Saying the last goodbye to the coast and the Indian Ocean, it was time to explore the vast plains of North Tanzania. Next stop? The Safari capital of the country, Arusha.
On one of the most comfortable bus rides from Dar it took us though almost 10 hours to cover the 650 km distance north to Arusha. And it would have been even more comfortable if there were not these people in every bus ride that come and speak about God for almost one hour while you are trying to sleep!
The lush green of the banana and coconut trees gradually gave way to more mountainous and dry landscape where among the Masai villages one could see miles and miles of land covered with aloe plants and their tall flowers. In the horizon, the mountains of the Rift Valley where rising giving the feeling that this land was ancient, and we were anxiously waiting for a glimpse of the high peak of Kilimanjaro as we reached the small town of Moshi.
Weatherwise we were a bit unlucky because the fog did not allow us to see much of it, but soon we reached the busy Arusha.
Thomas from Active Tanzania along with his lovely Greek partner, Mary Kourkoumeli, had already contacted us and invited to stay at their home. They also made sure that we had the best experience even on such a tight budget as our own. As an example of the current rates, the Ngorongoro park fees are $50 per person plus $200 counted per car for those who want to enter the crater.
We were so lucky as our hosts not only arranged for us the cheapest deal on the market but we were also able to spend a night camping inside the Ngorongoro park!
The Ngorongoro crater is a deep caldera and actually the deepest in the world, as it is 600 meters deep and 20 km long. Often called an ”African Eden”, the crater with its landscape and wildlife will totally blow your mind away!
During our own experience we slept alongside zebras that were grazing outside our tents at night while we almost froze from the cold! Inside the camp there were only two buildings, one for the cooks and the dining room, although of course we all knew the fun was in the first one!
In the morning,after a big breakfast we packed our bags and started the descent to the bottom of the crater!
At the rim of the crater there is thick rain-forest making the area very foggy at this time of the year. Despite the view from the top was not so clear, the atmosphere was equally mystical! Every now and then we passed the occasional Masaai village until we arrived after a steep descent.
In the crater around 25,000 big animals roam freely including 26 black rhinos. Most of them never migrate from this area which means sightings of both prey and predators are guaranteed all year round.
Zebras and wildebeests always hang around grazing together, while hyenas were on the search for leftovers from an overnight feast.Ostriches, multicoloures crowned cranes and flamingos were also nibbling near the small lake in the middle of the crater.
Everybody was literally hanging from a vehicles to get the best shot of the Queen of the animal kingdom and their cubs, although they were obviously uninterested and relaxed instead.
We also spotted a small swamp that looked too small for the amount of hippos in it!
The best part was the watering hole we stopped for a picnic. It is hard to describe the beauty of the scenery with golden grass and the palm trees against the view of the crater rim!
It would not be an overstatement to say that it was a childhood dream come true to be able to see this place made out of heaven!