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Neptune Ngorongoro is located adjacent to the gate of the Ngorongoro Conservation area, a lush gathering place for wildebeests and zebra (and their accompanying predators) as they embark on their epic cyclical migration into the Serengeti-Maasai Mara ecosystem. After a short zig and zag up the road from those gates, we reach the rim of the Lost World of the Ngorongoro Crater. This is one of the most exciting short drives on earth. From its apex, at Colorado-ski-resort altitude, we look down upon 100 pristine square miles of what was once a boiling lake of lava and is now an almost pastoral grass and forestland thronged with upwards of 25,000 large mammals atop a vibrant pyramid of animal life. And then we wend downward a couple of thousand feet to the caldera’s floor, ready for the extravaganza….
One of safari’s sometimes overlooked attractions is its ability to slow us down, reintroduce us to creative idleness and fortifying repose. And here Neptune Ngorongoro excels. Perhaps because of its 20 sweet, unusually large log cabins, subtly decorated, fully and wisely modern yet lullingly unfussy, each with a large veranda and a well-tended fireplace to cast an old-time safari glow.
The Earth & Rain Spa and the Lodge’s swimming pool are fertile sources of relaxation, and the creatively and, by common consent, extraordinarily well-menued restaurant is another fine place to unwind and trade stories of animals seen, sceneries marveled at.
We have a lot of affection for Neptune Ngorongoro, for its site, for its lovely log cabins, but perhaps most of all for the attentiveness and cheer of its staff. Even in East Africa, where service and—even more importantly—heartfelt care are the norm, Neptune Ngorongoro stands out. We say it many, many times on this website and in all our publications. It’s something 50 plus years on safari have taught us, something that lifts safari out of the travel ordinary: We come to Africa to see its animals, but we leave in love with its people.
It’s almost superfluous to call the Ngorongoro Crater one-of-a-kind. There simply isn’t anything of its kind in the known universe. And so after a bountiful Neptune breakfast, we hop into our safari vehicles with our Micato Safari Director and head up, up, then down to the wonderland.
Here is the Africa Peter Matthiessen wrote about in his invaluable The Tree Where Man Was Born. “This glimpse of the earth’s morning [gave me] a sense of origins, of innocence and mystery, like a marvellous childhood facility restored.”
Elephants “walking together…like black stone sculptures of the four major prophets,” as Isak Dinesen saw them, and giraffes floating by in “their queer, inimitable, vegetative gracefulness.” Lions basking contentedly in their unrivalled realm. Cape buffalo, each the size of a Lexus (and far more nimble), browsing attentively. Cheetahs wound like super sentient springs, ever ready for a sprint. The occasional very private leopard, throngs of wildebeest (aptly described as an almost-comical collection of spare parts), and—one of our personal favourites—massive, dainty, harrumphing hippos, the epitome of a creature often seen on flat screens, but almost beyond belief when witnessed right in front of us. And “how did the hippopotamus find its way up into the Crater Highlands, to blunder into the waters of Ngornongoro?” Matthiessen asked. “Today one sees them there with wonder, encircled by steep walls.”