Stanley Wing Safari

Tarangire National Park & Ngorongoro Crater

Next up on our itinerary: Tarangire National Park and our first Sopa Lodge.  

On our drive to Arusha we crossed the Kenya/Tanzania border.  Here we said bye for now to George K. and met Willie P. our Safari Director for Tanzania.


We had lunch at the Arusha Coffee Lodge enroute to the Arusha airport.  A beautiful little property, they served a very civilized buffet lunch.  Afterward we took a little time to explore their craft area where they were actually weaving the cloth and blowing glass on site.

Our quick flight from Arusha to the grass strip, Kuro, was piloted by a young Capt. Sarah.  Once deplaned we boarded safari vehicles for an elephant rich game drive to our Lodge.  That night several of us woke to the roars of a lion apparently successful on his mates’ nocturnal hunt!

Morning came early and we ate a quick breakfast then enjoyed another game drive with great elephants, water buck, impala and more.  The 1,000-2,000 year old Baobab trees fascinated us.  Our drivers also took us to a great overlook of the river basin.
Returning to the lodge around noon, we found a sumptuous bar-b-que set up out by the pool just for our group.  We are learning quickly that food and drink go hand in hand with Safari!

We said good-bye to Tarangire and began a long road trip to the amazing Ngorongoro Crater.  The journey was part “rough as a cob” dirt and part nicely paved highway.  That, we learned a bit later, was just a warm up for the drive from Ngorongoro to the Serengeti!

We arrived at the foot of the Ngorongoro Crater late in the afternoon. Our Sopa Lodge, we had been told, was perched on the rim above us.  We had great confidence, by now, in our drivers and nimble-footed vehicles but the drive up was a bit challenging!  The first view down into and across the Crater made the day’s driving melt away.  It was truly spectacular!

As early evening fell and a near full moon rose to illuminate the crater, we gathered for drinks and Willie’s briefing for the next morning’s drive to the Crater floor.  

I watched the sunrise as it illuminated the whispy morning fog rising from the Crater floor.  After breakfast we loaded up the vehicles and began our decent through the forested sides of the caldera.  As the scenery changed to flat green plains, we began to see all the animals spilling across them in the early morning light.  The Garden of Eden comes to mind.  Most of the animals here never leave the huge fertile crater.  Everything they need is provided.

We spent the day watching the inhabitants go about their daily chores.  There were lots of babies among the hooved population.  Zebras, impala, gazelle galore.  

It was here that we saw our only black rhinos.  The black rhino’s are browsers with smaller mouths adapted to pulling leaves and small branches from trees. The white rhinos are grazers with wider mouths and are typically larger.  

We saw lions mostly resting from their nocturnal carousing.  There were lots of birds too.  The Secretary Bird, mostly a terrestrial bird of prey, and the Kori Bustard, largest bird of flight in Africa.  Of course there were plenty of ostrich too.  Flocks of bright flamingo ringed the shallow waters.

When lunchtime arrived we were treated to a surprise as we drove past a public picnic area to a secluded, private spot in the encroaching forest.  Here we found yet another bush feast prepared and served beautifully.  Couldn’t help but think of the English explorers who traveled with their fine tea time accessories.  Such sophistication juxtaposed to such wildness.

That evening we saw yet another aspect of the Crater as we watched it from above bathed in the light of the near full moon.  Willie briefed us on the long, somewhat tortuous trek, we had planned for tomorrow and the rewards it held.

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