoor showers.

On staff they have a naturalist, who gives a talk about a different animal each day. There is also an artist-in-residence program… the main building includes a small gallery displaying the artist’s work, and you often see him painting or carving somewhere on the grounds. Masai are available to take you on nature walks. You can also milk a cow, get a guided tour of the gardens, or just sit and relax and enjoy the view (with a cup of their coffee, which is also grown on the property).

Everyone who works here seems sincerely proud of the property and they should be. I’m not exactly sure what I expected, but I’m completely blown away! It was a nice change of pace from the safari camps, and the food was excellent (and not just by Tanzania standards)

This was also our first chance to get a glimpse of life outside of the game parks. In this part of the country, the earth is very red from the volcanic soil. In my mind’s eye, this is the colour of Tanzania. Everything is covered in a fine layer of red dust. This soil is the perfect material for making bricks, and great for farming.

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The town of Karatu

On our day in Ngorongoro Crater, we were incredibly lucky to spot some lionesses on the hunt.  These clever girls worked together to take down an unsuspecting zebra.  One sits at a distance in plain view of the zebra, as a bit of a distraction.  While the zebra were keeping a cautious eye on the first lioness, the other snuck around back of the herd, even using the safari vehicles as cover at times.  Finally, she lunges and latches on to its neck, as her partner runs over to help finish the job.  It was fascinating to watch, but I couldn’t help but feel bad for the zebra – it doesn’t look like a pleasant way to go. The video below shows the action:

Ngorongoro Crater is beautiful and there’s no shortage of animals at every turn, but its a contained area so this also means there’s no shortage of people everywhere.  After being so spoiled in the remote areas of Namiri Plains, we didn’t have much patience for all the vehicles jockeying for a good view of whatever animal was closest.  At one point, we were allowed to leave the vehicle and take a few photos on the edge of a hippo pond.  As we were admiring the hippo, some girl came up and asked us to move so she could take a photo there. (Seriously?!) I told her she was rude and we walked off, but un hindsight, we should have stayed and photobombed her.

We decided to bail out a little early and spend more time on the farm, where I tried milking a cow. (It was weird, and I wasn’t very good at it. The cow didn’t seem to mind but it sure felt like I had to pull awfully hard to make nay progress.)

Our last day of game viewing was spent at Tarangire Park.  I jokingly requested that I only wanted to stop for animals that were very close to to the car… we’d seen so much and so close in Serengeti that I didn’t have patience for much else. (And if I’m honest, I think we’re both feeling a bit safari fatigued.)

Luckily, the park didn’t disappoint! We easily saw hundreds of elephants, some of which were so close I thought they might bump the car.  We also saw a nice pride of lions with 4 cubs, again very close.  It seemed like animal after animal was waiting nearby to pose for us – from the tiny dik dik to the tall giraffes.

We then drove several hours to Arusha, one of the larger cities in Tanzania, to spend one final night as the last piece of our safari package.  Our room was gorgeous with romantically draped mosquito netting, and I had high hopes the internet would be decent so we could sort out some logistics for the next couple weeks…

Bedroom at Arusha Coffee Lodge

…While the room certainly looked pretty the wifi was the absolute worst we’ve had and it look me 3 hours to get enough photos uploaded for the previous blog post! (There was a lot of cursing.) The next morning we bought SIM cards, only to discover activation isvery confusing and we used about a quarter of the credit trying to convert our talking time into data time. So in other words, our days of not having to think for ourselves while someone takes care of all of our needs are done.

Next up is Kilimanjaro! I’m nervous about altitude sickness and freezing to death. Our guide came by to brief us and  deliver very warm sleeping bags and a bunch of mismatched ski clothes, so you can look forward to some very entertaining photos.

3 thoughts on “Tanzania: Ngorongoro”

  1. I’m incredibly awed by all your photos! Thanks for letting me enjoy the sights from the comfort of my chair (though I’d love to go someday).

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  2. The most amazing travelogue I have ever witnessed. If I weren’t 86, I would sign up for your next venture. Not much left except South America, trans Pacific/Indonesia small boat expedition and don’t forget Antarctica. Looking forward to your next postings. Hope you survived Killy. Green with envy, Alvin Tobis

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