Photo: Courtesy of andBeyond
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-coloured 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.
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.
The Lodge has 30 rooms, divided into three separate camps: North, South, and Tree. Each camp has its own lodge with a dining room and lounge. I stayed in South Camp, whose lodge is pictured here.
One neat thing about the hotel: there are roses everywhere, from the main lodge to the guest rooms. I even found rose petals sprinkled around the freestanding bathtub in my suite.
The sitting room in the South Camp lodge was opulent. There were carved wooden panels. brocade sofas, and antique nick-nacks all around.
The dining room was similarly opulent. There's no set dinner time; guests can come and go as they please.
The guest suites are smaller versions of the main lodges, set in a line facing the crater but detached from each other.
Since there are no fences around the camp, guests must abide by strict safety rules. No one can walk around at night without an armed guard, even to walk to dinner.
There's a small lobby outside the suite. When I awoke in the morning, I found a fresh pot of coffee and some snacks sitting on the shelf.
Inside the room, there's a sitting area with leather armchairs and a fireplace. When I got back to my room after dinner, there was a fire crackling.
But the real centrepiece of the suite is the bed. It's directly under the banana-bark roof and has a gigantic brocade headboard. I've never seen a hotel room that looks anything like this.
The suite opens directly onto a terrace with panoramic views of Ngorongoro Crater. Not a bad view to wake up to.
While most of the decor is reminiscent of the 1920s, there was one modern gadget in the room — a Bose iPod docking station.
Perhaps the best part of the suite is the bathroom. It's nearly the size of the bedroom, with a freestanding tub and a shower that's open on all sides.
One of the most incredible buildings on the property is the lodge at the Tree Camp. It's down these steps.
It's pretty clear why they called it the Tree Lodge. The entire structure wraps around this massive trunk, which is still alive.
Tree Lodge's dining terrace may have the best view in the entire resort. Several people have gotten married on it.
One last view of the hotel, against its spectacular backdrop. It was a property unlike anything I've seen before.
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