Every moment of staring into the Ngorongoro crater is magical and nothing can prepare for such a moment. The Ngorongoro Conservation Area in northern Tanzania is a UNESCO World Heritage site (Natural), a 600m deep and 16-19km in diameter crater that the conservation area gets its name from is the main feature here and offers shelter to great wildlife.
In the 1950s the area Included Serengeti National park which is in the southeast. Ngorongoro Conservation Area occupies 8300sqkm to extend to some parts of the Eastern Arm of the Great Rift Valley and it has earned its reputation as one of Africa’s 7 wonders because of the diversity on the floor of the crater and location near the major archeological sites (Oldpai Gorge and Laetolil).
“If Noah’s Ark had off-loaded into a massive version of Yankee Stadium, the result would have looked a lot like the Ngorongoro crater”-Mary Anne Potts. The crater has an enclosed nature that has made it form an ecosystem of its own on its floor, like the yellow fever trees in the Lerai Forest in the southwest of the crater, the open grasslands growing and thriving on the mineral-rich soils of the crate to support grazers that also support the population of predators. The flora and fauna here are impressive.
The area has a population of over 25000 large mammals that find their shelter in the crater and these include a small but growing population of black rhinos, buffaloes, hippos, wildebeests, zebras, elands, gazelles, waterbucks, cheetahs, wild dogs, leopard, hyenas, and lions among others. The crater has gained fame and is one of Tanzania’s Key tourist drawcards.
Game Viewing at Ngorongoro Crater.
Game viewing is the major activity in the crater and it is one of the places in the Swahili land that usually rewards guests with Big 5 sightings in a day. Mostly game viewing at the park is limited to game drives though there are other ways to view games like walking (in specific areas) and balloon flights. During the peak season, 4 x 4s descend daily into the crater for game viewing.
The crater has a significant lion population, a recovering population of black rhinos, and other predators. Lions hunt within yards of safari vehicles and sometimes come close to seek shade besides safari vehicles. The spotted hyenas are a common sighting here, a growing number of cheetahs, leopards around the Lerai forest, all can be encountered on drives. Also, the Ngorongoro crater serves as a route of the wildebeest migration as they return from Masai Mara to complete the cycle that starts from Serengeti National Park.
Adventure Aloft offers a unique way of experiencing Ngorongoro in the air (balloon flights) from the region near Oldupai gorge. The balloon flights get close to the dark shifting sand dunes of Ngorongoro and fly westwards to the Ndutu plains where the calving of the wildebeests takes place from December to April along the Great Migration journey. A balloon safari is a magical way to experience the park’s life, soaring up with the birds as you enjoy views of the crater.
Walks are limited in the park. Visitors can walk around near the Oldupai gorge, the Empakaai, and Olmoiti craters for those that love to hike to breathtaking views. The area also has the world’s important historical/archeological sites at Oldupai gorge and Laetolil which offer a fascinating insight into the remains of human-like hominin dating from 2.1 to 3.6 million years ago. These and wildlife create a great mix for an epic safari to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.
Other than the sublime activity of game watching, visitors can indulge in traditional and cultural tours to meet the Hadzabe people, the Maasai to enjoy sundowners with them, or engage in activities like beading lessons and insight into their culture.
Accessing Ngorongoro crater
The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is easily accessible. Guests can drive from Arusha or Kilimanjaro Airports for about 4 hours and 45 minutes to the crater. If not by ground means, you can opt for a flight (there are daily flights by light air crafts) from Arusha, Kilimanjaro, and Dar es Salaam to airstrips at Lakes Ndutu and Manyara where your guide can pick you up to the lodge.
Where to stay
Inside the Ngorongoro crater, there are no accommodation facilities but guests can stay at the collection of lodges at Karatu near the rift Valley escarpment or on the crater rim. Lodges at the rim have an incredible view of the crater. These include Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge, Ngorongoro Wildlife Lodge, and Ngorongoro Supa Lodge among others. These are more luxury lodges. There are affordable lodges like Rhino Lodge, Octagon Lodge, Kitala Lodge, Karatu Simba Lodge, etc.
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