The Serengeti is perhaps the most famous park in Africa and the Ngorongoro Crater is its most coveted section. So special in fact that it has become a conservation area of its own to protect the densely populated wildlife, varied landscape, and the Maasai tribe that lives there. One down side is that the park is fairly crowded and incredibly expensive so we only stayed two days but what we lacked in time, we made up for in unforgettable moments.

The Crater Highlands

Ngorongoro Crater
Millions of years ago Ngoronogoro was a massive volcano, allegedly bigger than Mount Kilimanjaro, but with enough internal eruptions and diversions of lava it began to cave to the point of becoming one perfect caldera–a wild hybrid of a lush mountain with arid grassland in the center and more animals than you ever though possible in 100-square miles.

andBeyond Ngorongoro Crater Lodge

For lodging, we had dreamed of staying at andBeyond Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, by far the best of the four hotels in the park, but it didn’t seem like it was going to come through. Just as we were about to give up and surrender to camping…our sponsor came to the rescue (we literally saw their email from the camping company’s office computer). We were able to review this beyond-luxurious $3000-per-night hotel and enjoy the park from the best spot on the crater rim (that elephant is hanging out by our suite).

The Beauty of andBeyond

The original hotel dates back to the 1930s, but in 1997 andBeyond rebuilt it to reflect the best of African architecture and European luxuries. Thoughtful touches like sherry and chocolates set out by the fireplace and a handwritten welcome note with roses by the bed made this place shine beyond the gorgeous chandeliers.

Heading into the Crater

Once we settled into our room, we descended into the crater for our first game drive. After coming from the thick bushveld of South Africa and Zambia, we were in awe of how easy it was to spot animals in the wide open grassland. We saw 13 lions, cheetah, jackal, zebra, warthog, water buck, elephant, Kori bustard, our first Thompson gazelle, rhino, hyenas, and plenty more.

The Wildebeest Migration

The Serengeti is famous for the wildebeest migration — in the summer the herd of 1.7 million head north to the Masai Mara for fresher resources and in the winter they return to Ngorongoro to birth 300,000 little guys.

Ostrich Courtship

So many spectacular events are happening in the wild at any given time …it’s just a matter if you are there to see them. Though in the instance of ostrich courtship, we were front and center. How this goes down is a male ostrich builds a nest to impress and if one lucky lady likes it, they mate in their new home together. Sniffing around, picking at the nest, and ruffling her feathers, this lady bird gave his work careful inspection and was not impressed.

The next morning as we descended the 2,000 feet down crater, there was the most incredible thick mist. The umbrella acacias, moss, lichen, and orchids that cover the slopes were magical to see appear and disappear behind the blanket of fog.

Time in a Masaai Village

Before we started the day’s safari we made a point to see a Masaai village. We weren’t sure if this was going to be horribly touristy but the Masaai of the Serengeti are said to be amongst the most traditional and with their colorful dress, elongated earlobes, and diet of cow’s blood, we could not help but be a bit curious! We entered the boma of mud and dung covered houses and touristy it was not. The Masaai were just going about their normal day and they invited us along (without a single other mzungu). We milked cows, hung out in a Massai house, and sat in on some jewelry making.

Masaai Lions

In the Masaai culture, there are various steps to reaching manhood but the culminating moment after circumcision and isolation in the wild has historically been to kill a lion with a spear. Thankfully, this is happening less and less and is strictly forbidden in the park…but when it comes to proving your manliness, this pretty much takes the cake.

With such a diverse landscape and abundant wildlife, Ngorongoro Crater is like ten different parks rolled into one bite-sized treat.

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  1. David Carillet says:

    I bet you can get some real mileage out of those tire sandals! I need to make a pair for myself.

  2. Sent you a message and it didn’t go thru. Said brought back memories. Went there as a teenager. But when I was in crater saw rhino looking like he was going to charge the jeep so told driver to go back to hotel. He said ok. Than dad said why are you going back to hotel and the driver said cuz I was scared. I saw a John Wayne movie Hatari where rhino charged jeep. Needless to say went back to crater without me and I remember thinking I would rather live and be a coward than did and be brave. I would have made a bad pioneer. Lol. Anyway loved your photos. Have been keeping u in my thoughts and prayers. Take care. Love, carol laager

  3. Kenneth Webster says:


    The photos are fantastic as always but you you were really in the groove on a couple of these. Mark down c_01-IMG_7819.jpg as a keeper for the photography book down the road. 062-img_7766.jpg & c_06-IMG_8025.jpg too, Plus others – c_06-IMG_8025.jpg, 018-img_7513.jpg, 050-img_7670.jpg, 077-img_7831.jpg, 098-img_7980.jpg, 022-img_7518.jpg, 011-img_7471.jpg.

    Enough geek stuff. ‘Might just be my mood but some of these are really really good shots,

    1. man Ken, thanks SO much for taking the time to pick out your favorites (i really would love a feature that lets people rate their fave shots). we are definitely thinking more and more about a coffee table book….thoughts on who would read it, and if they would like to hear our stories or mainly photos?

  4. Barbylucedistelle says:

    Guys I am so jealous!!! I so want to go there, it’s been on top of my list for a long time now!!!

    Have a fab time with your trip.

  5. these photos are STUNNING. Why type of camera do you use? Ps. I JUST found your blog through time crunched traveller – SO happy about that – I’ll be spending the next few hours perusing all your posts!

    1. Chrystal, wow, what a great comment! And thanks for the photo love….the camera (which is one of 4 essentials for a good photograph) is a Canon T2i). TimeCrunched are a great couple. So glad to have you subscribed to our blog. Do you blog as well?

      – Mike

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