The Ngorongoro Crater is the largest unfilled, intact and inactive volcano in the world
Ngorongoro Crater | Tanzania Safaris
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The Ngorongoro Crater is a protected area and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979 as part of the larger Ngorongoro Conservation Area, which includes two other craters and located 180 km (110 mi) west of Arusha in the Crater Highlands area of Tanzania. The area is named after Ngorongoro Crater, a large volcanic caldera within the area. The conservation area is managed by the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority, an arm of the Tanzanian government, and its boundaries trail the boundary of the Ngorongoro Division of the Arusha Region. The area is part of the Serengeti ecosystem and, to the northwest, adjoins the SNP and is connecting with the southern Serengeti plains. These plains also extend to the north into the unprotected Loliondo division and are kept open to wildlife through transhumance pastoralism practiced by the Maasai.
The stunning landscape of Ngorongoro Crater combined with its spectacular concentration of wildlife is one of the greatest natural wonders of the planet. Spectacular wildebeest numbers (well over 1 million animals) pass through the area as part of the annual migration of wildebeest across the Serengeti ecosystem and calve in the short grass plains which straddle the Ngorongoro Conservation Area/Serengeti National Park boundary. The Ngorongoro Conservation Area (809,440 ha) spans vast expanses of highland plains, savanna, savanna woodlands and forests, from the plains of the Serengeti National Park in the north-west, to the eastern arm of the Great Rift Valley. The area was established in 1959 as a numerous land use area, with wildlife coexisting with semi-nomadic Maasai pastoralists practicing traditional livestock grazing. It includes the spectacular Ngorongoro Crater, the world’s largest caldera, and Olduvai Gorge, a 14km long deep ravine.
Ngorongoro Crater Safari Tour
The south and west of the area are volcanic highlands, including the famous Ngorongoro Crater and the lesser known Empakaa Crateri. The southern and eastern boundaries are approximately defined by the rim of the East African Rift wall, which also prevents animal migration in these directions. The crater also includes Laetoli and Olduvai Gorge, which contain an important paleontological record related to human evolution. Ngorongoro Conservation Area is home to a population of some 25,000 large animals, mostly ungulates, alongside the highest density of mammalian predators in Africa including the densest known population of lion (estimated 68 in 1987). The conservation area harbours a range of endangered species, such as the Black Rhino, Wild hunting dog and Golden Cat and 500 species of birds. It also supports one of the largest animal migrations on earth, including over 1 million wildebeest, 72,000 zebras and 350,000 Thompson and Grant gazelles.
The area has universal importance for biodiversity conservation in view of the presence of globally threatened species such as the black Rhino, the density of wildlife inhabiting the Ngorongoro Crater and surrounding areas throughout the year, and the annual migration of wildebeest, zebra, Thompsons and Grants gazelles and other ungulates into the northern plains. The Ngorongoro Crater is a huge volcanic caldera, covering 100 sq. mi (260 sq. km) in Northern Tanzania. Formed approximately 2.5 million years ago when a giant volcano exploded and collapsed in on itself, the Ngorongoro Crater is 2000ft (610m) deep. Endowed with an abundance of wildlife, the crater features almost every animal species present in East Africa. Around 2.5 million years ago, the Ngorongoro crater was a huge volcanic mountain, rivalling Kilimanjaro in size. This changed when the top of the mountain collapsed in on itself, creating the biggest volcanic caldera in the world. The volcanic eruptions like that of Ngorongoro, which resulted in the formation of Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania, were very common.
Explore the Rich Maasai Culture and Wildlife in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area
Discover the fascinating world of the Maasai people in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, which approximately 42,000 Maasai tribe members call home. These pastoralists have maintained their traditional way of life for centuries, living in harmony with the land and wildlife.
The Maasai rely on their livestock, including cattle, goats, sheep, and donkeys, for sustenance and livelihood. They follow the seasonal patterns of rainfall, migrating between open plains during the rainy season and adjacent woodlands and mountain slopes during the dry season. While they have access to the Ngorongoro Crater for water and grazing, they do not live or cultivate there, respecting the conservation area’s regulations. Elsewhere in the NCA, they have the freedom to roam.
