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Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area reviews

29 reviews

“Bring a healthy attitude if you don't plan on staying in the expensive lodges” - Adara

Camping at "Simba A" on the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater

Adara
Views: 2975 Visited: Apr 2012 Reviewed: Aug 16, 2013

Sometime last year, I had the privilege of working as the P.A of the head of security for a certain popular reality TV show whose name I can't mention least I get sued. The job mainly involved Lake Manyara National Park and Ngorongoro Crater. This is a review of the most popular public campsite in Ngorongoro and the wildlife in the crater. I'll write in two sections, one will describe the campsite and the camping experience, and the other will describe the game drive in the crater.

THE CAMPSITE:

I met my employer at the Ngorongoro airstrip on a fine sunny morning in April 2011. We were scheduled to sleep at the popular public campsite, Simba A, which is on the rim of the crater for the night.

It costs $30 a head for a night in the campsite and you can choose to bring your own tent and sleeping bags, or you can hire a tour company which will loan you one for your stay. We had already hired tour operators to work with us and they provided the tents and sleeping bags.

The campsite was surprisingly clean, although I am told there are months when it can get very dirty, particularly during the high season. It's on a grassy gentle slope with a kitchen, toilets, and showers. If you come with your own gear then be prepared to pitch your own tent. The tour company we hired had graciously pitched the tents for us and everything was ready for us. All we needed to do was our jobs.

I strongly believe that camping in Africa is not for everyone. Fussy travelers beware, you are not going to the Four Seasons. The toilets and showers are all obviously not very clean. Sure, they could be cleaner, but you should really be ready for the worst, that way any surprises will be pleasant ones.

The campsite was quite comfortable in my opinion and we had a spectacular view of the crater. Towards the evening as the sun was setting, a fog sort of lay over the crater and it created the most breathtaking rainbows. That beautiful sight itself is worth a camping trip in Ngorongoro in my opinion.

There were other travelers, most of them were quite happy with the setup. I didn't hear a single complaint from the people I met at the campsite. I worked with a team of more than 100 people. We had people camping in the public Simba A and the private Simba B.

Here are some tips for travelers planning to camp at Simba A:

-Carry toilet paper. Seriously.

-Don't forget your camera and try to carry extra batteries if you can. There was a place near the kitchens where you could charge your gadgets but it's pretty risky in my opinion. If you have a tour guide with you then ask them for help. Almost all their cars have sockets for charging electronic gadgets.

-Carry a heavy sweater or jacket. It was really hot in the daytime but it got REALLY cold in the night and early morning. Make sure you have a sweater ready for the cold nights in a tent.

-Carry a flashlight. It's super dark out there. The stars are a sight to behold if the sky is clear but you probably won't see a thing without a flashlight.

-Carry flipflops/slippers for bathing. I would not walk barefoot in those toilets or showers. Get some flipflops in town before you head out. They're pretty cheap and won't cost you more than 2,000Tsh (around $1).

-Stay within the camp limits at all times. There are rangers in the campsite areas so they're safe, but who knows what animals lurk out there. I saw a large lone male elephant in Simba B and had to sit still for a bit. They'll maul you if you make too many sudden movements I've been told. This happened at around 5pm.

-Carry some booze and cigarettes if you enjoy drinking or smoking. Those things are available, but they're really hard to find and expensive.

-Keep an open mind. You're at one of the natural wonders of the world and it's a pretty great experience.

The one thing I can't comment about is the food situation. Lunch and dinner buffets were specially prepared for the folks working with the TV show and I'm not really sure how regular travelers normally eat.

Simba A is really affordable and everything you get is really basic, but it has the best views in my opinion. Simba B on the other hand is much more highend, but I think you need to make special bookings to gain access. It's for the travelers looking to camp with a little luxury.

So then, how would I rank Simba A? I give it 4 stars. The toilets and showers could really be cleaner, but it should not be a problem if you are used to roughing it a little and at $30 a night I say it's a bargain. Much better experience than paying hundreds of dollars to sleep in one of the fancy lodges. It all really depends on the type of adventure you're looking to have. Remember, prepare for the worst and all your surprises will always be pleasant ones.

THE GAME DRIVE IN THE CRATER:

As I mentioned before, I visited Ngorongoro in April. I missed out on the Great Migration by one month and the dry season was slowly starting to creep in. The soda lake at the center of the crater had not started to dry up yet and there was plenty of wildlife. The day was really hot and I would recommend carrying sunglasses and a hat. Sunscreen too if you burn.

The wildlife I saw were the common ones; baboons, giraffe, elephants, zebra, impala, buffalo, wildebeest, and one elusive lion.

Our driver told us that you can see many of these animals all year round. The crater is also small enough to enjoy in one day or afternoon depending on how much time you have. There is a wooded area for picnics and such with toilets which is common stop for vehicles. Pack your lunch if you love eating in the outdoors and watch out for the baboons! They'll steal your food if you're not looking.

I spent a few hours down there and I saw a lot of wildlife. A drive through the crater is an opportunity no one should miss and I highly recommend it, especially if you're heading to the Serengeti.

It might sound expensive but it won't be if you choose to camp instead of staying in one of the five star lodges on the rim. It'll probably set you back $100 or so and it'll be a much more fulfilling experience.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time there even though we only spent a few hours in the crater before moving on to Manyara.

If you're in the area or if you're planning to head to Serengeti then spend a day and night in Ngorongoro. The view from the rim is enough to make the trip to this natural wonder of the world worthwhile.

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