Our walking safari didn’t have the best start, with Abdul informing us that we will need to tip the ranger around $40US or it’s not going to happen. Not “this is our recommended tip for the guide” but “you must tip the guide at least this much otherwise he isn’t going to do it”. Definitely made the process feel like a bit of a shakedown given that we had already paid the ranger fees to the Tanzanian parks authority for the rangers services.
Things didn’t improve when it turned out the travel times to the Empaki crater were much greatly than those ‘estimated’ at the booking office the previous week, being over 2 hours each way instead of the two hour round trip initially discussed. Not that this was all so bad as the Ngorongoro Highland is a pretty spectacular area to travel through, all sweeping plains and hills and filled with some of the biggest Maasai villages we had encountered. Although it certainly would have been nice to get a proper break form the Land Rover.
Around an hour into our drive we arrived at the rangers station and picked up the game ranger who would be our walking guide for the day. Although he certainly looked the part dressed in fatigues and carrying and an assault rifle, he unfortunately wasn’t particularly well practiced in the interpersonal side of guiding. After the brief introduction he spent the entire drive chatting to Abdul in swahili, showing little to no interest in the back seat passengers.
The view of Empaki on arrival didn’t disappoint though.
We left Abdul on the rim and made our way down into the crater. Our guide told us to stick behind him and close, as there may be wild animals about. Talking to him was a bit like pulling teeth though, he definitely didn’t seem to be happy to be there, which was unfortunate as it put a bit of a damper on the mood of our outing. In retrospect though, guess we should just be thankful that all of our previous guides had been so great.
As exciting as the prospect of running into wild animals on foot was, possibilities including buffalo and cheetah, we unfortunately didn’t encounter anything more interesting than the goats of a Maasai herder on the floor of the crater. After having a bit of a walk around the lake (all the while feeling a bit rushed by our guide), we made our way back to the rim and met up with Abdul. There we shared our lunch with a group of Maasai kids who had come to see what the fuss was about.
It was an enjoyable walk, albeit an expensive one once all the park and camping fees had been considered. Our initial plan was to stop at the Olmoti crater on our way back to camp for a short walk there but when we reminded Abdul and the ranger of this, it was insisted that we will need to pay an extra $20USD fee for the ‘additional’ walk as this is not included (although the parks authority website would disagree). Feeling like we had already been shakedown enough by the ranger (and with him putting in the barest minimum of effort to make our day enjoyable) we contented ourselves to merely enjoying the view on the drive back to camp, including a great view of the active volcano Ol Doinyo Lengai (“The Mountain of God”).