Balance! Selecting the right safari accommodation is ALL about balance. Balancing the right location, atmosphere, comfort and price point is nothing short of an art. Here at ADS, we are always searching for the perfect blend of these important elements to optimize the overall experience for our guests. So we were delighted to discover that the new Lion's Paw Camp has just nailed it!
Named for the bright orange flower clusters of the indigenous "Lion's Paw" or minaret grasses found here, Ngorongoro Lion's Paw Camp (aka "Lion's Paw Camp") is a brand new venue that offers guests a brilliant choice for accommodation on the rim of the world famous Ngorongoro Crater. Location was obviously the #1 priority when building this camp! Lit on the upper Eastern slope of the Crater's inner escarpment, this canvas retreat offers incredible views and immediate access to the teeming herds of wild animals that live on the Crater floor below.
Although the Camp is at a misty high altitude and overlooks the Crater floor, it is shielded from the elements by a dense canopy of umbrella acacia trees that blanket this entire sweep of the upper slope inside the Crater's Eastern escarpment. A large canvas pavilion lies at the heart of the Camp; this main tent sits a bit higher than the surrounding guest tents and serves as a common gathering area for all the Camp's guests. This main tent functions as open-air bar, lounge, dining room, campfire and sundowner meeting place, and offers a prime view of sunset over the Crater's Western rim each evening. A row of simple yet elegant guest tents sweep out from either side of the main tent. The grassy pathway linking the tents is lined in brightly colored Sodam's apples that dangle like ornaments in the tangled undergrowth along the sides of the path.
It's obvious the camp was constructed carefully and with deliberate intent to minimize any trace of human interference with the pristine natural setting; those constructing the Camp went well out of their way to build infrastructure 'around' the environment rather than through it, as evidenced by the twisting walkway that goes around each tree, bush and rock in a completely unobtrusive way. Even the broken twigs and fallen timbers, likely knocked over ages ago by passing elephants, have been left undisturbed by the Camp as the guest walkway goes around each one rather than having had the dead limbs removed.
It is difficult to choose just one favorite aspect of Lion's Paw camp. It might easily be the location of the camp; situated in a highly envious position on the Eastern rim of the Crater, this venue offers almost immediate access to the Crater floor via a short and easy access road that painlessly facilitates those very early morning game drives that are so important when visiting the Crater. Also, being on the Eastern rim sets the stage from some seriously spectacular scenery during sundowner time, as one watches a kaleidoscope of colors stream across the Western sky each evening with the setting sun. Another perk in the running would be the intimate atmosphere of such a small camp - not only does the tented accommodation lend itself to being as close as possible with nature, but at only 6 guest tents, one can socialize with just a few others rather than a mass of tourists one would find staying at the large 75+ room hotels. Another favorite aspect of the Camp is the excellent food and caring service, which have both gotten consistently rave reviews since the Camp's initial opening in 2012.
With all these perks, it's easy to overlook the lack of substantial infrastructure and amenities that is inherent to the very nature of a Camp environment. There are no swimming pools here, no spa, no TVs. You can take a hot shower in your own en suite bathroom, but instead of regular running water you will have 40 liters of running water distributed by a bladder style shower. Because of the Camp's high elevation, it can get a little chilly here at night and in the early morning, but this is easily combatted by thick duvets on the bed and hot water bottles that bring one's sleeping conditions to a comfort rating of total bliss.
The conclusion is simple. As one sits around the campfire at Lion's Paw
Camp, sipping a favorite beverage and pondering the stars underneath an
undiluted night sky, it's hard to imagine it getting any better than
LOCATION AND ACCESS
With Lion's Paw Camp, it's ALL about location! The camp is perched on the crest of Leala Hill, on the eastern rim of the world-famous Ngorongoro Crater in the volcanic highlands of northern Tanzania. At an altitude of over 7,500 feet, this location offers remarkable views of the sleeping Crater floor below. Being on the Eastern Rim, this venue offers stunning views of the daily sunset over the far western rim... a sight you will not soon forget. An easy access road to the Crater floor maximizes early morning game-viewing. The eastern descent road is relatively easy to pass, and it typically takes half as long as the opposite access road serving the lodges on the Western side.
