Visiting Ngorongoro Crater, Unesco Heritage site and a highlight of Tanzania
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 the most spectacular safari destinations in Africa, 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, bushland forest.
The Conservation area was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979 and 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 vast variety of wildlife.
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 also hippopotamus that are usually very uncommon in the area.
Here you’ll find 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.
On the crater rim, there are leopard, elephant, mountain reedbuck and buffalo. In the centre of the crater, filled by the Munge river, there is the Lake Magadi, a soda lake supporting flocks of flamingo and a variety of approximately 400 species of bird. More than 100 species of birds not found in the Serengeti have been spotted here.
I spent one whole day here in Ngorongoro, and as I descended into the Crater, the landscape was terrific: grassland that blends into swamps, lakes, small streams, woodland and mountains that form its steep high rim. This park is a paradise for wildlife, and I could spot any animals. Unfortunately, even though the rhino lives here, it’s not so easy to spot because the crater is enormous.
Once got the Lake Magadi area I spotted a large number of flamingos, hippos and other beautiful water birds. I had my 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, I proceeded again around the tracks of the crater with the luck of spotting a cheetah resting in the middle of the road and a beautiful lion drinking along the bank of a small stream. In the end, it was an unforgettable day and with no doubt one of the parks in my top 5 list!
Need to know about Ngorongoro Conservation Area
|1) About the crater
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 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 to 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 along with permanent water sources.
3) How to get there
Usually, all the tour around Tanzania starts from Arusha, a city in the Northeast of the country. 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 and to get the most out of its wonders, you have to book a tour with a local tour operator. We can suggest you Easy Travel and tour, Roy Safaris, World Tours and Safaris, Dorobo Tours and Safaris and Earthlife expeditions.
Our suggestion is to contact the tour operator, make you itinerary and haggle the price.
Alternatively, you can also have a look on the web platform Viator that offers tours around Tanzania managed by local tour operators.
5) Where to sleep
Most of the 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 a bit away from the Crater in nearby Karatu. The advantages of Karatu include the comparative lack of crowds, lower prices, 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.
6) Guide book and travel insurance
We always use Lonely Planet guide books and we have our comprehensive protection with WorldNomads.com.