Visitors to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area have the opportunity to immerse themselves in Maasai culture by visiting designated Maasai cultural bomas. These cultural centres provide insights into the Maasai way of life, allowing you to learn about their unique traditions, take photographs, and purchase souvenirs. Please remember to be respectful and seek consent before photographing individuals along the roadside.
Here are some recommended Maasai cultural bomas to visit within the NCA:
- Kiloki Senyati Cultural Boma: Located on the main road to Serengeti, 7 km southwest of the Olduvai Gorge Information Center.
- Loonguku Cultural Boma: Located on the main road to Serengeti, 10 km before the turn-off to Olduvai Gorge.
- Irkeepusi Cultural Boma: Situated 2 km northeast of Lemala mini gate, on the main road to Empakaai.
- Seneto Cultural Boma: Located just west of the Seneto Gate, within the Malanja Depression.
The Ngorongoro Conservation Area also encompasses Olduvai Gorge, a site of immense historical significance. It is considered the “seat of humanity” due to the discovery of early human specimens, such as Homo habilis and Paranthropus boisei. This steep-sided ravine in the Great Rift Valley has played a pivotal role in advancing our understanding of human evolution. Excavations, initiated by Mary and Louis Leakey in the 1950s and continued by their family, have revealed crucial insights into our ancient past.
The Ngorongoro Crater, located within the NCA, is home to approximately 25,000 large animals, making it a must-visit for wildlife enthusiasts. Here, you can spot iconic species like black rhinoceros, African buffalo, hippopotamus, wildebeests, zebras, elands, gazelles, and more. The crater also boasts the highest known population of lions in the region, with 62 individuals. Leopards, hyenas, cheetahs, and other predators roam the area, offering a captivating safari experience.
Annual Wildebeest and Zebra Migration
Witness the awe-inspiring annual wildebeest and zebra migration as over 1.7 million ungulates move through Ngorongoro. This natural spectacle sees the herds travelling south in December and returning north in June. The Lake Ndutu area to the west is a hotspot for cheetah and lion sightings during this migration.
Bird enthusiasts will delight in the NCA’s rich avian diversity, with over 500 species recorded. Keep an eye out for ostriches, white pelicans, flamingos on Lake Magadi, and numerous other bird species across the conservation area.
The NCA is not just about wildlife; it also boasts stunning natural wonders. Explore the Olmoti and Empakai volcanic craters, known for their beauty and unique features. Mount Lengai, an active volcano and Tanzania’s third-highest peak looms in the distance. Nearby Lake Natron serves as a major breeding ground for flamingoes.
The Ngorongoro Crater offers an unparalleled safari experience, where you can encounter the Big Five and immerse yourself in the vibrant Maasai culture. With its breathtaking scenery and abundant wildlife, it’s no wonder that the Ngorongoro Crater is a renowned tourist attraction and a must-visit destination in Tanzania
Activities inside the Ngorongoro Crater itself are limited to game driving; there are a couple of picnic spots in the park, but getting out of the vehicle is strictly limited to these areas. However, a full range of activities is on offer in the wider Ngorongoro Conservation Area, including walking, trekking, excursions to Olduvai Gorge and visiting the Masai and other tribes.
Visit the Olduvai Gorge of Ngorongoro Crater
Olduvai Gorge, is located in the heart of the Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro Crater. This 300-mile long gorge is famous for being the site where 2-million-year old human fossils were found. Step back in time, and walk the same paths that our ancient ancestors walked. And while you’re here, don’t forget to visit the small but charming Olduvai Museum that was founded by Mary Leakey, the woman responsible for finding the fossils! This will be a great opportunity for those traveling to Ngorongoro from Serengeti, and will absolutely give you a great understanding about our descendants and how they lived!
