Ngorongoro Crater, an extinct volcanic caldera in the Eastern (Great) Rift Valley, northern Tanzania. It lies 75 miles (120 km) west of the town of Arusha. Had it not become the world’s sixth-largest unbroken caldera, then what is now known as the Ngorongoro crater could have been a towering volcanic mountain, as high as Kilimanjaro.
The crater is the flagship tourism feature for the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. It is a large, unbroken, un-flooded caldera, formed when a giant volcano exploded and collapsed some three million years ago. The Ngorongoro crater sinks to a depth of 610 meters, with a base area covering 260 square kilometers. The height of the original volcano must have ranged between 4,500 to 5,800 meters high. Apart from the main caldera, Ngorongoro also has two other volcanic craters: Olmoti and Empakai, the former famous for its stunning waterfalls, and the latter holding a deep lake and lush, green walls.
On the leeward of the Ngorongoro highlands protrudes the iconic Oldonyo Lengai, an active volcano, and Tanzania’s third highest peak after Kilimanjaro and Meru. Known to local people as the Mountain of God, Mount Lengai’s last major eruption occurred in 2007. At the mountain’s foot is Lake Natron, East Africa’s major breeding ground for flamingoes.
Large numbers of tourists began visiting the caldera in the 1930s when a lodge was built on its rim. Since the region’s joining into the Ngorongoro Conservation Area in 1959, additional lodges have been built. The caldera is included within a UNESCO World Heritage site assigned in 1979.
Ngorongoro crater wildlife
As one of Tanzania’s most spectacular places to spot wild animals, Ngorongoro Conservation Area boasts one of the largest concentrations of wildlife in Africa. The list of species who call Ngorongoro Crater their home is magnificent. On a single safari tour, travelers can discover at least 50 different species of large mammals including lions, rhinos, elephants, and over 200 species of birdlife.
In Africa, the Big Five is comprised of the lion, rhinoceros, leopards, elephants, and Cape buffalo. All of these animals are viewable within the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, including the crater, and are protected thanks to the wildlife conservation efforts of Tanzania. What’s especially noteworthy about these protected lands is that they are considered to be the only place in the world where you have a great chance of seeing the Big Five all in one day!
Every year, nearly 2,000,000 wildebeest and 20,000 plains game, migrate from Tanzania’s Serengeti to the south of Kenya’s Masai Mara as they look for a lush place to graze and drink water. Altogether, the migration spans more than 2000-kilometers and an iconic opportunity for travelers and nature lovers alike to watch one of the greatest spectacles on the planet. December through March is the best time to observe this migration in Ngorongoro with February and March marking your best chance to see newborn animals discover their surroundings for the first time.
When to go to Ngorongoro crater
The topic of when to go on a Ngorongoro Crater safari is less about improving your game viewing experience and more about the number of others and vehicles you need to share the crater with.
The high visitor numbers can be expected during the dry July to September peak season and again during the December to February calving season that follows the November rains.
With this in mind, the main April to May rainy season is often considered the best time to visit the Ngorongoro Crater as there are far fewer visitors and the crater is wonderfully lush and green compared to the dusty dry-season landscape.
What to do in Ngorongoro
Ngorongoro crater tour; Check out the Big 5 on the same day! There are plenty of elephants, wildebeests, zebras, buffaloes, and gazelles, and they are hunted by the hyenas, lions, jackals, and leopards. A visit to the crater will also bring you closer to the black rhino- a critically endangered animal.
Crater view walks; It’s a very famous late afternoon stroll where you can travel on the western edge of the Ngorongoro crater to experience different natural habitats, such as open grasslands, dense green woodlands, and acacia forests. See Schalow’s wheatear and white mountain head, very simply and eventually outstanding birding path with African cytrill sights, golden-winged sunbirds, forest buzzard, and white eyes slaty birdwatchers. Here you can have the chance to see Massai with her cattle along the way.
Empakaai crater; The first time you see the Empakaai Crater, you might not believe your eyes. The alkaline lake in the middle of the crater is surrounded by the steep walls of the caldera, beyond which you can see stunning views of Ol Doinyo Lengai, Tanzania’s active volcano, or even the snowy peak of the Kilimanjaro.
Take a visit at Olduvai Gorge and shifting Sands tour; Olduvai Gorge is an archaeological site and human birthplace is mostly pointed to as the location of the oldest Homo Sapiens remains. You will then travel from here to the crescent, volcanic ash ridges known as shifting sands that unbelievably crawl around the desert land in reaction to the prevailing winds. If you’re searching for a crazy ride, this incredible journey can carry you to your doors and fill you with ecstasy.
Climate in Ngorongoro
The climate of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) is subtropical, with an average temperature ranging from 55.6°F in July to 61.3°F in March (3). The elevation of the entire NCA ranges from 3,310-11,959ft (4) with an area of 3,125 square miles (5).
How to get there
By air; One needs to fly to Kilimanjaro International Airport at Moshi, situated at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro. From there one can get a charter flight, take a taxi or make use of the free shuttle service. The distance from Moshi to Arusha is about 55km.
By road; The road from Arusha to Lodoare Entrance Gate is 160 km long. As of recently, the entire journey is on the tarmac and it takes about two hours. Unless you stay on the main roads, which are graveled, a 4×4 vehicle is essential when entering the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and the Serengeti National Park.