The concept that is the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania is extraordinary, as if it has been moulded from the plans of an African theme park.
An ancient volcano that exploded then collapsed into itself forming a giant crater, Ngorongoro today plays host to a range of eco-systems, from grasslands to swamps and from forests to lakes and this in turn ensures that a wide variety of animal species inhabit the park.
My first view of the crater was as surprising as it was sudden. After climbing through almost-tropical forest the vehicle suddenly stopped at a viewpoint and there it was before me, not exactly stretched out for it does not look too big from up high. My first idea was of the patterns formed on the crater floor by all the ecosystems.
I sat in the vehicle for a long while as thoughts raced through my mind. I knew this place so well and yet was seeing it for the first time. Many of my childhood dreams were built on ideas of the crater, but this was nothing like my dreams.
As I stood on the crater rim I could see Lake Magadi, sporting a blush of pink on one shore, and the fever tree forest hugging the slopes on one side of the crater. I knew all these places intimately but they looked a little different to how I knew them and I realized that I had got to know them in a postcard sense, from a marketing point of view.
But where were the animals that made the crater so famous? As I scanned the floor I could make out what I assumed was a herd of buffalo, and began to realize how misleading the size of the crater is when viewed from the rim.
The wildlife of the Ngorongoro Crater is spectacular, with most species of northern Tanzania represented in a small area, making game viewing a memorable experience.
The night before we were due to leave Ngorongoro I overheard other guests discussing their holiday and in particular one comment: 'Now I can tick the crater off my list'. Is this all this natural phenomenon is to him I wondered sadly - something to tick off the list. There was no talk of what they had experienced, just simply that they were they could tick it off their list.
Is this what iconic destinations have become to people? The Crater is one of earth's wonders and I felt privileged to have experienced it for what it is.
Experience a candle-lit dinner over the Crater at Serena Safari Lodge