Ngorongoro Crater was once a gigantic volcano, taller than Kilimanjaro. When it collapsed a huge bowl ringed by 610 metre high walls, measuring 20 kms across and encompassing a total area of 260 sq kms was formed. Ngorongoro is the largest unbroken and unflooded volcanic caldera covered in green splendor, ranked as the most visited Tanzania Tourism destination.
The crater as seen from the crater rim is made of open grassland plains, swamps, motane forests, small wooded areas, springs, rivers and salty Lake Magadi at the heart of the crater fed by Munge River. The rift escarpment shelters the crater park in the east and south form a wall that prevent game from migrating out the crater park in either direction.
The other major water source in the crater is the Ngoitokitok Spring, near the eastern crater wall although there are other smaller water springs within the park that feed the swamps. The crater plays host to almost every individual species of wildlife in East Africa, with an estimated 25 000 animals within the crater.
Ngorongoro Conservation area
Ngorongoro Crater makes up only 3 percent of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, a rich and vast wildlife habitat and eco-system that includes Serengeti National park and Serengeti eco-system, plains, volcanic highlands, the lesser Empakai Crater and the Great Rift Valley escarpment to the south east.
The protected area declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1979 covers 180km west of Arusha Town and is the only protected area providing a sanctuary for several herds of game together with monitored human activity by the Masaai herdsmen.
The annual migration passes through the Ngorongoro Crater Area (NCA), with herds of wildebeest and zebra moving south into the area in December and moving north in June into Kenya’s Masaai Mara. This movement changes seasonally with the rains and growth of fresh green pastures. The NCA has a healthy resident population of most species of wildlife; in particular around Ndutu Lake area to the west has strong predators like cheetah and lions.
Ngorongoro wildlife safaris
The Ngorongoro crater is home to some 30,000 different species of wildlife, one of the most wildlife crammed parks and volcanic caldera in the world. Half the game population in the park is herds of wildebeests and zebras. Other large herds within the Ngorongoro Crater Park include Thompson giraffes, elands, elephants, reedbuck, buffalos, waterbuck, hartebeest, black rhinos and many others
With such wide range of potential prey, you’ll find several predators patrolling the plains for a day’s kill. There are some big prides of black manned lions, leopards, cheetahs, spotted hyena, servals and jackals.
Aside from the fact that there are very large numbers of animals here, one of the things that makes the Crater so good for game viewing is the great visibility. There are many places from which you can get sweeping views of the crater floor and identify animals at quite a distance. The rains come in from November to May and the rest of the years (June to October) are drier months, the best time to visit.
Bird watching in Ngorongoro crater
There are lots of colorful pink flamingos and a variety of other water birds gather around the soda lake of Magadi to feed on the algae that grows on the lake. More than a 100 species of bird not found in the Serengeti have been found in the Crater and these include avocets, blacksmith plovers, malachite eagles, vultures, long hecked herons, white cattle egrets, storks, sacred ibis, kori bustard and many others.
The best of the Ngorongoro Crater’s wildlife can be seen on a daylong game drive, which usually includes a stop for a picnic lunch, and may people stay here for just one or two nights.
Ngorongoro Crater Tanzania safaris
However, Ngorongoro is just the best known of a large number of volcanic mountains in the area and the landscape contains a stunning range of dormant volcanic peaks rising to over 10,000 ft above seal level – Ol Deani, Olmoti, Loolmalasin, and Empakaai.
For a more in depth safari Ngorongoro, visit the surrounding highlands there are some spectacular walks north towards Empakai Crater, Ol Donyo Lengai and Lake Natron as well as south towards Lake Eyasi or south west towards Ndutu. This gives an opportunity to explore areas that are visited by far fewer people.
Olduvai Gorge, also called the Cradle of Mankind is located nit far away from Ngorongoro crater and is protected under Ngorongoro Conservation area on the eastern Serengeti Plains stretching some 30miles. It lies in the rain shadow of the Ngorongoro highlands and is the driest part of the region. The volcanic ashes that spilled here several years ago preserved the first remains of Homo Hablis. It is one of the most important prehistoric sites in the world and research there has been instrumental in furthering understanding of
early human evolution. Excavation work there was pioneered by Mary and Dr. Louis Leakey in the 1950s and is continued today by their family.
Ngorongoro safari lodges and accommodation
The safari lodges and campgrounds are built on the 2100m crater rim and most afford amazing views. You’ll find 3 luxury safari lodges and camps with magnificent views of the animal trails from the rim. Ngorongoro wildlife lodge offers exclusive luxury suites, fine out dining, restaurants, en-suite bathrooms, relaxing lounge in comfort and style. There are game drives arranged by Ngorongoro wildlife lodge both early in the morning and late in the afternoon. There is only one road in/out of the Crater so all safari vehicles descend via the same route.
Ngorongoro Serena lodge and Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge are the other luxury safari lodges with unparalleled safari lodge accommodation, spectacular views over the grass thatched chalets/ rooms.