The park was established as a conservation area for wildlife and the semi-nomadic Maasai population that reside in it.
The caldera is an important landmark for human history, as well as an essential habitat safeguarding animal diversity. Despite its small area, the caldera has excellent bio-diversity, and several globally threatened species live on these plains. These plains form part of the route of the Great Migration.
The caldera is of scientific importance as important discoveries were made here that shed light on the path of human evolution.
Aside from the main caldera, there are two other volcanic craters: the Olmoti and Empakai. The Olmoti is famed for its beautiful waterfalls, and the Empakai is known for its deep lake and lush green walls.
Another amazing site is the Olduvai Gorge, a 14km long ravine. In order to protect this incredible natural wonder, visitor numbers are closely monitored, and you must obtain a permit to enter the crater and the gorge.
The crater was formed around 2.5 million years ago when a volcano – thought to be roughly the same height as Kilimanjaro – erupted and collapsed in on itself. Now dormant, the volcano’s crater is 610 metres deep and 20km wide, making it the world’s largest inactive caldera.
Wildlife in the Ngorongoro
Variations in climate, landforms, and altitude produce a range of habitats that can support a variety of wildlife, and has led to a network of overlapping ecosystems.
The crater basin is covered with fresh water and alkaline lakes, marshes and swamps. These alkaline lakes attract flamingos, which number in their thousands during the wet season.
The crater is home to some 30,000 animals, some of which migrate here during the Great Migration, and others that stay here year-round.
The rich, volcanic, fertile soil of the crater hosts plenty of wildlife in the dry season, including warthog, impala, and buffalo. These prey in turn attract predators, including lions, hyena, cheetah, leopard, wild hunting dog and golden cat. Honey badgers, jackals, foxes, and ostrich can be found here year-round. A high population of cheetahs and lions can be found in the Lake Ndutu region west of the crater.
The crater is also home to over 500 species of bird, including the Rüppell’s Griffon vulture.
The rarest animals found here are the black male lion and the black rhino. Interestingly, there are no giraffes in the crater; it is thought that they cannot get up the steep sides.
Northern Tanzania Safari Circuit
The well-established ‘Northern Circuit’ safari of northern Tanzania offers some of the world’s most diverse safari experiences, consisting of National Parks, game reserves, conservation areas and private concessions.
Among these are the world-famous and iconic Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Crater, and of course their less well-known neighbours, Tarangire National Park and Lake Manyara National Park.
These parks exist for one general purpose and that is to protect the amazing variety and abundance of wildlife in them, both resident and seasonal – and most of all, the world’s largest annual migration of wildebeest and zebra. Although this part of the world has become increasingly busy as a result of its reputation, it is still possible to escape the crowds and find a quiet corner if you know where to go.
Why Visit Ngorongoro
The site is of significant archaeological and palaeontological significance, and you can visit these sites at Oldupai Gorge and at Alaitole in the Ngarusi area
- The Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) is one of Tanzania’s most popular safari destinations. This 829,200 hectare UNESCO World Heritage Site forms part of the wider Serengeti ecosystem. The region takes its name from the Ngorongoro Crater. Formed 2-3 millions years ago, it is one of the world’s oldest inactive volcanic calderas.
- What once was a fiery, lava strewn, inhospitable area is now home to 25,000 large animals, including lion, black rhino, elephant, and giraffes.
- The Ngorongoro Crater is one of the best places for hiking in Tanzania, with one of the most popular routes taking you up the Olmoti volcano and down towards the Empakaai Crater Lake. Here, thousands of flamingos flock in the shallows, and the views from the trail are almost unimaginable.
Safari in the Ngorongoro
The crown jewel of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area is the Ngorongoro Crater. This ancient, forest-laced caldera is home to over 25,000 large mammals, and it has some of the largest wildlife densities in the world.
Access to the crater for safaris is limited to between 7am and 4pm. For photographers, consider getting down to the crater at sunrise, beating the crowds, so no other vehicles obstruct your shots.
Safaris in Ngorongoro are game drives. The small area of the park combined with its popularity means that it can get busy during peak season.
The Southern Highlands, unlike the rest of the crater, are less frequented by travellers. This is in part because there is less wildlife in the area as the Maasai lead their cattle through here. If you’ve got a bit of extra time, it’s worth passing through here to meet some of the local Maasai people.
You can also take a walking safari with an experienced ranger up to the rim of the Western Great Rift Valley. There are few predators in this region, so it allows you to see animals like ungulates and antelope up close.
Getting to Ngorongoro Crater
There are two options to get to the crater. The first is to drive from Arusha to the crater, which takes about 4 hours. A common setup is to get picked up from Kilimanjaro Airport.
It is often a good idea to arrive early at the crater gates to avoid waiting in a queue to buy park tickets – this can mean it is worth stopping off halfway between Arusha and the crater for the night.
Alternatively, you can fly into the national park from Arusha. This is known as ‘fly in camp’, and we’ll provide a guide and vehicle for when you arrive at the park. There is one airstrip in the park, the Lake Manyara airstrip.
Note that if you have booked your safari with us, all transport will be taken care of for you.