It can get quite cold at night and in the early morning so make sure to pack appropriate attire. On the contrary, expect highs on the Crater floor where you will be spending the majority of your day in the upper 70s and lower 80s (degrees F) so it's best to layer your clothing.
The Ngorongoro Crater is the center piece of the Ngorongoro Conservation
Area, which covers more than 3000 square miles of pristine African
wilderness. The Crater floor is a natural refuge for thousands of
indigenous African animals and many species of insects and birds. Lush
highlands surround the Crater, rolling away to the golden volcanic
plains and glittering soda lakes of the Great Rift Valley.
With construction just recently completed in 2012, Lion's Paw Camp is a relatively new lodge, and still a bit of a secret! The main Lodge Tent is set higher than the surrounding guest tents, and includes a comfy lounge with oversized couches, liquor cabinet, dining tent and nearby fire-pit.
Sleeping accommodations at Lion's Paw Camp consist of just six (6) charming guest tents under canvas. The tents are arranged at ground level on wooden platforms with stylish rugs. There are 3 tents with king size beds, 2 tents with two twin size beds and 1 family tent with two bedrooms and one bath along with a separate small eating and lounge area. The family tent features one room with a king size bed and one with room with two twin beds, which makes it ideal for 2 adults and 1 to 2 children.
Each tent comes equipped with a lounging chair, writer's desk and two deck chairs. Solar power electricity is provided to each individual tent. There is also a power strip in each tent so that you can charge your camera batteries or other electrical devices. Please do make sure you have the proper 3-pin UK plug adapter - see our useful information section for the specifics.
At the rear of each tent are the bathroom facilities. There is a
washbasin with running hot and cold water. Next to the washbasin is a
luggage rack with bathrobes, extra pillows and blankets. Each sleeping
tent is conveniently equipped with an en-suite toilet and shower in two
separate compartments. These compartments are accessed from inside your
own tent (i.e. you do not need to walk outside your tent to use the
facilities). The toilet is a proper flushing toilet as running water is
supplied to each tent directly. The shower is a bladder or safari style
shower and can be filled with up to 40 liters of hot water upon request.
FOOD AND DRINK:
The meals at Lion's Paw Camp are a celebration of food! Delicious and attractively prepared, it is obvious that a lot of thought and attention goes into the food preparations here. Menus may be presented in person by the chef or chef's assistant.
Breakfast consists of eggs, sausage and/or bacon cooked to order, as well as a variety of cereals, cold meats, fresh fruit, yogurt, and toast or pastries.
Dinner is served after 7pm and consists of a soup or salad starter, a hearty main meal consisting of a meat (beef, pork or chicken) paired with a starch (such as potatoes or rice) vegetables, and a dainty dessert or fruit salad and tea or coffee to finish the meal. The meals are served in a traditional 'family style' way at each guest's private table.
Soft drinks and bottled water are complimentary here. A wide range of alcoholic beverages are also available here at extra cost.
- Prime location for game drives, with short and easy access to the Crater floor from the Eastern Rim
- Sundowners and roaring evening campfires with popcorn and drinks under the African sky
- In-camp game viewing
- 5 spacious sleeping tents configured with one king size bed or two twin beds
- 1 family tent featuring two bedrooms and one bathroom with a separate dining and sitting area
- Each tent contains en-suite bathroom facilities including a wash basin with hot/cold running water and a proper flushing toilet
- The shower is a safari style or bladder shower that is filled with plenty of hot water upon demand
- Each tent is supplied with limited electricity from solar power and is equipped with a power strip for charging camera batteries and other electrical devices
- Separate dining tent with refrigerator, lounge, library and full bar Talented staff including cooks, camp crew and waiters
- Inclusive of 3 superb meals a day including 4 course dinners with appetizers, soup, salad, beef or chicken, potatoes, rice, several selections of vegetables and dessert (vegetarian meals available on request)
- Soft drinks and bottled water are complimentary.
- A wide selection of beer, wine and spirits are available at an extra charge.
- Laundry services are available at an extra charge
- Picnic breakfasts and lunches available
- Hot towel greetings upon arrival
- Hot water bottles embedded in your sheets each night
- Bar and sundries cash only policy; no credit card facility available
The real highlight of staying here is the safari itself. Leaving the Lodge by 6am makes you appreciate every golden moment of your morning game drive, and the easy access road from the Lodge to the Crater floor definitely maximizes your time! Within minutes you are fully embarked on an exciting game drive in search of the elusive black rhino, the notorious Crater lion prides, and all the other magnificent wonders to be discovered on the Crater floor!
