Ngorongoro Crater is the most massive collapsed volcanic crater in the world and twenty kilometres of rustic natural beauty at an altitude of 2,286 meters above sea level. It is one of Africa’s most spectacular safari destinations, a flagship tourism feature of Tanzania with its incredible scenery and, above all, its game viewing.
The crater once was part of the world-famous Serengeti National Park until 1959, when the Ngorongoro Conservation Area was formed. Nowadays, with its 8,300 square kilometres, it boasts three spectacular volcanic craters, the Olduvai Gorge, Savannah, and bushland forest.
The Conservation area was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979, and in 1981 also International Biosphere Reserve. Million years ago, the crater was an active volcano, but its cone collapsed, forming a 610-meter deep crater, with sides so steep that it has become a natural enclosure for a wide variety of wildlife.
Fauna in Ngorongoro Crater
Approximately 25.000 animals live in the crater and make it the principal attraction on a Northern Tanzanian Safari. These include the few remaining populations of 26 endangered Black Rhino of the country and hippopotamus that are usually very uncommon in the area.
You’ll also see wildebeest, zebra, eland, Grants and Thomson’s gazelles, cheetahs, hyenas, jackals, serval cats, bat-eared fox, wildebeest, hartebeest, waterbuck and warthog. The crater also has the densest known population of lions.
There are leopards, elephants, mountain reedbuck, and buffalo on the crater rim. In the centre of the crater, filled by the Munge river, there is the Lake Magadi, a soda lake supporting flocks of flamingos and a variety of approximately 400 species of bird. More than 100 species of birds not found in the Serengeti have been spotted here.
Our Safari in Ngorongoro Crater
We spent one whole day in Ngorongoro and was enough to enjoy its worders. As we descended into the Crater, the landscape was terrific. Grassland blends into swamps, lakes, small streams, woodland and mountains that form its steep high rim. This park is a paradise for wildlife, and we could spot any animals. Unfortunately, even though the rhino lives here, it’s not so easy to spot it because the crater is huge.
Once we reached the Lake Magadi area, we spotted many flamingos, hippos and other beautiful water birds. We had a lunch stop at Ngoitokitok Springs (one of the two areas where it is possible to stop), located in the south-eastern section of the park, known as the “Hippo Pool”.
After that, we proceeded again around the crater tracks spotting a cheetah in the middle of the road and a big lion drinking in a small stream. It was an unforgettable day and, without a doubt, one of the parks in our top 5 list!
Need to know about Ngorongoro Conservation Area
1. Opening time and tracks
Ngorongoro Crater is open from 06h00 to 18h00. Three main safari routes give access to the Crater: the main descent road named Seneto (one-way) is located on the north-western side of the crater, and the main ascent road is named Lerai (also one-way) on the southern wall just east of the Lerai Forest. The other one is in the north-eastern corner of the crater is called Lemala (both directions). A licensed guide must accompany all visitors to Ngorongoro Crater. Click here to see the official website of Ngorongoro Crater.
2. When to go
The rainy season lasts from November through May, while the dry season runs from June to October. June and July are also the coldest months of the year. The dry season is the best time for game viewing because the animals are concentrated on permanent water sources.
3. How to get there
Usually, all the tour around Tanzania starts from Arusha, a city in the country’s Northeast. The Arusha airport (ARK) is served by some African flight companies like Kenya Airways and Precision Air.
4. Tours and packages
Tanzania is not a cheap country. To get the most out of its wonders, you have to book a tour with a local tour operator. We can suggest Easy Travel and Tour, Roy Safaris, World Tours, Dorobo Tours and Earthlife expeditions.
Our suggestion is to contact the tour operator, make your itinerary and haggle the price.
Alternatively, you can also look at Viator’s web platform, which offers tours around Tanzania managed by local tour operators.
5. Where to sleep
Most lodges are located on the crater rim and afford amazing views over and into the crater with a perfect location to watch a beautiful African sunset. The only campsite situated along the edge is the Simba campsite. Another option is to sleep away from the Crater in nearby Karatu. The advantages of Karatu include the comparative lack of crowds, lower prices, and smaller and more intimate lodges which offer a range of activities such as walking and mountain biking. We slept at Ngorongoro Serena and Safari Lodge.