Sometimes called the "eighth wonder of the world," Ngorongoro Crater is a must-see on Tanzania's safari circuit.
On a recent press trip to Tanzania, I had the opportunity to visit the crater — actually a massive caldera, formed nearly three million years ago following a volcanic collapse — and stayed at Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, considered to be the most luxurious property inside the conservation area.
It's truly a unique place. The architecture was like nothing I'd ever seen before; adobe-colored huts and buildings inspired by the mud-and-stick manyatta homes of the Maasai, with opulent interiors and huge arrangements of roses on almost every surface. It's "Maasai meets Versailles," as I heard one person describe it.
And the views are unbeatable. The Lodge, an andBeyond property, is one of just a handful of hotels within the confines of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, and is literally perched on the edge of the crater. I awoke to a panorama of the 100-square-mile abyss, still shrouded in the morning fog.
Even though I spent just one night at the Lodge, I got the sense that the staff was incredibly friendly and focused on the guest experience. The hotel prides itself on creating special "moments" — a candlelit outdoor dinner, a surprise visit from Maasai dancers — for each guest. And days after I left, I found a sweet note from Beaty, the assistant manager, in my suitcase, saying she hoped I'd enjoyed my brief visit.
Stays at the Lodge, which has 30 suites divided into three separate camps, are pricey — rates are $1,500 per person, per night in the high season, and about half that in the low season. But that figure includes all meals and drinks, and twice-daily game drives into the crater with one of andBeyond's trained rangers.
Disclosure: Our trip to Tanzania, including travel and lodging expenses, was sponsored by the Tanzania Tourist Board, Africa Adventure Company, Singita Grumeti Group, Coastal Aviation, Qatar Airways, Tanzania National Parks, Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority and Wildlife Division.
After an afternoon game drive through Ngorongoro Crater, we finally pulled up to the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge at dusk.
Several staff members were awaiting our arrival with champagne and hot towels. It was a welcome sight after a hot and dusty day in the crater, and one of the "moments" andBeyond seeks to create at the lodge.
The architecture of the Lodge is like nothing I had ever seen before. Built in 1997, the structures were inspired by the mud-and-stick manyatta homes of the Maasai, who are native to the area.
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