Left the nunnery early as we wanted to make the most of our ‘double the cost of the last place stayed.’ We were now going to be paying $300 for the next night – well it was going to be for full board. Plus the $200 fee for entering the crater itself. It was only about 10 minutes back to the NCA and after that about 45 minutes of a steep drive up through lush forest blanketed in cloud – it was also only 12 degrees centigrade. Arrived at Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge at about 9am – truly stunning views. We had a view over the whole of the crater.
We were now at 7800ft above see level and to the east of the crater a huge bank of cloud was spilling over the crater wall. After an hour of sitting around having a drink and generally relaxing we decided to take the drive down to the crater floor. It was only a 20 minute drive down a steep dirt road – no change there then! At the Lodge we were in the cloud and could see very little but as we took the road that descended the crater wall the cloud slowly thinned and the view became clearer. And what a view – a steep sided hill in a large sweep with a large ‘plain’ in the middle.
At this stage we could see no animals and as the side of the crater flattened out all we could see was a huge meadow of pretty yellow flowers. In he distance we could see a huge pillow of cloud spilling over the crater wall. As we drove on the animals slowly came into view – we had decided not to have a guide for the crater but to do our own thing – drive around and discover the crater ourselves, so that’s what we did. He first animals we saw were cape buffalo. Next into view were impala and it soon became apparent that the crater floor is simply ‘a natural zoo.’ There were animals everywhere and every type of animal – during the course of the day we saw rhinos, elephants, buffaloes, wildebeest, hippos, flamingos, impala, hyenas, vultures, kori bustards, various other birds of prey, golden jackals, zebras, a lion and possibly others that I can’t remember. And they were all happily existing side by side – well I suppose it was happily until one of the lions got hungry !!
It was apparently low season but we stopped by a lake to look at some hippos and counted 27 safari vehicles. The main lake, Lake Magadi was covered with flamingos – but sadly we couldn’t get too close to them as the lake shore had shrank due to lack of rain and was not that close to the track.
We spent about 5 hours driving around the crater floor. It must be one of the most incredible places on the planet. Again, as we drove back to the lodge we had to go through the beautiful yellow-flowered meadow and took a last view as we entered the cloud. Back at the lodge we had a drink and then later we had dinner whilst being entertained by some of the staff singing in the dining area – they had fantastic voices and it was a great way to end the day.
Early night as we had to be up early to make sure we weren’t going to get back to Mwanza in the dark.