On The Crater’s Rim

Linda Lou Burton posting from Little Rock, Arkansas — It started with a hotel. Being a Holiday Inn-Best Western-LaQuinta aficionado from years of budget travel with my kids, and later, my cats, I viewed “overnight accommodations” as being handy places to pull off the highway come evening, get a bath, and sleep. A cinnamon bun and coffee in the breakfast area the next day got me back on the road quickly.

One day, studying “places I’d like to go someday” I stumbled across a safari tour to Africa, with a stop at the Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge, described in words that struck like magic:

Regularly voted one of the best hotels in the world, this unique lodge clings to the rim of the magnificent Ngorongoro Crater, the largest and most perfect volcanic crater on Earth. Long and low, the lodge is built from local river stone and camouflaged with indigenous vines. Designed to blend completely into the landscape, it is entirely invisible from the floor of the Crater 600 meters below. Hugging the contours of the jagged Crater rim, the lodge takes its inspiration from the so-called “Cradle of Mankind,” the prehistoric site of Olduvai Gorge, which lies close by. Linked by arched stone passages and timbered decks, its walls are decorated with stylized prehistoric cave paintings and lit by flaring torches.

This of course sent me on a reading binge about the Ngorongoro Crater, as well as a pronunciation guide. (uhng gr raang gr ow)

Ngorongoro Crater is the world’s largest inactive, intact and unfilled volcanic caldera. The crater, which formed when a large volcano exploded and collapsed on itself two to three million years ago, is 2,000 feet deep and its floor covers 100 square miles. Estimates of the height of the original volcano range from 14,800 to 19,000 feet The crater floor is 5,900 feet above sea level. The crater was voted one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the Eighth Wonder of the World. Deep within its immense walls is a breath-taking blue-green landscape dotted with plains, lakes and forests; an eerie, otherworldly “land that time forgot” thick with massive bull elephants, rhinos, wildebeests and the highest concentration of lions in Africa.

Next question was: How do I get there, and when can I go? This wasn’t just something, this was REALLY something!

It reminded me of the planning of my trip to Antarctica. I knew the where, and the when I wanted to do it, last question was the HOW? As part of a research team studying penguins (not possible), as crew on a Russian fishing ship (not desirable), or on a small cruise ship, and, which one of those?

I quickly found there are many “safari” tours hauling folks around the most alluring spots in Africa – those that promise sightings of “the big 5” or treks in gorilla country; those headed to shimmering deserts or mountain-top lakes or rivers surging with crocodiles; all offering opportunities to go rugged, or go luxury. Which would be the best “fit” for me?

The Globus Tours site offered a reasonable package– start in Nairobi, visit four camps in Kenya, then three in Tanzania – location of that fabulous hotel overlooking that other-worldly crater – and then end the trip with beach time in Zanzibar. What year could this reasonably happen?

Next step: enlist a fellow day dreamer to help believe it into reality. I pinned pictures of that hotel, and that crater, in easy view, to nudge me on.

Link to Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge