January 23, 2019
Stop: Sopa Lodge, Ngorongoro Crater Rim
5am comes way too soon. My knee forces me to move slowly but I’m ready for breakfast by 6:30am. I order scrambled eggs which take 20 minutes to arrive. Now I’m late for my 7am pick-up. My driver/guide is Eliamini and we head out for our long day of driving. We manage to stop at an ATM before proceeding to Tarangire National Park. We pass many Maasai homes-in-progress and men tending livestock along the side of the road. Once registered at the Tarangire National Park headquarters we enter elephant wonderland. Elephants in water. Elephants on land. Elephants throwing mud on themselves. Elephants pulling grass with their trunks and stuffing their mouths.
And then there’s a lone lioness and she’s beautiful. She has faint spots and it looks like she’s nursing too. Loads of amazing birds, trees, Waterbuck, Klipspringer the smallest antelope, Maasai giraffe, zebra, miniature-dwarf mongoose, guinea fowl, and Eli gets really excited for a rare Kudu antelope sighting. Superb starling, Red-and-yellow barbet, Southern ground hornbill. Alas, still no leopard sightings.
We have a quick lunch, sign out of the park and hit the road for the long drive to the Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area. We stop at a curio shop along the way which turns out to be an absolute disaster. I pick out some coffee, earrings, Maasai fabric and a bracelet. Next thing I know they are charging me in dollars instead of Tanzanian shillings. I make them refund me and it’s a long and complex process trying to get them to charge me the correct prices. All I want to do is leave.
We pass through the small town of Karatu and Eli pulls over to the side of the road. At least 15 women jump to their feet with bananas in their hands and start running towards the vehicle. The women jockey for position to sell their bananas to us. Eli selects a bunch of red bananas and they are so yummy. So much time was wasted at the curio shop that it’s getting late as we enter the Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area. After entering the park there’s still a long ‘African massage’ drive around the rim of the crater to my home for the night, Sopa Lodge. The lodge and view are beautiful but I virtually get there in the dark and have missed the Maasai music demonstration. As I’m escorted to my room I manage to take a few pictures in the fleeting light looking out over the crater. Kilimanjaro tentmate Katelyn tracks me down (we’re on similar safaris but in different vehicles) and we have a drink in the bar before being seated for dinner. I’m up until after 1am packing for my flight home tomorrow.