Visiting Ngorongoro Crater is like stepping into an adventure movie: a sprawling, forested volcanic crater teeming with lions, cheetahs and flamingoes! Stretched out before you in this near-perfect blue-green caldera resides the densest concentration of wildlife in Africa. You only have to descend the crater walls with your guide to enter one of the most extraordinary habitats on the continent.
It’s said the Ngorongoro Conservation Area is the best place to see all the “Big Five”. Where else could you find the highest density of predators in Africa, plus giant tusker elephants and seas of fuchsia pink birds? The 25,000 large animals here, living in the world’s foremost, intact volcanic caldera have earned the accolades that come with the titles of World Heritage Site and Seven Natural Wonders of Africa.
Standing astride the 610m (2000 ft) crater rim, looking out over the lush expanse filling the 264 sq. km (101 sq. mi) crater you may get your first glimpses of the wildlife below – black rhino, hippo, buffalo, zebra, wildebeest, hyena, jackal and gazelle – grazing and stalking over the grasslands, acacia forests and swamps filling the crater floor.
It’s time to descend into this extraordinary Eden and begin a most exceptional day of discovery.
How did this seemingly magical place arise? Millions of years ago, a volcano about the size of Mt. Kilimanjaro rose in this spot. A violent eruption blew the top off, collapsing onto itself. The resulting immense crater is what remained. As crater-rim forests developed, their streams fed into the caldera creating springs, swamps and woodland and attracting great populations of wildlife.
In your exploration of the different habitats in the crater you’ll come across a large variety of animals. In the Lerai Forest look for baboons, vervet monkeys, waterbucks and great tusker bull elephants. If you’re lucky you may spot an elusive leopard.
Lake Magadi attracts migratory flamingos in the rainy season. Ngoitoktok Springs is home to hippos and is an excellent picnic spot.
As with the crater’s terrestrial creatures the birdlife here is profuse and varied. You’ll find avocet, egret, ostrich, wallow, grebe, firefinch and starling. And especially be on the lookout for raptors like the marsh harrier, augur buzzard, tawny eagle and white-backed vulture.
In this dynamic environment, the high crater walls have created its own eco-system, protecting the immense quantity of wildlife below. And though some animals do migrate, the vast majority live in the crater year-round.
The crater is 264 sq. km (101 sq. mi) in size. The floor lies about 610 m (2,000 ft) below the crater rim yet is still 1,800 m (5,900 ft) above sea level.
Location: The park is located in northern Tanzania, southeast of the Serengeti National Park.
Climate: Temperatures are mild during the day and even cool in the evening. Average temperature is 16oC/61oF.
When to go: The park is open year-round and always accessible.
Best time to visit: As most of the wildlife do not leave the crater floor, you’ll experience abundant viewing throughout the year. However, the park can become very busy in July and August and around the Christmas season.
Operating Hours: The gates open at 06:00 hrs. and no one can enter after 16:00 hrs. All vehicles are required to leave the crater by 18:00 hrs. Official rules state that time in the crater is limited to six hours, but this is rarely enforced.
Getting there: By road – you can book a tour with Natural World Kenya Safaris from Nairobi or Arusha. The main road into the crater is the Seneto descent road which is on the western side.
By air – There are many flights into Kilimanjaro International Airport, about a 2 – 3-hour drive to Ngorongoro.
Things to do and see
Game Drives – Ngorongoro Crater is a very special and unique environment whose eco-system must be cared for and protected. As such all safaris must be configured as vehicle game drives. There are virtually no walking safaris here. However, the trade-off is the opportunity to explore one of the most unique habitats in the world.
Picnicking – There are some beautiful picnic areas on the crater floor. Try Ngoitoktok Springs where you can enjoy the hippos by the water.
Masai Villages – At the crater rim some of the lodges offer tours to the local Masai Villages. Here you can meet the villagers, learn about their culture and history and partake of their crafts.
Even without its immense and varied wildlife population, the Ngorongoro Crater would be an unforgettable display of nature’s grandeur and beauty. Add in one of the largest concentrations of animals to be found anywhere and you have a not-to-be-missed safari experience.
Join us on safari to this world-renowned wonder of Africa. We have safaris departing from Nairobi and Arusha going to Ngorongoro and other great Tanzania and Kenya Parks.
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