Why Travel Here?
A natural wonder of the world, the spectacular Ngorongoro Crater was proclaimed a World Heritage Site in 1978, and has been likened to Noah’s Ark in its preservation of diversity. Covering an area of 260 square kilometres, the NgorongoroCrater is in fact the largest unbroken caldera (collapsed volcano) in the world, has a mean diameter of between 16 and 19 kilometres, and a rim rising to 400 – 610 meters above the crater floor. The Ngorongoro Crater is located within the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.
The views looking from the rim inwards are superb, and it is highly recommended to descend within the crater and explore it in its entirety. Only 4WD vehicles are allowed within the Crater and must be accompanied by a game ranger which can be organised with national Parks upon entry to the Park. Local Maasai tribe’s people have grazing rights and are permitted to lead their cattle to water within the Crater. Maasai cattle can thus sometimes be seen grazing in amongst the wildlife.
Over 30,000 animals exist within the crater and include wildebeest, zebra, hartebeest, topi, eland, Thompson’s and Grant’s gazelle, buffalo, elephant, hippo, black rhino, leopard, lion, and warthog. The Ngorongoro Crater offers one of Tanzania’s best opportunities to view the Big Five, although poaching in past years has drastically reduced the Black rhino population. The Frankfurt Zoological Society amongst others, works hard to preserve this pristine World Heritage Site.
With over 100 species recorded here the bird life is impressive, particularly the seasonal arrival of the flamingos in Lake Makat. The game viewing within the Ngorongoro Crater is excellent year round, although certain areas of the crater floor become impassable with the heavy rains.
The four major habitats within the Crater are:
– open grasslands across most of the crater floor providing food for the thousands of grazers such as wildebeest, zebra, gazelle and buffalo found here – on which the lion and other predators prey;
– Lake Makat (Magadi) is a soda (salt) lake that is filled by the Munge River and when full, is home to thousands of flamingos and other water birds that feed here. When dry it is a dust bowl speckled with the tracks of the game crossing it;
– the swamps (such as the Mandusi Swamp and Gorigor Swamp) are where the large animals such as the hippos wallow and feed, and the elephant feed on the giant sedges;
– the Lerai forest patches on the crater floor, consisting mainly of acacia trees, are home to the monkeys, baboon, leopard, waterbuck, eland, elephant and the few remaining Black rhino. As with the people the animals are able to leave the Crater, and the larger herds of grazing animals often do so in search of grazing and water in drought periods.
There are two rainy seasons in Tanzania – the short rains and the traditional long rainy season. The short rains occur from late October - mid December and basically consist of a daily thunderstorm. The Ngorongoro Crater has a great climate at this time of year and the light is good – and because it is “labelled” a rainy season, there are fewer visitors at this time of year. Late March to late May is the traditional long rain season and the Tanzanian “winter”. From June to the end of October is the dry season and it can get particularly cold on the rim of the Crater in June through to August. As a rule, because of its higher altitude, the temperatures at the Ngorongoro Crater are generally lower than most of the other Parks.
Within the Crater game drives are the safari activity of choice, since walking is generally not permitted in the crater as it is relatively small and it avoids disturbing the wildlife unduly. Tour operators in Arusha do daytrips to the Crater, and if staying at the accommodation in the vicinity, the game drives are usually included as part of the daily rate.
Ngorongoro is 190 kilometres west of Arusha (4 hours return drive), and 60 kilometres from Lake ManyaraNational Park.
A twice daily scheduled flight from Arusha Airport to Manyara airstrip. From there a 2,5 hour road transfer to the above lodges.