Bird Watching in Ngorongoro Crater
The mixture of forest, canyons, grassland plains, Lakes and marshes provide habitats for a wide range of bird life. The wet months see the arrival of the Eurasian migrants at the pools. White storks, yellow wagtails and swallows mingle with the local inhabitants: stilts, saddle-bill storks, ibis, ruff and various species of duck. Lesser flamingos fly in to feed from their breeding grounds at Lake Natron. Distinctive grassland birds – ostrich, kori bustards and crowned cranes-abound. The rest of the NCA also has areas which will reward the keen birdwatcher.
Experience the “Masai Way of Life” in Ngorongoro Crater
Travelling to Ngorongoro crater without visiting a Maasai village is really an incomplete destination. The Maasai are semi-nomadic people who have lived in Kenya and Tanzania for a very long time. You can experience the Maasai way of life in their bomas (village-like communities). The Maasai are very welcoming, and are eager to share information about their customs, lifestyle, and traditions. There are a variety of circuits that offer visits into these Maasai villages. If you want to observe their lifestyle in greater depth, you can get in touch with a local NGO or your travel agent to schedule a private village trip- this would be way less touristy, and will give you an insider view of the villages as well.
Visiting The Ngorongoro Crater
The crater is a stunning natural wonder of the world and sits right in the middle of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. The bottom of the crater is popular for incredible opportunities to see game; you could view some exceedingly rare animals (e.g. black rhino) as well as many different herds of animals.
Originally, The Ngorongoro Crater was volcanic and was formed approximately 20 million years ago as part of the Rift Valley. The rim of the crater is high, standing at 2220 m (1.4 miles) so take a jacket or sweater as it can get chilly! The steep walls at the side of the crater rise over 600 m from the floor and it is the most magical area in the conservation area certain to enthral every person who visits.
One needs to fly to Kilimanjaro International Airport at Moshi, situated at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro. From there one can get a charter flight, take a taxi or make use of the free shuttle service. The distance from Moshi to Arusha is about 55km.
The road from Arusha to Lodoare Entrance Gate is 160km long. As of recently, the entire journey is on tarmac and it takes about two hours. Unless you stay on the main roads, which are graveled, a 4×4 vehicle is essential when entering the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and the Serengeti National Park.
Within the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, with the exception of Simba near the NCAA headquarters, the campsites are all classified as “special campsites”. This means that they are for exclusive use, and generally have no facilities. Usually they are designed for self-sufficient safari operations which bring everything with them. Most are large sites, but a few of them, e.g. on the rim of Empakaai Crater, are designed for small numbers of back- packers. Camping generally is not allowed in the Crater itself. Book campsites through the NCAA headquarters office or in Arusha-Ngorongoro Information Center. There are luxury lodges situated within and outside the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.
Ngorongoro Crater Lodge the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge is located in Northern Tanzania. The Lodge is within the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, high on the south-western rim of Ngorongoro Crater, commanding views of this natural wonder that often moves onlookers to respectful wonder. The Ngorongoro Crater Lodge is located about 4.5 hours’ drive from Arusha. Most of this drive is on a tarmac road, so smooth and comfortable.
The colonial-style interiors combine silver, gold and ruby colours under banana-leaf ceilings and grass roofs. Antiques, desirable cushions, voluptuous raw silk curtains and tall, leather-backed chairs complete the picture. This design blends with African art elements in unexpected harmony. They each have a central living area and viewing surfaces overlooking the awesome Ngorongoro Crater. Ancient African nights are evoked by the large fire bowls that flank the entrance to each of the living and dining areas.
The Crater Lodge can provide some of the best game viewing drives into the crater and Ngorongoro Conservation Area that East Africa can offer. Bush walks around the lodge are also available, as well as excursions to Olduvai Gorge. For those that want to take some “time out” from the rigors of a game drive you are invited to use the Library and indoor board games. Other facilities include a central dining area/lounge, a craft and curio shop and a kart for ferrying luggage/guests to the camps.
