Breakfast with Zebras in Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania
It was still dark out and I was heaving behind the safari jeep. “Malaria meds. Happens all the time,” said Vicki, Tanzania’s first female safari guide. I feebly crawled into back into the vehicle, unsure I could handle an all-day safari in Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Crater. I wondered if I should just stay in my uber-lux room at the AndBeyond Ngorongoro Crater lodge and take a bath, read by the fireplace, and call on my personal butler to bring me lunch with a glass of ginger ale to settle my stomach?
Malaria medication nausousness or not, the jeep sped off. I held my head between my hands as we descended into the crater in search of the Big Five (lions, buffallos, rhinos, leopards and elephants).
Thankfully, the woozy feelings were trumped by the Technicolor-like sunrise landscape and the first rare animal sighting, with many more to come, of the day: A lion and lioness, with the strength and grace of ballet dancers, headed straight for our jeep.
With shock and a bit of fear to see these ferocious felines in the wild, I held the camera with trembling hands, only to get blurry pictures.
“She’s taking us to her cubs!” shouted Vicki as she whipped the jeep around to follow the lioness on her morning walk.
Sure enough, like she could read the momma lion’s mind, Vicki was the first of the safari jeeps to locate three one-month old cubs. (AndBeyond safari guides are known to be some of the best in the safari industry for knowledge of animal behavior and locating their habitats.)
To start the morning off witnessing cuddly cubs wrestling with each other and playfully batting their mom for attention, I was a happy crater camper.
But that wasn’t the end. The day was non-stop animal action in the Ngorongoro Crater, from a cheetah pursuing her prey to long-tusked elephants languidly eating lunch to a bunch of baboons swinging through the trees, and more.
Luckily, we did not have to hunt or graze for our meals as the African wildlife did. We feasted on a breakfast, beautifully arranged by our AndBeyond safari guide, of quiche, fresh fruit, granola and hot coffee in the company of zebras. Maasai tribes people were our dates for lunch. As we had our grilled chicken, vegetable couscous, avocado salad and chilled South African white wine, a few boys from the tribe, decked out in vibrant red and blue Maasai cloth, intricate beaded jewelry and handmade spears, stopped by to say hello (as featured in headline photo).
The day was exhilarating, despite the rough start. And that bath I dreamed of doing rather than the safari, was waiting for me when I returned in a sweaty, bone-aching (from the 4WD rugged ride) state. Who was this angel from AndBeyond Ngorongoro Crater lodge who had drawn a hot bath strewn with red, pink, and yellow Rose petals?
Whoever it was, I sent them oodles of gratitude, surrounded in bubbles, both in my tub and in my champagne glass, as I watched the sun set on the remains of the ancient volcano and reflected on a most excellent first day on safari in East Africa.
AndBeyond Ngorongoro Crater Lodge offers an all-inclusive safari experience in their two-roomed huts fashioned after Maasai mud construction, accented with chandeliers, french crystal glassware to sip sherry out of, a heated bed and 24-hour personal butler service. There are three different 'villages' of the lodge; request to stay at the Tree House huts.