Tanzania Safari Guide to Ngorongoro Crater

Breakfast over the Crater at Ngorongoro Wildlife LodgeBreakfast over the Crater at Ngorongoro Wildlife Lodge
Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) encompasses a large area of the plains on the southern side of the Serengeti and also the Ngorongoro Highlands.

Access

There are twice daily light aircraft flights from Arusha and Manyara to a nearby airstrip. The drive from Lake Manyara to the Crater will take about two hours. There is a small airstrip on the Crater Rim.

Airport

The Manyara airstrip is closest to the Ngorongoro Crater and this is where many visitors will fly into. There is also an airstrip on the rim of the Crater, although this is seldom used due to low level cloud cover.

Highlights

  • Some of the most unique landscapes on Earth
  • Fantastic predator and plains antelope game viewing
  • Visit the site where fossils of our earliest ancestors were found
  • Learn about the vibrant culture of the local Maasai people

Activities

  • Game drives in the Ngorongoro Crater
  • Cultural visits
  • Bush walks

Ngorongoro Landscape

The Ngorongoro Crater, declared a World Heritage Site in 1978 and international Biosphere Reserve in 1981, is the largest intact volcanic caldera in the world. It measures about nineteen kilometres in diameter and has crater walls up to 610 metres in height. There are few wildlife places that have such a great diversity of landscapes existing in a region this size. The walls of the Ngorongoro Crater are covered with dense forest and the crater floor has a diverse range of habitats - open grassland, forests, wetlands/marshes and a permanent saline lake.

Ngorongoro Conservation Area

The NCA also holds great archaeological importance with excavations carried out by the Leakey's in the Olduvai Gorge. Discoveries have unearthed important information regarding the evolution of the human species.

The Ngorongoro Experience

There are an estimated 25 000 mammals which are resident in the Crater. The nutritious grasses and permanent water in the crater provide nutritious grazing for the large herds of resident Wildebeest, Buffalo, Zebra, Hippo and Thompson gazelle found here. Troops of Baboons and Monkeys are also common. Highly endangered Black Rhinos are often sighted in the open grasslands.

Large numbers of predators are highly visible in the crater. Lions, Cheetahs, Hyenas and Jackals can usually be spotted, but other predators are more elusive. Lion are very nonchalant about vehicles and will often seek shade under the safari vehicles. Leopards are often seen in the vicinity of the Lerai Forest and around the rim of the crater. Elephants with some of the largest tusks in the world are found in the crater but there are no breeding herds of Elephants.

Lake of fire

The saline waters of Lake Magadi (also known as Lake Makat), attract both the lesser and the greater flamingo. Other bird species include the ostrich and the Kori bustard. The lake can be full of water or an expanse of white soda depending on the season. The large seasonal swamps are excellent for seeing Hippo and many species of water birds.

Game drives in paradise

It is possible to circumnavigate the crater a few times in a single game drive. The early morning game drives are excellent for seeing wildlife as the animals tend to be more active at this time of the day. The views into the crater during the descent drive are spectacular. Game drives are accompanied by very knowledgeable guides and the vehicles are closed-sided safari vehicles with pop-top roofs - designed especially for game viewing. Ngorongoro Crater is a year round destination. Most of the wildlife is resident and the animals do not follow any significant migration pattern.

Exploring a volcanic landscape

Although games drives are the main activity, there are also other activities on offer. Guests can experience beautiful walks in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. This usually involves a short drive, where you will meet up with a park ranger. Together with your guide you will enjoy a 2-3 hour walk. There is a walk around the crater rim which takes three nights, sleeping in temporary fly camps.

See thousands of Flamingos

Empakaai Crater is a 90 minute drive from the Ngorongoro Crater. A soda lake covers half of the caldera and you should see thousands of flamingos in the shallows of the lake. A 45 minute walk down the forested slopes into the crater floor is not to be missed. Another alternative is to climb Ol Doinyo Lengai, 'the Mountain of God', with Maasai guides.

Land of the Maasai

Away from the Ngorongoro Crater, the Maasai people pursue a traditional lifestyle. The Maasai are allowed to take their animals into the Crater for water and grazing, but not to live or cultivate there. Guests are welcomed into the Maasai cultural bomas and this experience provides a great insight to their lives and customs.

Ngorongoro Accommodation

Lemala Ngorongoro - This is a comfortable tented camp has a wonderful situation right on the crater rim with fabulous views of the crater below. The camp has some of the easiest access to the wildlife in the crater below. Accommodation is offered in comfortable tents.

Ngorongoro Farmhouse - is situated on a spacious farm just outside the Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area. Come and experience life on a colonial style farm. Set out on guided walks and game viewing trips into the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.

Tloma Lodge - is situated in the Ngorongoro Highlands Area and has sweeping views over the coffee plantations. Stay in colonial style cottages and be treated to warm hospitality. Set out on guided walks around the farm and walks to discover the diverse landscape of the Ngorongoro region.See Ngorongoro Crater safari options
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