The main activities that guests enjoy vary from guided walking safaris which follow dramatic routes around the rim of the crater, to visiting a Maasai cultural village. In the village, guests are free to browse through the local handicrafts or watch Maasai dancing. You can also visit the beautiful lakes Ndutu and Eyasi, and the impressive Empakaai Crater, or enjoy cool sundowners with exceptional views as well as arrange private bush breakfasts and lunches. All these are an optional extra.
Ngorongoro Wildlife lodge
Ngorongoro Wildlife Lodge is strategically perched on the rim of this ‘Garden of Eden’, affording unbelievable views plunging down over the crater floor, 7,500 feet above sea level. The Lodge is elegantly built mainly from natural stone and local wood, harmoniously merging with its natural surroundings, and it is provided with panoramic windows that encompass superb views of the Crater’s great bowl. From its privileged position, all the Lodge’s 80 rooms afford breathtaking uninterrupted views, and the open–air terrace of the Rhino Lounge Bar offers superb panoramic views of the whole Crater. Ngorongoro Wildlife Lodge invites you to an unforgettable safari experience from its privileged location, both for game viewing and scenery. Exquisitely decorated, offering a serene atmosphere of elegancy, the modern rooms are all ensuite, with central heating systems and mosquito netting over the air vents. The 80 rooms include twin rooms, double rooms (with one double bed), one Presidential suite and three Junior suites. There are also interconnecting rooms, specially designed for families. The Presidential suite has been host to world renowned personalities who have enjoyed the magical experience of wildlife from the top location that Ngorongoro Wildlife Lodge enjoys, being the first Lodge built on the Ngorongoro Crater. Wake–up calls can be made on request.
The panoramic restaurant, in its serene decoration made of rock and wood elements, elegantly featuring the safari atmosphere, perfectly combines the international high standards of hospitality and service with exquisite exotic touches of local lifestyle. Our professional chefs, for whom cuisine is an art, make the delights of the most demanding gourmets both in international as well as local recipes. The stunning Rhino Lounge Bar affords from its wide terrace breathtaking views over the volcanic Ngorongoro Crater, the world’s largest unbroken caldera. It is the ideal place to enjoy the vast and clear African sky with a delicious cocktail, indulging your sense. A professional nurse is available in the Lodge for medical assistance. The endless services of the Lodge include full housekeeping services, such as laundry and babysitting (on request), as well as communication facilities like telephone and radio. There is a currency exchange service, and major credit cards are accepted.
Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge
Commonly selected one of the best hotels in the world, this exclusive lodge in Tanzania sticks to the rim of the wonderful Ngorongoro Crater, the largest and most faultless volcanic crater on Earth. Nestling the curves of the jagged Crater rim, this luxury safari lodge takes its stimulation from the so-called ‘Cradle of Mankind’, the primitive site of Olduvai Gorge, which lies close by. Connected by high stone passages and timbered decks, its walls are ornamented with stylized ancient cave paintings and lit by widening torches. Decorated with cave paintings, the rooms are strung around the Crater rim. Each has its own pillar- enclosed balcony, and all enjoy fully continuous views of the volcanic far below. The location, the service and the luxury accommodation make Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge the decisive destination for a distinctive safari experience in Tanzania. The luxury Ngorongoro accommodation features nerve lamps, printed leather headboards, wildwood mirrors, Maasai carvings and stylized ancient cave paintings. Each room enjoys continuous views over the Crater’s unmatched splendor. Standard room facilities include direct dial telephone and Wi-Laundry, valet and shoeshine services, mineral water and toiletries, bathrobe and slippers.
The Kimba Suite enjoys a perfect view of the crater and is one of the most desirable accommodation choices in Tanzania. The expansive bedroom is luxuriously appointed with a king-sized double bed with walk-in mosquito net, splendid furnishings. The split-level rock-built dining and bar area features a wall of windows, which look down on to the continuously changing views of the crater below while double doors lead out on to a broad viewing terrace.