The Ngorongoro Crater is a world heritage site, the world's largest intact volcanic caldera and is commonly referred to as the 8th wonder of the world. The 2,000 feet high walls of the approximately 10 mile wide Crater create a natural amphitheater for the densest populations of large animals anywhere. It is a microcosm of the vast Serengeti National Park and in one day it is possible to see a staggering array of East African wildlife including the big carnivores. The Crater lives up to its infamous reputation with abundant and easily accessible wildlife and offers a reasonable chance to see lion, hyena and cheetah in action. The Crater is truly awe-inspiring and will surely be one of the highlights of your safari.
So you've gotten up early and asked the staff to pack a picnic breakfast to not miss any action? Good choice! There is a special atmosphere in the Crater at the light of dawn not to be missed. You'll notice the top of the rim is chilly and clad with mist in the early morning. As your land rover descends the winding road from the top of the ridge to the Crater floor, you'll gradually emerge from the clouds and notice a steady shift in both temperature and scenery.
The leafy forest and morning chill are slowly but surely replaced by sparser vegetation and warmer air. Eventually the landscape melds into the tawny grasslands of the Crater floor, which are teeming with big game. Early morning in the Crater is a time of spellbinding beauty and special solitude (since many of the less ambitious tourists are still sleeping.) Luminous clouds that hung low in the night now roll dramatically above and pile up against the emerald Crater wall, just not quite high enough to escape the rising sun. Shafts of morning sunlight filter through the billowing clouds and create bold shadows that shift and dance below. As the sun rises the air continues to warm. The whistling breeze sweeps down the steep walls and over the grasses at the Crater floor, seeming to whisper of ancient memories of the fiery volcanoes that created this mythical place.
There is dramatic scenery to behold here, and yes the geological history is very intriguing, but the real stars of this show are the ANIMALS! For as far as the eye can see, you will be surrounded by generously sized herds of all types of animals, all taking haven in what has been called "Africa's Garden of Eden." Gazelles and buffalo, wildebeest and zebra, elephant and even the rare black rhino live in concentrated numbers here. There is a realistic chance that you will actually be able to see cheetahs hunting in such a confined area. The lions in the Crater are certainly not tame, but they are somewhat used to vehicles, and you may just find them seeking shade in the shadow of your land rover! Hyenas and other smaller carnivores like the serval cat also make this beautiful place home.
Travel to the western edge of the Crater and enter the magical Lerai forest. Ancient trees draped in vines rise up from a deep leafy carpet of ferns and wide banners of tropical leaves. Look for sly leopards perched high in the tree boughs, hiding in the leaves and dappled light. Also watch for elephants ambling through shady thickets. Emerge from the forest and keep your eyes open for a sighting of the rare black rhino! During a delightful picnic lunch you'll be able to stretch those legs and watch for hippos spouting water in the spring pool nearby. As the sun continues to rise throughout the day, you'll want to shed that sweater and maybe peel off those zippered pant-legs. Get your cameras ready as you journey to the sparkling soda lake and witness thousands of pink flamingoes preening and reflecting in the still waters - a fantastic sight.
The Ngorongoro Crater is sometimes called a microcosm of the Serengeti because there are five distinct habitats located in the relatively small area of the Crater floor (150 square miles) that mirror the major habitats of its enormous neighbor, the Serengeti ecosystem (15,000 square miles).
Lerai Forest is located in the western section of the Crater and here you will find many of the giant tusker bull elephants. Lerai Forest is also known for its resident leopards and there is a realistic chance to see these noble cats here. In the central-western area is Lake Magadi, which plays host to thousands of migratory flamingos. The extreme southern and northern sections of the Crater are home to two large seasonal swamps. These areas are excellent for hippo and many species of water birds. Spread throughout the central area of the Crater is the short grass plains. These plains are home to thousands of wildebeest, zebra and Thomson's gazelle. Many of the resident lion, hyena and cheetah can be found here close to their prey. In the eastern section of the Crater are the longer grasslands where thousands of buffalo roam. One of smallest carnivores, the serval cat, has frequently been spotted here in the tall grass.