Every Safari in Northern Tanzania should preferably include a visit to the awe-inspiring Ngorongoro Crater. It is one of the world’s most spectacular natural nature sites and an excellent opportunity to meet the Maasai community.
The volcanic crater forms stunning landscapes for some of Africa’s most fertile and lush pasture lands. Ngorongoro crater is undoubtedly the most prominent crater and the largest intact volcanic Caldera globally, averaging 600-meter in depth.
Almost three million years old, the ancient Caldera provides habitat to one of the most spectacular wildlife havens on Earth.
Some scenes from the Oscar-winning film ‘Out of Africa’ were filmed on location. In addition to its first-rate game viewing, the crater provides proximity to the Olduvai Canyon, the “Cradle of Civilization,” where paleoanthropologists discovered many early human fossils.
Fascinating Information About Ngorongoro Crater
- It’s one of the salient unblemished Caldera on the Earth. Caldera- “cauldron-like,” a depression that occurs when a volcano discharges massive quantities of magma. Later on, the volcano caves into a sinkhole. The Ngorongoro is exceptional because it is the largest utterly undamaged Caldera in the world that hasn’t converted to a lake yet.
- For the first time, seeing a black rhino sounds kind of like you’re walking through Jurassic Park. These animals look as though they’re from a distant age with two big horns and a hooked upper lip. The rhinos were nearing the verge of extinction at the crater. Efforts have been made to restore the crater, and now their numbers have rebounded. It’s the ideal location to tick off the big five from your list.
- From December to March, the Great Wildebeest Migration (the massive migration of ungulates on the continent) passes right through the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, precisely Lake Ndutu. This astronomical exodus is a spectacle to see, with over 2 million wildebeests, zebra, and gazelles. Wouldn’t miss it.
- The forests are teeming with a vast array of wildlife, ensuring that your visits here are memorable. There are about 30,000 species, but some species (e.g., giraffe and impala) are not present due to difficulty navigating the crater rim’s cliffs and limited conditions for grazing.
- In 1979, as part of the broader Ngorongoro Protected Area, which includes two other craters, Ngorongoro Crater officially became a UNESCO World Heritage Site and listed among the natural wonders Africa.
Ngorongoro Crater Attractions
Lerai Fever Tree Forest
Lerai offers sanctuary to various wildlife such as; bushbuck, elephant, rhino, hyrax, eland and hundreds of bird species are inhabited. The forest comprises tall, slender acacias trees creating a wonderland of glades.
The leaves of the trees are black rhinoceros’ choice nourishment. Still, the old forest is tardily regenerating due to elephant destruction that cut off whole trees rather than only grazing.
Gorigor swamps offer habitat to hippopotamus and aquatic birds and are a preferred watering spot during the dry season for most of the animals.
Olduvai Gorge and Laetoli
Lake Ndutu and Lake Masek are both on a migratory trail in the Rift Valley not far from the Olduvai Gorge. The early humans began the transition into civilization, creating the earliest tools and establishing the first human settlements.
In Laetoli, our genetic ancestors’ hominid footprints and close relatives are engraved in a 3.7 million-year-old volcanic rock. Further excavations by paleoanthropologists led to the discovery of various types of hominids. The Zinjathropus mostly referred to as the ‘Nutcracker’ and the Homo-habilis. There is a guided tour of the Olduvai museum and have a first-hand look at humankind’s evolutionary progress.
The primordial Gol Mountains in the northeastern region offer a surrealistic natural landscape. With rugged, pink cliffed hills, they are enclosed by the Angata Kiti route.
It’ also an annual corridor for the Great Migration, as thousands of wildebeests and zebras pass through it foraging for the lush plains of the Serengeti and Ndutu.
The volcanic ashes from Ol Dionyo have created Shifting Sands, a black dune that stretches to around a hundred meters in length and nine meters in height. The dune ingeniously shifts steadily through the plains at a pace of 15 meters annually.
The sand is magnetized because if you collect a handful of it in your fist and throw it in the air, it will recollect and fall back into the dunes rather than being blown away. The dunes are considered sacred by the local Maasai, who make sacrifices to appease the gods in cases of prolonged droughts.
