The Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority describes one of Tanzania’s prized possessions as… “The jewel in Ngorongoro’s crown is a deep, volcanic crater, the largest and unbroken caldera in the world. About 20kms across, 600 meters deep and 300 sq kms in area, the Ngorongoro Crater is a breathtaking natural wonder.”
Have you ever imagined yourself amidst an ecosystem surrounded by vast open lands; lush green and earthy brown, home to the largest density of animals, close to 25,000? An experience of being in a unique planet of the The Big Five and diverse wildlife, flora and abundant species?
When we, a trio of young, energetic and typical tourists chose to visit Ngorongoro out of the many safari destinations in Tanzania, our planning was limited to… excitement. Our thrill was a bubble of fantasy, imagining ourselves in the crater surrounded closely by the African Wildlife. My sister and I were hosting a guest from Dubai (now my brother in law- Jay) and we got too busy in planning… may be not the right way. While Jay was trying to learn Swahili, pronouncing ngo-ro-ngo-ro, while also picking the best shades and outfits for us, my sister and I were packing this and that and ensuring that the tour operator hascnot forgotten about our trip. Hats check. Tickets check. Sunscreen check. Camera Check. Survival food? Safari Itinerary? Weather conditions? …. Well we were just excited and not prepared.
Upon arriving at the Ngorongoro crater rim after almost a day long trip, we were quite surprised. Surrounded by monkeys that hopped in an open 4 by 4, narrow murky tracks that lead to the lodge AND freezing foggy climate. Did we go wrong with our imagination? I looked up while feeling tricky about the weather, oops! A Bubble Burst (thinking of my cotton outfits and brand new BVLGARI shades)
Dear readers, so now like an enlightened traveler, I share my lessons learnt; how to survive while you are on a Safari. With my first experience in exploring the wild, here are some tips I’d like to share- The Real Survival for an African Adventure; here my Ngorongoro Safari.
- Varying Climatic Conditions: Africa is not all sunshine. And I literally mean this! I planned for a pre-wedding photoshoot for the accompanying couple and they just could not stand the cold weather early morning. Do not expect a rise and shine climate in Ngorongoro. Remember that you are visiting an entirely different ecosystem naturally dug underneath the normal level. As such climatic conditions vary drastically. Luckily we carried thin woolens and just managed to survive! To be on the safe side, ask your tour operator, depending on the season you are visiting or carry a mixture of both types of clothes. The Masai checkered cloth in red and blue is thick enough to keep you warm. Your medical kit will also be detrimental of the weather. Travelers suffering from asthma, sensitivity to cold and other medical conditions should carry medicines and other requirements in their survival kit. Ask the lodging reception for some basic medicines that you may require.
- Carry your Binoculars: Ngorongoro is a home to 25,000 animals including thousands of zebras, gazelles, wildebeests, up to 62 lions, 26 rhinos and 30 elephants. One may not be privileged to witness the majestic spread on a single day trip. Moreover, Ngorongoro is magnificently vast; 300 square kilometers is close to the distance between two cities! Animals often move in herds and are seen from a distant. Many a times, you may have to strain your eyes to see an action or a hunt taking place few kilometers away. Carrying a pair of binoculars will give you an opportunity to witness some terrific moments; a pack of lioness and their cubs hunting for a distant zebra, thousands of gazelles and wildebeest running at lightning speed, mating moments, rare sights of animals are all precious and for many of us once in a lifetime experience. If you don’t have a pair of binoculars, ask for one from your tour guide.
- Special Dietary Requirements: Warm soups and variety of breads, salads and pastas excited us on our first day. These meals are suitable on the table and enjoyable at leisure. During the safari (day trip), most hotels and lodges offer packed meals, usually a lunch box with cold sandwiches, breads, boxed juices, biscuits and a fruit. The safaris are usually long and not everyone would like to survive on too much of wheat products or small meals. Hotels would be happy to customize meals on request. Alternatively, we all know our own survival food; chocolates, health bars, a mix of nuts and any personal favorites can help survive for longer or without disturbing your digestive systems!
- Ask Questions: During our safari, we saw a spectacular site of exotic birds. The accompanying travelers flaunted their knowledge while they admired the rare species. My brother- in -law was bold enough to strike a conversation and learn more about these birds. I realized to imbibe a childlike curiosity too. Remember your driver is a not just an expert at rallying a Range Rover in different terrains. He is a trained travel English speaking guide and has a good knowledge of most species. Be bold and ask questions; it can be something silly or you may want to know the name of a specie for more than 5 times. This is your once in a lifetime experience. Exploit it to the worth of every penny that you have paid for!
- Beyond your Packaged Trip: Most of us are happy go lucky travelers once we have finalized our ‘Safari Package’ with the tour operator. After our Ngorongoro Adventure we hopped to Lake Manyara. I read at the entrance of the lodge, “ask for night game drives and bush walk safaris” and wondered why did I not ask my tour operator before? Night drives in the wild are so much fun! Well, I did not have enough budget to opt for the option immediately. However I may have arranged for some extra I knew earlier with had other options. Ngorongoro is surrounded by beautiful places, ideal for walking tours and some rare opportunities like cultural tours are fantastic. Always read enough to see if your safari package can extend to something you would like to know more about.
While returning , we met adorable Masai kids on our way, running from their grasslands toward our car driven on the highway. All of us stopped in excitement. We gave them some oranges and biscuits from our packaged food while they shared with us their innocent laughter and the joy of visiting The Simply Enchanting; Africa.
Sajjad Fazel (Ngorongoro Plains- Top Image, Roaring Lioness and After the Kill Skeleton) and Ayushi Ramaiya (Monkeys on the Range Rover and Traveler with Masai kids)