A journey to Ngorongoro Crater offers a unique and breathtaking safari experience in Africa. It is arguably the most noteworthy spectacle in Tanzania, renowned for being the largest unbroken caldera in the world. The Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a protected sanctuary with a wide variety of wildlife species including the Big Five in a beautiful landscape with a backdrop of the crater wall.
Ngorongoro Conservation Area is breathtakingly beautiful, with its scenic landscapes, grasslands, springs, and lakes. It features the Magadi salt lake – littered with flamingos, Ngoitokitok spring, which flows into a swamp inhabited by lions, elephants, and hippos. The conservation area also features the scenic Olmoti and Empakaai craters as well. The Lerai forest on the crater floor is another highlight, a stunning and distinctive yellow fever tree forest.
If you’re interested in seeing the “Big Five” in Tanzania, this is a great place to see them. The caldera created a natural enclosure, where you can spot the wildlife species such as lion, hippo, lion, hyena, and elephants. Wildlife viewing in the crater is amazing. The crater is said to have the highest density of lions in Africa.
You’ll see the major animals in the crater except giraffes, which are present in the conservation area. Most elephants in the crater have big tusks, and you’ll also see spotted hyenas and big cats in abundance. Black rhinos are also found in a healthy population, and you can find the bat-eared foxes, cheetah, jackal, flamingo, Grant’s’ zebra and Thomson’s gazelle, as well as a variety of species of bird. Crocodiles and impalas are absent while the East African wild dog and African leopard are not often seen.
Game drives are the primary activity around the crater; however, there are picnic spots around the conservation area. Getting out of your safari vehicle is limited inside the crater. You are free to engage in activities in the wider Ngorongoro Conservation Area, where you can trek, walk, visit the Masai village and go for an excursion to Olduvai Gorge.
Olduvai Gorge is one of the places you can visit during your safari journey. The site is an important prehistoric location in the world, where researches have been carried out to understand human evolution. The earliest known human genus species, Homo habilis and Paranthropus boisei- the early Hominidae were discovered in this steeply-sided ravine area.
The Empakaai Crater is a 90-minute drive away. It is smaller than the Ngorongoro Crater but enchanting in its way. Half of its caldera is covered by a deep soda lake, where thousands of flamingos mingle, and creating an extraordinary pink tinge.
Wildlife viewing in the crater is excellent all through the year. A pleasant time to visit the crater is during the low season, between April and May when there are very few crowds.
The high season has crowds of visitors, from July to March, and the crater floor is always busy with safari vehicle activities. During the dry season – from June to October, you can easily spot the wildlife species because the grasses are shorter.
During the wet season – from November to May, the scenery is green and beautiful; you will have the opportunity to see a variety of birds including the migratory birds. There is a high concentration of flamingos in Lake Magadi located at the center of the Crater due to the high water level. Every season in Ngorongoro is a safari season.
There are several places to stay in the conservation area. You’ll find some luxurious lodges with modern amenities such as Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, which is located on the crater rim. Serena and Sopa hotels are also located in the conservation area and they feature modern comforts as well as magnificent views of the Ngorongoro Crater.
There is a small bustling town called Karatu, located about 20 km from the conservation area. The town offers several comfortable and intimate accommodation with easy access to the crater.