Empakaai and Olmoti Crater
There are infinite options to rivet in your Ngorongoro safari. You could take guided treks to two other craters in the vicinity.
Olmoti Crater is grassy, shallow, and lovely place where Maasai herd alongside eland, bushbuck, reedbuck, and occasionally a buffalo.
Whist hiking within the Ngorongoro crater isn’t possible. Olmoti, on the other hand, has wonderful hiking grounds and provides hikers with awe-inspiring views.
The Empakaai Crater is the second-largest crater in Ngorongoro and spans around six kilometers wide. At its core is the Lake Empakai, a deep and alkaline lake, and offers profound panoramic views of the distant Uhuru peak, the great rift valley, and Ol Doinyo Lengai volcano from the rim of the crater.
The Lake draws its name from the Swahili word ‘Magadi’ loosely translated to soda. The lakes itself is an alkaline lake and offers a habitat to the long-legged and pink-hued flamingoes, which come to feed on the blue-green algae that flourish in the Lake.
During the dry season, the Lake shrinks significantly and leaves dense crystalline salts, which the jackals, hyenas, and other species lick to feed.
Lake Natron and Ol Doinyo Lengai
The Ol Doinyo Lengai draws its naming from the Maasai dialect, which can be translated as the “Mountain of God.” The Maasai believe that ‘Engai’ their creator, inhabits the mountain and triggers volcanic eruptions whenever shes disgruntled.
To the Maasai community living within its environs, the Ol Doinyo Legai is viewed as a sacred site, and they have to pay homage by making long pilgrimage journeys to the mountain to thank her for her blessings.
Since its discovery by the German explorers, the mountain has attracted audacious tourists. They ascend the lava-encircled paths to stare down into the main crater get hit by sulfur gases, and occasionally, lava spurts from smaller cones.
The crater movie “Tomb Raiders II”, but Evelyne Pradel and Chris Hug-Fleck have more extensively documented and popularized it.
Lake Natrón is supplied by heated mineral springs so heavily polluted by the Ol Doinyo Lengai volcanic ash. The Lake itself shines like a gem, occasionally green and blue, often blooming red with cyanobacteria and algae.
The Lake offers the perfect breeding for the flamingos from August to October, and also, the Spirulina algae provide the flamingos with nourishment.
Watch the video below to see more.
Lake Eyasi located near Ngorongoro, is now home to the East African Hadzabe Bushmen, who live entirely in the wild.
They communicate by clicks and whistles.
The agricultural and pastoral tribes of Mbulu and Datoga, who were forced away centuries ago from lands now dominated by the Maasai, have now relocated there.
The bamboo-covered Oldeani Mountain feeds a river that supports the Léra Forest on southwestern Ngorongoro craters.
Simultaneously, the Eyasi Season is a lodge for archeological and culture related safaris in Eastern Africa.
Ol Karien Gorge and Salei Plains
Located on the eastern side of the Gol Mountains, the plains offer a serene and tranquil environment.
It’s also the ideal location where birders can catch the Ruppells Griffin vultures because of the nests the vulture lays here. The also plains offer impressive panoramic views of the smoking and rumbling Ol Donyo Lengai Mountain.
When Should You Visit?
Since the wildlife is mostly in the crater throughout the year, there is no favorable or unfavorable time. However, as the crater is crowded with automobiles, visiting it during the low season can be more relaxing.
Higher levels of water are also responsible for higher numbers of flamingos in Lake Magadi. You’re bound to have unforgettable safari events any time you visit Ngorongoro.
Activities To be Engaged at During Your Visit At The Ngorongoro Crater
In the Ngorongoro crater, the activities are limited mainly to wildlife viewing, but you will find a few picnic spots within the park. While in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, you can indulge in a diverse array of activities like hiking, backpacking, or visiting the Olduvai Gorge.
Final Thoughts On Ngorongoro Crater
Its believed that this massive Caldera had it not erupted; it would have the highest peak in Africa shadowing the Mt. Kilimanjaro. With the abundance of pasture fields, the crater attracted a diverse variety of ungulates and led the growth of various predators. Thus Ngorongoro ensures that adventure is always lurking.
Brace yourself for stunning views and exceptional wildlife viewing opportunities. There are a many accommodation options on offer for bush tours.