Ngorongoro

Crater

Often called the eighth natural wonder of the world, the Ngorongoro Crater is the largest intact crater in the world. About 2 million years ago its volcano erupted, and its walls collapsed.

The volcano floor sank to create a natural enclosure with its 600m tall walls. Now, at over 19 kilometers wide, it is filled with great areas of acacia forest, hippo filled swamps and open grasslands.

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The World's Largest Unbroken Caldera

The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is a stunning region in Tanzania that is home to a variety of natural wonders and rich in history. The area was formed over two and a half million years ago when a large volcano erupted and collapsed upon itself, creating a massive caldera, which is often mistakenly referred to as the Ngorongoro Crater.

Located approximately 75 miles (120 km) west of Arusha town, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area spans over 8,292 square kilometers and is known for its diverse attractions. One of the most famous sites within the area is the Oldupai Gorge, a sharp gorge in the Great Rift Valley where paleoanthropologists Louis and Mark Leakey made groundbreaking discoveries of our early human ancestors, including traces of homo habilis, our first known human species dating back 2 million years. This has earned the Ngorongoro Conservation Area the nickname “cradle of human-kind,” as it provides invaluable insights into our evolutionary history.

In addition to the Oldupai Gorge, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area boasts other breathtaking features such as shifting sand, Ngorongoro, Olmoti, and Empakaai craters. Lake Ndutu and Masek, which are alkaline soda lakes, are also located within the conservation area and are known for their abundant wildlife populations and picturesque scenery, surrounded by peaks and extinct volcanoes that create a stunning backdrop.

The Ngorongoro Conservation Area was established in 1959 as a multiple land use area, with the aim of promoting the conservation of natural resources, protecting the interests of the indigenous residents, and promoting sustainable tourism activities. The caldera, or Ngorongoro Crater, itself measures between 10 and 12 miles (16 and 19 km) across the floor, with a depth of 610 meters and an area of 102 square miles (264 square km). It is believed that when it was an active volcano, it was similar in size to Mount Kilimanjaro, one of the tallest mountains in the world, estimated to be between 4,500 to 5,800 meters in height.

What makes the Ngorongoro Conservation Area truly unique in Africa is that it is the only place where conservation of natural resources is integrated with human development. The area is not only a haven for wildlife and natural beauty but also serves as a living example of how humans can coexist with nature in a sustainable manner. The history of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area is a testament to the importance of conservation, research, and community involvement in protecting our natural heritage for future generations to appreciate and enjoy.

The Maasai tribe man in Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Conservation Area named the area after the sound of their cowbells. In 1892, Oscar Bauman became the first European to set foot in the Ngorongoro Crater. The area was once part of Serengeti National Park before being designated as a conservation area in 1959, and Maasai pastoralists were relocated there, increasing the population of Maasai and livestock.

There are several reasons to visit Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Firstly, it is highly accessible from the main tourist city of Arusha, just a 3-hour drive away. The area is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, known for its breathtaking Ngorongoro crater, the largest intact volcanic caldera in the world, as well as its shifting sand, rich culture and history, and Olduvai Gorge where early human skulls have been found.

Ngorongoro Conservation Area is home to a diverse range of wildlife, including the “Big Five” – lions, leopards, elephants, buffalo, and rhinos – as well as many other species of animals and birds. Wildlife exploration is a popular activity in the area, with the opportunity to spot numerous animals during a Ngorongoro crater tour. The best time to visit is during the dry season when animals are easier to spot.

Other activities in the area include visiting the Olduvai Gorge museum to learn about early human history, witnessing the shifting sand dunes believed to come from the sacred mountain of Ol Doinyo Lengai, walking in the footprints of ancestors at Laetoli where ancient hominid footpaths can be seen, exploring the Empakaai crater with its alkaline lake and stunning views of Ol Doniyo Lengai, and bird watching with a variety of bird species to spot.

In conclusion, Ngorongoro Conservation Area in Tanzania is a must-visit destination for its accessibility, UNESCO World Heritage status, abundant biodiversity and landscapes, and various activities to explore the rich natural and cultural heritage of the area. The best time to visit is during the dry season for optimal wildlife viewing.

The Ngorongoro Conservation Area offers year-round wildlife viewing, with the best time to visit being the dry season from late June to October when the grass is short, making it easier to spot animals. The distance between Arusha city and Ngorongoro Crater is about 167km/103.8 mi, and the estimated drive time is 3 hours. From Kilimanjaro Airport, the distance is slightly longer at 219km/136 mi, with an estimated drive time of 4.5 hours.

There are various accommodation options in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, including lodges and campsites catering to different budgets. Some lodges are located on the crater rim, offering magnificent views of the crater. For budget travelers, camping is the most affordable option, with Simba A Campsite highly recommended as it is located on the crater rim, offering amazing crater views and considered one of the most beautiful campsites in the country.

Experience the best of safari in Ngorongoro with amazing food and wildlife at medium lodges like Wildlife Lodge, Rhino Lodge, and Pakulala Tented Camp. For luxury accommodations, choose from Asilia Highlands, Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge, and Lemala Ngorongoro Tented Camp, offering breathtaking views and modern comforts. Karatu, located just outside Ngorongoro Conservation Area, offers budget lodges like Eileen’s Trees Inn and Country Lodge, as well as luxury options like Ngorongoro Oldeani Mountain Lodge and Gibbs Farm. With a variety of accommodations to choose from, both inside and outside the conservation area, you can find the perfect lodging for your Ngorongoro safari experience.

The king of the jungle​

Ngorongoro lions are known for their impressive hunting skills. They primarily hunt large herbivores such as wildebeest, zebras, and buffalo, which are abundant in the crater. Lions in Ngorongoro Conservation Area often hunt in groups, using cooperative hunting strategies to bring down their prey.

Ngorongoro elephants are known for their distinct tusks, which are elongated incisor teeth that can grow up to several feet in length. These tusks are highly valued, which unfortunately makes elephants a target for poaching for their ivory.

The African Bush Elephant

Zebra

Zebras in Ngorongoro are prey animals and face threats from predators such as lions, hyenas, and cheetahs. Their striped coat is thought to provide camouflage, making it difficult for predators to single out an individual zebra from a group, and confusing their vision during chases.

Spotted hyenas in Ngorongoro are known for their unique social structure, with a complex hierarchy dominated by females. Female hyenas are larger and more aggressive than males, and they hold higher ranks within the clan. They are also the primary hunters, while males typically scavenge or assist with hunting.

The Laughing Hyena

The black and white rhinos

Ngorongoro Conservation Area is one of the few places in Tanzania where you can spot the endangered black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis). These large, solitary animals are known for their prehistoric appearance, with their thick, armored skin and one or two horns on their snouts.

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