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Ngorongoro Crater Lodge Review

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Website www.ccafrica.com/destinations/tanzania/ngorongoro):
Suites:

Absolutely incredible rooms--or several room areas connected together. First, there’s a little anteroom that we liked to call the “empty glass room”, because we would put our empty glassware there for our butler to pick up whenever we finished a round of drinks. Your morning wake up service (drinks and cookies) was also left on that table. The main bedroom area had a king size bed with enormous headboard, huge floor to ceiling doors/windows, and a small desk, there was also a wood-burning fireplace and two club chairs/ottomans in one corner. The next room was the bathroom, which could be blocked off by opening the wardrobe doors and fastening them together. Huge waterfall tiled shower, lovely free-standing bathtub, twin pedestal sinks, makeup table, and another floor-to-ceiling door (and the ceilings were HIGH!). Then there was another tiny room (like the “empty glass room”) that held the toilet. I don’t think there was a bidet here. The rooms are not spaced far apart, and due to the elevation of the landscape, it was nearly possible to see from our deck into the next rooms water closet (and there were no curtains or wooden doors provided for some of the windows--but other windows did have them). There are zebras and cape buffalo right on the property (no fences), so be sure to call your Masaai guide (there are phones in the rooms) for an escort to the main building. The animals will come right up to your deck and front door. (Each room has a larger deck off the bedroom area--use the four cushions provided at the end of your bed to set up a comfortable spot on the wooden step/bench--and a smaller deck located off the bathroom. Toiletries are provided in these neat, refillable glass bottles with cork stoppers (shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, bath salt scrub, shower gel). Massages are available (not included: about $40 for 1/2 hour and $60 for an hour). Robes and slippers were provided; umbrellas too. There is a lovely wooden/glass box filled with chocolates/sweets, and glasses with brandy/sherry in the fireplace area. There was an electronic safe, and the rooms could also be locked with a key. The rooms get quite chilly in the late evening/early morning. You’ll definitely need slippers to walk around (not bare feet), and the fireplace and electric space heater are necessary. Your bed will also contain a dual-controlled electric blanket, which will be turned on for you during the nightly turndown. (We found it too hot with the electric blankets, however, and turned them off.)

Common Areas: What can I say? Everything is true! It’s OVER THE TOP! We had room number 8 in the North Camp, which was midway between the dining area and the end of camp. North Camp would be the best choice, I think, if you have any mobility issues. The farthest room in South Camp required walking up a hill. We didn’t really see Tree Camp, but I think it was probably hilly as well (although the smallness of it may have helped). I requested North or South Camp prior to my stay, but perhaps Tree Camp would have been the better choice. There are a lot of rooms in North and South as compared to Tree, and we missed the more personalized service that we got at our previous (small) camp, Bateleur. The service was good, just not as personal or personalized. There was a curio shop which had a computer if you wanted to purchase internet time. There’s no pool at Crater Lodge, but don’t worry--there’s neither the time nor the hot weather to use one. (I can’t believe I almost didn’t stay there because they didn’t have a pool! What a fool!) Be sure to use the restrooms in the lobby/dining area--and don’t forget that you’ll have to go outside and via a wooden walkway to the restroom building. There is a common sink area, but separate rooms for men and women (look above the doors for the appropriate character--I missed it the first time and ended up in the men’s room instead). Cocktails were held in the lobby/lounge area from about 7:30 to 8:00, but we missed them both nights. It seemed like the time to chat with the other guests if you were so inclined.

Food: The dining room is lovely, with formal service. The meals were very elaborate and formal--and delicious. The current chef is from Oregon, and trained somewhere else in the United States (we think he said San Francisco)--it was our first and only encounter on the trip with someone on staff who was American). We had one really unique lunch here--ask to be seated out on the deck if the weather is nice. It’s too cold to eat out there for breakfast or dinner, so lunch is your only option. Breakfast is a cold buffet (e.g., juices, fruit, bread, cereal, yogurt, meats, cheeses), followed by a hot entree (if desired); too much food for me so early in the morning.

Electricity and Water: There are plenty of outlets in the rooms for recharging. Don’t forget an adapter (you will need the 3-prong English/Great British adapter for all of Kenya and Tanzania--not the Africa adapter); a converter was not necessary. There was 24-hour hot water here, but the electricity was turned off from 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm and then again from 12:00 midnight through 3:00 am (or thereabouts). There is 24-hour hot water.

Laundry: Laundry service is included, and the Crater Lodge actually has washing machines and dryers, so you’ll receive a 12-hour turnaround or so. If you’re going to have laundry done, this is the place--I felt terrible asking someone to hand wash my unmentionables. And by the way, they do “smalls” (underwear and bras) at the CC Africa camps, unlike many other places that I heard about online. Laundry is returned in a neat wicker basket, wrapped in a satiny bag, tied with a ribbon, accompanied by a rose. It looked like a gift!

Game Drives: You can only do ONE game drive per day at the Crater Lodge, but it can be a long/extensive one, with a box breakfast and lunch to take along if you desire. I think the “morning” drive went out from 7:00 am to 2:00 pm, and the “afternoon” drive went out from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm. You must stay on road in the Crater, under all circumstances, so binoculars and telephoto lenses are a must if animals are far away. This was the most crowded park of our safari, but not overly so. Another couple we met described the Lodge and park as touristy, but we disagreed; it was just more dense with vehicles and people. There are two restroom facilities in the Crater, but there might as well not be. It was my first experience with squat toilets: there’s a porcelain plate with footprints on the floor of each stall, and you squat and go--not easy!

Surprise at Crater Lodge: DON’T READ ANY FARTHER IF YOU DON’T WANT TO SPOIL THE SURPRISE!
One day after lunch, when you return to your room, the butler will have drawn a lovely bubble bath for you, surrounded by rose petals. When you see that the tub is half full, you might add just a bit more hot (really scalding!) water to top it off, but don’t forget about the water displacement that your body will cause (therefore, DON’T FILL the tub to the top). I thought that I knew better than my butler, and filled the tub to the top with really hot water. Not only was it too scalding to sit in, but I would have flooded the entire room. The butler closed the drapes to the door/deck, but it was nicer with them open (particularly since the time coincided with the afternoon power cut), and I also lit the candle that was near the bath. A really relaxing afternoon! Crater Lodge also gave us a bag of coffee beans on our last night.

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