One of the most beautiful safari destinations in the world
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The world-famous Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania is a fertile area with an abundance of wildlife, such as lions, buffalo, hyena and many more. Imagine going on safari inside the crater of a volcano. And you can at Ngorongoro Crater.
Ngorongoro Conservation Area is referred to as the source of life. This area with its world-famous volcano crater probably has the highest density of animals per square meter in all of Africa. It’s one of many old volcanoes here. This area is where there was a discovery of extremely ancient bones of our ancestors. It’s also home to the Hadza, as well as the Maasai.
The soil at the bottom of the crater is incredibly fertile, which attracts many herbivores. Its good vegetation means it’s on the famous migration route of wildebeest, zebras and thomson’s gazelles. The animals leave in search of fresh grass when the climate gets too dry, and they travel across the Serengeti, the Maasai Mara plains and through the Ngorongoro crater.
It’s interesting to note that not all animals migrate like that. It’s estimated around 20 000 animals live in the crater all-year-round, and it doubles during the migration. And where there are herbivores, there are bound to be predators like lions, cheetahs and leopards.
And where those creatures roam, there are always scavengers. Hyenas and vultures are never far away from a free meal. That’s how this relatively small area has such a wealth of wildlife, which is fairly easy to spot thanks to the scarce vegetation. Not just within the Ngorongoro Crater, but in the entire area.
Most tourists in this area are here to experience nature. Of course, they’d like to see the Big Five: elephant, buffalo, (black) rhino, lion and leopard.
The rare black rhinoceros is the most sought after sighting in the Ngorongoro Crater. Chances here are the highest in Africa. Especially if you drive around here for a few days. The driver usually knows where to look, otherwise a long line of jeeps helps. You can check out what the other tourists are looking at.
The Masai people are best known in Kenya. But you will also come across them in this part of Tanzania. You can learn about their rich culture, their way of life and their villages. The families live in bomas, protecting their cattle with bushes from predators. Take the time to get to know these famous inhabitants of East Africa.
You can go on safari in the Ngorongoro Crater all year round, there’s always an abundance of animals to see. But with a little planning, you can get to experience the annual migration of zebras, wildebeest and Thomson Gazelles. Around December, the migrating animals also enter Ngorongoro crater. In June, these animals leave in search of fresh grasslands.
Oldupai Gorge is world famous for its fossils of our ancestors that were found here. And there’s undoubtedly more in the many sandy riverbeds. When you walk around in this 40 kilometer long ravine, you will see small pieces of bone sticking out of the sand everywhere. You almost don't know where to look.
Because in addition to bones of humans, just about all the ancestors of today's African animals can be found here too. In the accompanying museum you can find out how important the finds in this place are. This is where the theory arose that 'we' come from Africa, a theory that still stands.
Picnics can be had at specific spots in Ngorongoro Crater. You are allowed to leave the car (for a while), for example, a pee stop. And sitting quietly with a cup of coffee and a sandwich or cake in this landscape is absolutely blissful. The driver knows the good spots and breakfast can be arranged. You won't get a more special breakfast than this.
Laetoli is a special sight. On a piece of clay of about 25 meters you can see the prints of human feet, of an adult and a child. But you will also get to see prints of animals such as baboons, hyenas, rhinos and even raindrops.
They probably walked through the soft ash after a volcanic eruption leaving their imprints which was hardened by rain. And the discovery of these prints were made in 1978. Three million years after two humanoids walked here, you can stand here. You literally step back in time in Laetoli.
Early in the morning (usually around 6am) the gates of ngorongoro crater open. Ask your guide or driver to arrive at the entrance as early as possible. So you can be one of the first to go into the crater. Not only is it nice and quiet (as far as tourists are concerned) but the animals are very active. It's not too hot for them. A very good time for photos. Especially when the sun creeps up over the crater rim.
You can spend the night on the edge of Ngorongoro Crater. There are several lodges and luxury tent camps. You can sit down against nightfall with a snack or a drink. Watch how the sun disappears behind the crater rim. Watch the light slowly disappear from the crater. It's a beautiful end to the day
In addition to Ngorongoro Crater, this area has numerous other volcanoes. Two of them are very worthwhile. The 3,700 meter high Olmoti is located in the northeast of the park. This crater is relatively flat and is the habitat of Masai, but also of animals such as eland, forest buck and sometimes herds of buffalo. Ideal for photos of animals in a rugged landscape. In the Olmoti crater water flows even has a small waterfall, called the Munge.
The six-kilometre-wide Empakaai crater also has a lake with lots of waterfowl, the view from the crater is exceptionally beautiful. Both craters can only be visited with a guide and can be visited on foot.
Walking through the famous Ngorongoro Crater is forbidden, but not forbidden in the wilderness area around it. With a guide, you can take several routes, including one along the edge of Ngorongoro Crater. All these hikes can be arranged in advance with the various tour operators.
This village is one of the most remarkable archaeological sites in Tanzania. Ingenious irrigation works which are about 500 years old have been found here. The water was routed through several terraces. Which makes this area extremely fertile and green, even now.
Scientists think that the village was once founded by the Iraqw (which are counted among the Mbulu). However there’s still uncertainty about who founded the village. It is also unknown why the village was ever abandoned, the people were possibly driven away by the Masai who now live here. When you visit the village you will see remains of houses and diggings into a huge stone mass. Engaruka is located in the north of the area.
History of Ngorongoro goes back even further than we think. Scholars have calculated that between 20-35 million years ago this landscape had begun to tear. The cause is the various earth plates that move independently of each other. A process that, for example, also brought India from Africa to Asia after many millions.
Part of the country slowly moves eastwards, making the Earth's crust very thin in some places. A process that is still going on, by the way. This part is now called the Great Rift Valley. In some places, the thin earth's crust melts through the hot lava underneath. Which allows the lava to flow freely, resulting in numerous volcanoes.
In addition to the Ngorongoro, you can see other volcanoes in the park, such as Lemagrut, Sadiman, Oldeani, Olmoti, Sirua, Empakaai and the 3,600 meter high Lolmalasin. They're all older than Ngorongoro. The imposing row of volcanoes lie in an extremely fertile area. And in line with the Serengeti Plain, which also includes the Masai Mara in Kenya.
In this area you can go on safari all year round, there are always plenty of animals to see. But with a little planning it is possible to experience the annual migration. So when there are many more zebras, wildebeest and Thomson gazelles to be seen.
The migrating animals enter the area around December (including the Ngorongoro Crater). In June these animals leave in search of fresh grasslands.
From March to May you can expect a lot of rain showers. In November and December, large thunderstorms regularly move over this area.
It can get very busy with jeeps, especially in July and August. Although the government regulates the amount of jeeps entering the park, a traffic jam of jeeps can arise. Especially if a rhino is spotted.
On most days, jeeps are here around 09h00 and again around 16h00. Be smart and enter the park early.