Located in the northern part of Tanzania; East Africa’s largest country and one of the famous tourist destinations in the World, the Ngorongoro conservation area is a rewarding destination to visitors globally. It sprawls through an estimate of 8,300sqkms of land, covering part of the Great Rift Valley, with plenty of habitats and stunning landscape, counting savanna woodlands, grassland plains, swamps, volcanic craters, lakes, rivers, forests, and mountains among others.
Ngorongoro conservation area is subdivided into four sectors with wide range of biodiversity, flora and fauna and unmatched attractions; the northern plains, eastern highland, Ngorongoro crater and the southern highland.
The crater ranks as one of the largest unbroken calderas in the world and the destination’s prime attraction, besides the mammals, primates and rare bird species. Also there are major archaeological sites of the ancient Laetolil and Olduvai Gorge in the same location of the conservation area, discovered roughly 3.4 and 2.2 million years ago respectively.
Ngorongoro is a world heritage site, situated 180km west of Arusha, Tanzania; managed by the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority.
Reports suggest that the name Ngorongoro came from the Masai pastoralists who picked it from the cowbell sound “Ngoro Ngoro”; The Maasai; known as cattle nomads displaced the Mbulu and Datooga who occupied the place, both hunters and gatherers in 1800s. In 1892, Ngorongoro crater received her first European visitors; Adolph and Friedrich siedentopf, German brothers who settled in the area and did farming until the start of World War 1, upon chartering the land to the management of German East Africa; these two brothers often held shooting parties for their Germany friends and attempted to displace the wildebeests out of the crater.
The first game conservation order was declared in 1921, bringing an end to game hunting around the crater rim. Forward to 1959, the Ngorongoro crater ordinance was declared, leading to the separation of Ngorongoro from Serengeti national park and relocation of the Maasai people and their livestock to the crater after displacement from the park. These stayed at the rim up to 1979, when the area became a world heritage site, under the management of Ngorongoro conservation authority under the Game park laws. The 2009 wildlife conservation act restricted the Masai people, apparently living outside the crater area from accessing the area for their pastoral activities and farming.
The conservation area comprises of 8 extinct volcanoes around the Eyasi half graben, in all directions; the northern direction has Serengeti plains, Olduvai Gorge, Salei plains, inselbergs, and the gol mountains inselbergs. The eastern border is decorated with Gregory rift western escarpment; southwestern has Lake Eyasi escarpment among others. Oljoro Nyuki and Munge rivers feed the caldera, whereas Ngoitokitok hot spring feeds Goringop swamp.
Ngorongoro crater is an asylum of Africa’s big 5 mammals (lions, buffaloes, leopards, rhinoceros and elephants); the largest concentration of ungulate herds, namely zebras, gazelles, and wildebeests globally. Also, there are over 400 recorded bird species with the famous ones being silver-cheeked hornbill, Tacazze sunbirds, flamingoes, superb starlings, and flamingoes among others.
Best time to Visit Ngorongoro conservation area
Depending on your travel schedule and interest, the gates of Ngorongoro conservation area are open all year round, with tourist activities such as game drive, photography and top of the Rim hike, nature walk and birding among others available.
However, the dry season is the best time to have a safari to Ngorongoro crater; (June to September, December to March). During this period, a chance of spotting the mammals, birds, primates and birds is high especially during the annual wildebeest migration, and as they roam in the gigantic plains in search of pasture and water.
Wet season (April to May and November) is cost-friendly but comes with low chances of sighting the primates, mammals and birds and also the impassable roads / tracks filled with mud.
ATTRACTIONS IN NGORONGORO CRATER
The Volcanic caldera
The unbroken caldera is the prime tourist attraction within the conservation area and the world’s largest caldera. It was formed after the explosion of the large volcano roughly three million years ago; sprawls through 260 sq.km of land and stands at 4500mtrs above sea level.
The floor covers 1800mtrs and was declared as one of the seven natural wonders of Africa by the seven natural wonders. Ngoitokitok spring; located in the eastern wall is the major water supply to the crater, with a picnic site and swamp inhabited by hippos, lions and elephants among others.
Ngorongoro crater is home to a variety of wildlife, including lush flora, prey and predators, different bird species, primates, lakes, swamps, undulating hills and rivers among others.
The crater harbors over 25,000 large mammals, dominated by Ungulates namely wildebeests, gazelles and zebras; Africa’s big 5 namely the cape buffaloes, lions, rhinoceros, elephants, leopards, hippos and crocodiles in the nearby swamps, over 5000 rare bird species including the flamingoes, superb sterling and many more.
The Olduvai Gorge
Seating in the plains of Ngorongoro crater, the famous Olduvai Gorge is known to be where the specimen of the first human was discovered, as well as Hominide is so interesting. It is the driest region in the area, very vital for history and research.
The beauty of the Ngorongoro conservation crater is undisputed and very eye-catching. Throughout the different plains, the lakes, rivers, mountains and rolling hills provoke the spirit of photography and unstoppable smiles from cheek to cheek.
Residing right along the boundaries of the crater, Masai people and culture is an exciting experience not to miss out while in Tanzania. They take visitors through exciting stories and dances; showcase their traditional manyattas and local tools. They have a village walk, local cuisine and care for visitors.
Accommodation in Ngorongoro conservation area.
Camps, campsites and lodges are available in and around the park, ranging from budget to luxury at a pocket-friendly cost, but booking has to be done several months in advance because the demand is high, especially during the peak season.
The Ngorongoro crater is one of the main attractions not only in Tanzania but worldwide. It has a variety of attractions ranging from flora to fauna and very accessible by both air and road. Some of the nearby destinations include Serengeti national park, Tarangire and Arusha which makes it very easy to combine safari and exceed your safari expectations.