Great view from Panorama onto the Lake and NP.
Pete, an ex-Irishman, helping out with the admin at Panorama, was a mine of information and over the 2 days we spent here we have been able to source the Toyota dealer in Arusha (thanks W.W.) and clarify our thoughts on how to get our timing right for the Ngorogoro Conservation Area (NCA), the Crater and Serengeti. With the high costs involved it is relatively important to time your entries and exits to avoid paying overlapping and double fees. We visited the NCA offices in nearby Karatu, on the main road at the spot the latest version of T4A directs you to. They were relatively easy to find but be warned that outdated info will direct you to their old offices.
Here the staff were particularly helpful and filled us in on the exact procedure as regards paying and how the 24hr clock system worked. Two valuable pieces of information, previously unknown to us, emerged. Firstly, each vehicle is only allowed into the crater for a maximum of 6 hr and secondly there is no longer any requirement to take an armed ranger with you in your vehicle. (Edit, subsequent to posting this we bumped into Rory Larkin and Piet Venter again in Arusha and they had just done the NCA and Serengeti. They tell me that there is no check at the exit gate to enforce the 6 hours. Also despite us being told, from the horse’s mouth, there was an attempt to force them to take a guide). We sorted out the bank payment details which I will post when we have done them. I also asked about the possibility of arranging to book one of the special campsites within the NCA, just before Serengeti’s Naabi Hill Entrance Gate. It turns out that these had all been block booked by tour operators but she gave us the contact numbers of some of them as often they will sell them on if not in use. We however will probably not make use of this option. Pete at Panorama confirmed the disgusting condition and crowds at Simba Campsite on the crater rim (but within the NCA) and advised us rather to drive past it for a short distance where we find Simba Private Campsite, which is smaller and far more pleasant. We will look into this. (Rory tells me this is booked out by tour operators).
We decided to spend a second night at Panorama to tie up some final loose ends. Our lives had been rather helter skelter and this was time well spent. We also needed to get the weekend out of the way so that the vehicle could be taken in for a comprehensive check and service in Arusha. The view from this camp, from its site high on the escarpment onto the lake and national park nestling just below, is really great. Here we could watch booted and Verreaux Eagles soaring as well as the rare Taita Falcon. I don’t want to cause any alarm but I have been a little off-colour for a few days but am now bouncing back. It was a good time to take it easy.