In typical safari style, the lodge offers a ‘full English Breakfast’ as well as European options while our lunch menus which usually include meat, poultry, fish and vegetarian options. The table d’hôte dinner menus feature a salad buffet, soup, entrée, pudding, cheese and biscuits and tea or coffee. Vegetarian options are always offered. The majority of our meat and dairy products, as well as our fruits and vegetables are sourced from the communities that surround the conservation area. The lodge also offers a wide range of soft drinks including an array of freshly-made local fruit juices.
Ngorongoro sopa lodge is facing the always wonderful sunsets to the west, and located at the highest point on Ngorongoro crater’s entire rim, Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge outlooks well over half a kilometre above the crater floor and offers matchless views across this massive caldera. The lodge is themed around traditionally circular African houses with conical roofs, and decorated with examples of Africa’s rich textile of artistic traditions by way of rich woodcarvings and sculptures, the lodge harmonizes perfectly with its dramatic surroundings. But the drama does not just stop with the great outdoors: it also flows through the split level interiors of the main building which all offer an unsurpassed generosity of space while somehow managing to combine an almost magically welcoming ambience of both warmth and cosiness.
The imposing reception, combined with the supreme welcome service, are just but an indication of the lodge’s perfect settings and lunar service that await our guests. The furniture and attractive columns bearing decorated characters, which spread the reception, derived comprehensively from Tanzania’s rich wildlife and tribal cultures while the preserved plants are a recap of the lodge’s lush natural surroundings. All this is set against a contextual of plentiful light and lavish tones of browns, reds and orange that create a logic of easy warmth and relaxation. The outstanding and imaginative Lobby & Lounge will welcome you in true Tanzanian hospitality and keep you fascinated with its collection of unique busts, and original furnishings and décor pieces.
When you step through your door, you will possibly hold your breath while you gaze over the two queen size beds, and through the window walling of the lower level, enclosed conservatory at the view of the crater beyond. And the luxury doesn’t stop there. Because of its height, the lodge can be chilly at night so each room has central heating, hot water bottles are placed in every bed during our evening turndown service and the luxuriously chosen bathrooms have tremendously spacious showers under which you can evoke about the marvels of this overwhelming, almost mystically place called Ngorongoro. All rooms are equipped with facilities to ensure supreme comfort during your stay at the lodge. Among these are wake up calls and complimentary coffee and tea, all of which will aid to kick start an early morning game drive.
The Lemala Hill restaurant offers a delicate culinary experience with a mixture of continental and local cuisine to cater for all palates. The restaurant is attentively fitted with ceiling to floor glass walls that offer guests panoramic views of the crater as they enjoy an expansive buffet breakfast selection, lunch or dinner.
The Crater View Bar is engrossed in the décor, which is heavily subjective by rich earthy browns, African artifacts and illustrations of Maasai warriors that have been skillfully carved onto the towering pillars. The bar’s gallant yet hospitable charm delivers a mixture of the lodge’s persistent afro theme and its natural surroundings.
Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge offers an excellent wedding and honeymoon destination. Guests eyeing to celebrate weddings and honeymoons at our lodge are inferior for choice with exceptional locations where they can memorialize their special day. Depending on the guests’ liking, events can be staged at the passionate vantage point at the edge of the crater rim with a backdrop of the pool, in the wild bush, or in the intimate indoors.
Ngorongoro Rhino lodge, Rhino is the first lodge after entering the Ngorongoro Conservation Area through the Loduare Gate when coming from the East. From the lodge it is only 20 minutes to reach the Seneto descent road into the Crater, and the Lerai ascent road is less than 5 minutes’ drive away. The lodge has 24 guest rooms, all with verandah superintending a section of high montane forest. Each room has its own shower, toilet and hand basin. To keep away the cold, each room has a wood-burning stove, and hot water bottles can be filled if you want one. In the bar/dining-room there are two large fires which are a natural focus where our guests like to meet and exchange stories of the day. Hot, tasty food is available from the buffet. And after dinner our Maasai staff may entertain you with some traditional dancing
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