Ngorongoro Crater Experience with Kids

First view of the Ngorongoro crater

There was one piece of consistent advice when I was planning our family safari to Africa. The Ngorongoro Conservation Area in Tanzania is an absolute must-experience destination. We ended up adding it to our itinerary at the very last minute. Indeed, this is a very, very special place and I’m thrilled we were able to see it.

Noah’s ark in the crater

The star of the show in this area is the main Ngorongoro crater, a massive, unbroken volcanic caldera filled with an unbelievable array of animals. The beauty of going on a safari here with kids is that the animals live in this “confined” space and are easy to spot without extensive tracking.  A maximum number of animals within a minimum amount of time …

The downside is that because of this, safari vehicles are numerous and at times you almost feel like you are in a zoo versus the wild African bush.

The variety of ecosystems within this area is nothing short of astounding. I hate using a cliché but the crater is truly one of the world’s natural wonders.

Ngorongoro Crater Lodge guest cottages

Ngorongoro Crater Lodge

We stayed at the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge which is owned and operated by AndBeyond. In many ways, this lodge is an attraction in and of itself.

We’ve visited many of the world’s incredible hotels. Although I truly appreciate every amazing accommodation experience, I was unprepared for just how unique and sensational this lodge would be in person. The hobbit meets the Four Seasons is the best analogy I can offer here. Guests stay in fantastic “cottages” perched on the edge of the crater rim. The interior is impossibly luxurious, eclectic, decadent, romantic, and the view is pure magic.

After a week in the bush, this bathroom is a treat!

If I’m being honest, this is not the kind of place where you want to be sharing your room with kids. AndBeyond is kid-friendly so the property is kid-friendly — but the fact is that this hotel is an amazing romantic escape. However, most people don’t take a safari every year and this is truly a unique place, i.e. there’s good reason to stay here — even if your kids are with you — as you never know if/when you’ll be back.

Enjoying the open fireplace on the main lodge deck before dinner

On the night we spent at the lodge there was a cocktail reception overlooking the crater as the sun went down. Fires kept everyone cozy. Cocktail hours at all of these African lodges are fun for all as it is the time when guests compare notes on what they’ve experienced and seen during the day. Note, this is an unfenced lodge and there are likely to be large animals (elephants, buffalo etc.) on the premises at night — it is not a place where young kids can run around.

Grand dining room at Ngorongoro Crater Lodge

Dinner is a more formal affair here in a grand dining room. We had a spectacular dinner at this lodge and fun as a family. My caveat is that the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge is one of those places where you know the people around you are also spending a great deal of money for an incredible experience. While kids are genuinely welcome, we were more conscious here of not disturbing others.

Even an 8-year-old is wowed by the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge lounge

This didn’t detract from our stay, but parents need to take their own temperature on this issue and see what they are up for. I’m rating this as one of the top five lodging experiences I’ve had anywhere in the world — to that end, it’s well worth a stop (with or without kids in tow)!

We stayed at the lodge in the middle of our trip. In retrospect, the grand nature of the lodge makes a perfect stop for the last two nights of a safari. You’ll appreciate the huge bathtub and shower after a week in the bush, and it’s certainly a set up where celebration of Africa (and life) comes easily.

Up close to rhino on the crater floor

Note, although Ngorongoro Crater Lodge is owned and operated by AndBeyond, many other tour operators will include this lodge in their itinerary.

We received a special media rate at AndBeyond lodges. They did not ask us to express a particular point of view.

Relevant Links:

AndBeyond Africa lodges, review of Bateleur Camp for families

Luxury family safari at Sanctuary Retreats Olonana Tented Camp

Africa with kids, family safari basics

Africa with kids, planning a family safari

Tanzania Family Vacations

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