Ngorongoro Crater is the largest collapsed volcanic crater in the world and twenty kilometers of isolated 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, after that it was formed the Ngorongoro Conservation Area that today, with its 8,300 square kilometers, boasts three spectacular volcanic craters, the Olduvai Gorge, savannah, bush land forest.
The Conservation area was declared an 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 very wide variety of wildlife. A population around 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 then 100 species of birds not found in the Serengeti have been spotted here.
I spent 1 whole day here in Ngorongoro and as i descended into the Crater, the landscape was amazing: grassland that blends into swamps, lakes, small streams, woodland and mountains that form its steep high rim. This is a paradise for the wildlife and i could spot any kind of animals. Unfortunatelly, even though the rhino lives here, it’s not so easy to spot because the crater is very huge.
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 2 areas where is possible to stop) located in the south-eastern section of the park, known as the ‘’ Hippo pool’’, then 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 park in my top 5 list!
About the crater: The Ngorongoro Crater is open from 06h00 to 18h00 . There are three main safari routes that 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 named Lemala (both directions). All visitors to Ngorongoro Crater must be accompanied by a licensed guide.
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 permanent water sources.
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 located along the rim is ‘’Simba campsite’’ (https://serengetinationalpark.com/entries/ngorongoro-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, cheaper prices, smaller and more intimate lodges which offer a range of activities such as walking and mountain biking. Check here: http://www.riftsafari.com/strutture_ngorongoro_karatu_en.html