Arusha is very pretty - located about 1, 500 meters above sea level, it has lush tropical greenery despite a temperate climate, and is interspersed with the occasional coffee plantation. We were met at the airport by our safari guide, a wonderful man named Cornelius, who boarded us into his 4x4 Land Cruiser and took us to a place called Shanga to have lunch and to freshen up before the three hour drive to Ngorongoro Crater:
The food was delicious - various barbecued meats and a variety of salads.
Early in the afternoon we started driving towards Ngorongoro, and we saw the Maasai:
various animals being led to pasture:
and the Tanzania portion of the Great Rift Valley:
We reached the Ngorongoro Conservation Area in the late afternoon. The centerpiece of the area is the Ngorongoro Crater, the world's largest intact volcanic caldera, and seeing it for the first time, approaching from an incline, made my heart stop a few seconds:
The picture does not do it justice; this was one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. The animals also seemed to agree, as we began seeing wildebeest, buffalos, and antelope within seconds after reaching the crater rim.
Our lodgings for the night was the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, apparently consistently ranked as one of the best hotels in the world:
The best thing about the hotel though, is the view:
We had a view of the crater from our balcony, and L and I just kept staring at it, every chance we got.
Down to the crater the next day.