When you think of Tanzania and its Ngorongoro Crater, which I've just returned from, I am sure that 92% (precise, expert figure here) of those who haven't been before would not immediately associate either with the Scottish Highlands. But believe it or not, the similarities are uncanny. What's weird is that a holiday to the Scottish Highlands is not something I would normally leap at, I'd even go so far as to say it is something I would actively avoid. And yet, given the opportunity now, I would happily give away one or both of my sisters...
A Step Back in Time
Driving into the Ngorongoro Conservation Area you are transported to a world where skyscrapers, or any structure vaguely resembling a building for that matter, feels like the most ludicrous idea in the world. I realise this idealistic, 'at one with nature' revelation is thoroughly overdone these days - and don't get me wrong I love a city - but there is something so peaceful and ultimately natural about this place that you can't help but let your imagination go down that old clichéd road of a life spent in a Maasai mud hut, tending to cattle.
Where to Stay
I stayed at a wonderful lodge called The Highlands which sits in a remote region of the Ngorongoro Conservation area and is without question one of the most original places I've ever been to. Each of the eight 'tents' take the form of geodesic domes and are decked out with fur blankets, tartan headboards and wonderful log burners to stave away the night time chill that descends once the sun disappears.
What to Do
Because of its position, The Highlands is able to offer not only visits to the infamous Ngorongoro Crater but also to the neighbouring, lesser-known, Olmoti and Empakai Craters. These hikes are incredible and I was lucky enough not to see another soul whilst I did them. There is a strong cultural emphasis here too and I spent a very happy afternoon with the local Maasai in one of the neighbouring villages to learn about the traditional way of life that has defined this corner of Africa for centuries. School visits may also be possible depending on the time of year. Nothing about this visit felt contrived or staged and The Highlands makes sure it visits a number of different villages in order for everyone in the area to share the benefits.
Why I Loved it
I have to admit I didn't know what to expect before I got here and what I experienced is something I will never ever forget. This is an inimitably special area that promises, even if just for a day or two, to relieve you of any worries you may have brought with you and make you properly appreciate the wonder of Mother Nature.