Ngorongoro Conservation Area
The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is one of East Africa’s most remarkable destinations and it is very well known for its famous Ngorongoro Crater. Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site, it will blow you away with its pure magnificence, its scenic beauty and its incredible geology. Are you ready to learn more about the formation of every mountain, crater, caldera and gorge located within its boundaries?
This unique area borders the Great Rift Valley in the east and south, Serengeti National Park in the west and Loliondo in the north. Its main topographical features are: the Gol Mountains with Ilkarian Gorge and Nasera Rock; the short-grass plains in the north-west; the Ngorongoro Highlands in the east with its mountains, craters and calderas; and its archeological sites such as Olduvai Gorge and Laetoli.
The Ngorongoro Crater is undeniably one of the main attractions within the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and it is often referred to as the eighths wonder of the world. It was once a gigantic volcano and is today considered as the sixth largest caldera in the world. The crater floor is a sanctuary heaven for Africa’s largest mammal population with approximately 25.000 animals and it is also home of Africa’s ‘Big Five’.
- Located in the Northern Circuit of Tanzania close to Karatu Town
- Flight Connection in/out to Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO)
- Established in 1959
- Size of 304 km²
- Acacia Woodland
- Montane Forest
- Short-grass plains
- Dry: June to October
- Wet: November to May
- Game Drives
- Cultural Encounters
- Walking Safaris
Flora & Fauna:
The Ngorongoro Crater is the largest inactive, unbroken and un-flooded volcanic caldera. Its highest point is on the south-eastern side ranging 2440 m above sea level. In diameter the crater measures about 16 to 19 km and its walls have a height of 400 to 610 m. The crater floor has formed its own ecosystem consisting of dry grassland, the Lerai forest, the Munge river, the soda lake Magadi, the Ngoitokitok springs and the Gorigor and Mandusi swamps.
Wildlife within the Ngorongoro Crater varies between 20.000 to 25.000 animals due to their movement in dry and wet season. But the crater supports a large variety of wildlife due to the constant availability of fresh water. Its volcanic soil provides phosphorous-rich plants which have a high nutrient value.
The crater is one of the only two places in Tanzania where you can still find the highly endangered black rhino, which is nearly pushed to extinction today. Of course, the other ‘Big Five’ – buffalo, elephant, leopard and lion are not far. Whereas lions, elephants and buffaloes are regularly spotted, it is quite challenging to find leopards. Leopards have been seen along the Crater rim on rare occasions as they prefer heavily wooded areas.
Lake Magadi in the center of the Ngorongoro Crater is an important shelter for birds. The crater hosts over 500 bird species including water birds such as long-tailed cormorants, cattle egrets, grey herons and white pelicans. But you can also come across cinnamon-chested bee-eaters, southern-red bishops, grey-crowned cranes, bateleur eagles, black kites, Fischer’s lovebirds, ostriches, lilac-breasted rollers, secretary birds, golden-winged sun-birds, Rueppel’s Griffon vultures and many more. Flocks of flamingos can seasonally be found along the lake shores depending on water levels.
Elephants bulls with large tusks are found especially in the Lerai forest and in the swamps of Gorigor and Mandusi. The Lerai forest is further home to bush-bucks and water-bucks. Often seen are elands, Grant’s and Thompson’s gazelles, wildebeests and zebras that dominate the dry grass plain. The high number of herbivores also supports the large predator population with prides of lions and spotted hyenas. Cheetahs have been recorded, but are rarely seen.
Although the crater is home to a large variety of animals, giraffe, impala and topi are not found within its boundaries.
Activities within Ngorongoro:
Looking for an activity outside the vehicle? Enjoy a walk within the Ngorongoro highlands or visit Olduvai Museum. Ask our team how to combine them with your safari.
Bush Walk along the Crater Rim
Trekking through the highlands
Museum Visit at Olduvai Gorge
Accommodation at the Crater Rim:
No overnight stay is allowed within the Ngorongoro Crater, however, there are several options along the Crater Rim. Our accommodation suggestions for your stay are:
Simba Public Campsite
Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge
Ngorongoro Crater Lodge
Accommodation in Karatu Town:
Karatu is a agricultural focused town. It is located close to the entrance gate of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Accommodation options are diverse and our suggestions are:
Karatu Country Lodge
Ngorongoro Farm House
The Manor Ngorongoro
Further Highlights within the Ngorongoro Conservation Area:
The Ngorongoro Conservation Area consists of nine craters. These are from east to west: Keramasi, Empakaai, Lolmalasin, Losirua, Olmoti, Ngorongoro, Oldeani, Loroklukunya, Sadiman and Makarot. The craters Empakaai, Olmoti and Ngorongoro however are not true craters, but calderas, which were formed when a circular fault in the wall of the volcano caused them to collapse into themselves. Especially for active travelers we recommend a visit of Empakaai and Olmoti as they can easily be explored on a walking adventure.
The Empakaai Crater is much smaller than the Ngorongoro Crater and only 6 km wide. It is a magical place to go for a walking safari. A large amount of the ground is covered with water throughout the year. Lake Empakaai is a salt lake and its alkaline provide one of the major food sources for flamingos which gather during the day at the shores and return at night to their breeding nests at Lake Natron. Take a walk down the rim and be fascinated by its birds and plants variety or spent the night on top of the rim – a truly fantastic experience.
The Olmoti Crater is located just north of the Ngorongoro Crater. It is 5 km in diameter and its highest point ranges 3080 m above sea level. The crater functions as one of the major water sources inside the Ngorongoro Highlands and the soil filtered water is live-essential for the resident Masai and their livestock. Visit Munge Gorge and its waterfall and enjoy splendid views on the surrounding slopes of Empakaai, Losirua and Lolmalasin. A visit of Olmoti can easily be combined with a walk to Empakaai Crater.
Olduvai Gorge was formed approximately two million years ago and provides today evidence of animal and human life. In 1913 a first expedition led by the German paleontologist Professor Hans Reck took place and in 1931 Reck was joint by Louis Leakey for another expedition. Louis Leakey, who was joined by his wife Mary, died in 1972, but Mary remained and continued researching. Her most famous discovery were the Laetoli Footprints in 1976 just south of Olduvai Gorge. The founds can be viewed in the museum consisting of animal fossils and stone tools.