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Nairobi - Moshi - Arusha - Ngorongoro Crater

My flight from Nairobi was uneventful apart from being an hour late in departure. Considering complaints from others about the airline on Trip Advisor I was just thankful to be leaving and arriving in Moshi so I could make my departure for Arusha early the following morning Kia Lodge was a basic property close to the airport and adequate for the 4 hours I had before my scheduled pickup. My priority was to juice up all my batteries, have a quick shower and distribute my heavy luggage so that I could try and get everything on the plane. The constant fear for anyone with photography equipment is the weight. My camera bag alone was 12kgs and this was what I was supposed to have in total. My soft sided luggage was nearly 15kgs because of the two tripods I brought with me. So I distributed the cameras so that I would be carrying the "big" one under my jacket and moved the tripods to the end of the luggage so that when they weighed it the heavy end would naturally be hanging off the scales. Luckily when I went to Uganda the scale machine wasn't working so everything was just sent through with checkin assistants rough estimates.

The first rays of light quickly meant that I would be needed in the departure area for my andBeyond transfer to Arusha. I was the only guest driving down that morning and I enjoyed the company of a lovely local driver in a comfortable andBeyond 4WD. The drive was the first time I could witness how an African morning started. People walking to work and school, women carrying items on their heads, congregations of people around shops and the mist slowly lifting as the sun rose higher. The road was really comfortable and a main thoroughfare for tourists transiting from Kili's international airport to Arusha and beyond into the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Crater NP. The areas main source of income (flower farms) outside of the tourist industry also use this road to transport their shipments to the airport.

We arrived at Arusha Airport well before our 10am departure time and I enjoyed the company of the local cafe lady who made me a lovely cappuccino and a fresh muffin. Slowly tourists started to arrive for the various charter airlines that fly into the Serengeti. Thankfully, my luggage was deemed acceptable and my driver said not to worry because they don't weigh it again after this departure. A big smile erupted over my face with a sigh of relief.

Soon after we were told to assemble together for our departure. We were a mix of people that were being dropped off at different airports. First stop was Lake Manyara and this would be my base to then drive into Ngorongoro Crater and andBeyond's flagship property Crater Lodge. The flight would then fly in a loop around the Serengeti dropping off guests at various camps throughout the park.

An uneventful takeoff with our pilot and co-pilot allowed me to take some great video footage of the beautiful countryside below. Although I have now been on a few small planes during my travels there is always that worry with any kind of bumps whilst in the sky. The young co-pilot was obviously learning and building up his flight hours whilst being responsible for the lives of those behind him. The "captain" was just hanging out and keeping an eye on the controls and enjoying the view. My seat behind the co-pilot allowed me full access to the entire proceedings. The couple next to me were obviously novice "small" plane flyers and looked pretty nervous.

We finally made our way over to Lake Manyara and banked incredibly hard because the co-pilot must have miscalculated the distance needed to land. Everyone held their breath and we came in for a very fast landing. I was thankful for just getting off at this stop and putting my feet on terraferma.

I thanked the pilots and disembarked the plane to be welcomed by my guide from andBeyond. The couple next to me on the plane were going to be my travelling companions over the next 3 days. They were on their honeymoon and travelled from Haiti. We were a great group with plenty of jokes and banter starting immediately. We were welcomed with the standard welcome table of drinks and snacks. This is an awesome way to get to know your guide, ask questions about what to expect and to also let them know about your own expectations especially for experienced safari visitors.

After packing up the table we were soon on our way to the crater. The road was well paved and the morning routine was well on its way. The small towns dotted along the drive were full with locals hanging out and inspecting the new tourists on their way to Ngorongoro NP. Our drive allowed the Haitian couple to understand a little bit about what they were going to see and to provide some warnings about what not to do. Henry and I shared some stories with them about things we have encountered and lots of laughter allowed the drive to go quickly. We reached the entrance to the NP and were told to lock up the car due to the baboons that live in the area and have become very adapt at getting into cars and stealing items. Henry went off to register us and the Haitians went looking for the baboons. These animals are the only ones that I am weary of and have plenty of "interesting/scary" interactions with them (particularly at Victoria Falls) so I had no desire to go and find them.

Everyone returned and we made our way through the national park along a dirt track to Crater Lodge. We stopped at the Crater Lookout for photos and to see where we would be heading that afternoon. I just couldn't believe I was finally here. Lots of planning and prep had finally come to fruition and I shed a little tear of joy as I took some photos. When looking at such an amazing natural location it allows you to feel very small and insignificant. The magnitude of the caldera was incredible and understanding how it essentially is its own mini ecosystem that sustains so many varieties of animals is fascinating.

Back on the road again we followed the crater edge until arriving at the entrance to Crater Lodge.


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