Last year, I had the incredible opportunity of visiting the one-of-a-kind &Beyond property in the Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania with my father. It is impossible to do justice to this place via a written review. For one, if someone were to describe the rooms to you, they would sound kitschy in décor but all of these individually vibrant and super charismatic pieces come together in a gorgeous way. None of the walls are straight, none of the décor predictable. It's almost like Willy Wonka's home (if he had one) meets African-Victorian style! Secondly, the sight of waking up to coffee in the balcony with zebras in the premises is undescribable.
I have been a wildlife fanatic all my life, thanks to my father. All of my earliest and fondest childhood memories involve a visit to one of India's national parks and sanctuaries. My father taught me how to be patient, track pawprints (and excrement), listen to bird calls and wait for animals to show up by staying completely silent. It's such a thrill when you finally catch a glimpse of an animal since you've worked so hard for it.
Safari in Tanzania is an entirely different experience. For one, it consists of an open savannah and the animals are not hiding behind tall elephant grass. In addition to this, the animals are so used to being watched, it's almost like they are showing off! Within 5 minutes of entering the park, we had seen all the animals on our bucket list, barring the cheetah. A few kilometres in, and we saw a rhino in the distance. Even though this seemed too easy, the thrill was still there, for we were seeing wild animals we are only used to seeing in wildlife documentaries.
Staying here comes with a hefty price tag but the experience we had there was priceless. There are zebras onsite and very often the buffaloes make an appearance too. The lodge is built overlooking the Ngorongoro Crater, the largest volcanic crater is the largest in the world, with an area of 260 sq. km. and a depth of 610 m. Voted one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa, the stunning landscape makes for great picnic spots from where one can spot hippos, Elephants, and Lions feeding in the distance. However, the large animal population is comprised mostly of Blue Wildebeest, Grant Zebra, Grants and Thomson's Gazelles, and Black Rhinos.
Service at the lodge is exemplary. We came back each night to our stunning rooms and saw that our warm baths were ready for us- rose petals and all! You will also have a great view of the outdoors from your toilet seat! Don't forget to try the in-room massage or ask for the gym-in-a-basket if you want some equipment to assist you on your workout.
Our butler even lit our fireplace for us before we got back to the room- it gets quite nippy in the evening since the lodge is situated on the upper rim of the crater. A Maasai usually escorts you after sunset to ensure your safety at all times. No luxury is spared when it comes to the room- every amenity you could possibly desire is at arm's reach. The beds were comfortable and luxurious and it's almost not fair that one has to leave them to get a look at the animals outside. Often, while walking around the property, we were about 2 feet away from zebras!
The safari was excellent, too. For one, we had an excellent guide who told us amazing facts and stories throughout the ride, keeping us entertained. We were in awe of her navigation skills since literally every part of the park looks the same and she got us out of the park on time in the evening, where we had actually seen too many animals to count! No complaints here, though! At night, the Buffaloes would come up and scratch themselves against the room pillars- this just added to the atmosphere!
The F&B manager was kind enough to offer us a lavish spread of gluten-free, low carb breakfast buffets every single morning. I wasn't a breakfast person until my visit to &Beyond. I only wish I could have all my breakfasts here. They also offer destination dining at the crater itself if you are looking to celebrate or commemorate a special day. The chefs take your dietary requests into account before arrival so they can prepare the meals in a way that you can enjoy every morsel without guilt.
If you are interested in visiting the Maasai home to see how &Beyond supports the local communities, you can ask your butler to book you in a day prior. The visit to the home is a humbling experience and you get to see how the money is being put to good use for educating and providing medical facilities for the people.
Accessibility - Flights to &Beyond Ngorongoro land every day at Lake Manyara, which is about a 1.5-hour drive to the lodge.
Make sure you add this lodge to your bucket list! Our stay was absolutely sensational! Rates vary quite a bit between the peak and lean season but remember that the peak season is during the great migration! All tariffs are listed on their website- https://www.andbeyond.com/our-lodges/africa/tanzania/ngorongoro-crater/andbeyond-ngorongoro-crater-lodge/