A good part of the day had passed by the time we got into the Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area, so Muba took the time to get hold of the permits for the next day. We looked at the rudimentary exhibits in the tourist centre (plasticine volcano straight out of primary school science projects anyone?) and took the mandatory picture in front of the gate. Then we were off.
Just about a week before, Donna told us that our original hotel upgraded us to a wonderful place. Muba explained that the original place that we were booked at realised they were full and scrambled to find us a place at The Manor at Ngorongoro. It was a beautiful neo-colonial place full of old world charm. There were 20 suites in the compound, together with a reception house and a large central hall.
There were two suites to each mini-manor, with entrances to the suites at opposite ends for maximum privacy.
The inside of the suite didn’t disappoint. It was essentially a massive room divided by an open fireplace, with a king-size bed on the raised half of the room. I loved the small touches of cookies in a jar and a good selection of Tanzanian tea that we could help ourselves with.
What we appreciated even more was the bottle of sparkling wine set in an ice bucket, plus a decanter of sherry all waiting for us to enjoy. The couches in front of the fireplace beckoned! (It was a good thing we didn’t ask for the fire to be lit till the next morning, because we city noobs didn’t realise that despite the chimney, the smoke filled up the whole room so much the smell clung to our clothes. We ended up opening the window, which kind of defeated the purpose of warming us up in the nippy morning.)
Then the bathroom. It was massive, with the usual luxuries like a big rain shower and more pamperingly, a hot bath strewn with rose petals, already drawn for us by the thoughtful staff. I liked how they provided plenty of fluffy towels on standby. The only problem for people like us who are used to equatorial warmth was that the room got cold really quickly as evening set in and there wasn’t a heater in the room. (The fireplace doesn’t quite count.)
We had a semi-private patio overlooking the Shangri-la coffee estate, owned by the same group.
It was lovely watching the sunset from here, with the green coffee bushes and fertile red earth forming a rather unusual backdrop compared to the usual mountain view.
We then wandered around the grounds, checking out the herb garden (basil, chives, tarragon and spring onions)…
… and the pretty flowers along the paths. There were also stables, with a couple of placid horses and a friendly stablemaster. Too bad we were there for only one night, otherwise we’d definitely have taken the chance to go riding in the coffee plantation.
We went past the little swimming pool, which looked lovely, but it was far too chilly to be worth breaking out the swimwear for. There wasn’t even anyone lounging in the sun, the weather was that cool.
We thenwandered back to the main hall, where they ushered us in for pre-dinner drinks and canapes.
It was a very impressive hall, spacious and rather imposing. The dining room was on one side and the drawing room and gift shop on the other. The billiards room was in the basement.
We sat in the drawing room enjoying a Serengeti beer and various yummy small bites while leafing through beautiful picture books of safari and African culture. (We were of course delighted that the place was full board, including the alcohol.)
We then proceeded to the dining room and were presented with a leather-bound menu to choose from. The food was decent enough, English colonial style French food (if you know what I mean). It was lovely to have a posh meal in an actual building after almost a week in tents and temporary structures. I liked the freshly-picked garden-grown vegetables in the salad and the tasty duck. Too bad the beef here was really tough. It had great flavour because it’s probably free range and vaguely organic, but too much jaw exercise!
(Top L-R: Norwegian smoked salmon, salad with tomatoes grown in their own garden, tomato soup
Bottom L-R: duck confit, steak, chocolate baklava)
Breakfast was in a separate room off the dining room. It was a light-filled area from the glass windows, a welcome change from the dark wood panelling in the dining room. We were served surprisingly mediocre coffee from their own plantation and helped ourselves to a cold buffet spread. The hot food, like the delicious eggs Benedict, were made to order.
We were definitely sad that we only stayed one night here: alas we were due to move elsewhere to be closer to the crater floor. But The Manor gave us a lovely farewell gift. Our lunch box was quite different from the usual grilled chicken, boiled egg and dry bread. This time we had beef! Sure, it was probably last night’s leftovers fried up, but there was a little quiche tartlet and a green apple for a change. (There’s something horrid about the bananas in the region – dunno why they’re all fibrous and dry.) Cold beef on bread with quiche equals to all kinds of yummy.
Having said that, I’m not sure if I’d come back here as a full-price guest. It’s USD800 per person (yes, per person, not per room) and while it’s free flow alcohol too, I’m not sure it’s quite worth it compared to the lovely places we’ve stayed at in Asia. While the staff here are very hospitable, there’s something about the pro-active hospitality we’re spoilt with in Asia (especially in Thailand and Indonesia) that’s not quite what we got here. Still, it was a lovely, lovely experience and we’re very grateful to Donna for arranging the upgrade.
The Manor at Ngorongoro
Ngorongoro Conservation Area