Ngorongoro Conservation Area: An Awesome Adventure In Tanzania

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What Is The Ngorongoro Crater?

The Ngorongoro Crater is located in Northern Tanzania, near the Eastern Great Rift Valley. This African crater sits within the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, a protected region that includes the southern Serengeti’s short-grass plains and the Ngorongoro Highlands. The Ngorongoro Crater is one of Africa's most unique natural wonders and a world-famous safari destination, boasting a remarkable concentration of animals living in diverse habitats.

This incredible landmark is the largest unbroken caldera in the world. A caldera is a specific kind of crater, one that is formed when a volcano collapses in on itself. Ngorongoro is the largest crater in Africa – and the world! This African crater is believed to be between two and three million years old. Apart from being the largest intact caldera on Earth, the Ngorongoro Crater is also a natural sanctuary for the largest mammals in Africa. The enclosed nature of this crater has effectively formed its own ecosystem. Almost 30,000 large mammals live inside this extinct volcano!

Discovering The Animals Of Ngorongoro Crater

When you first look down into Ngorongoro Crater from its rim, the area looks empty. But as you start to wind your way down the road into this crater in Africa, you can begin to see just how many animals live on the crater floor. Here is a short list of the animals you will find on a safari to Ngorongoro Crater.

  • Black rhinos
  • African golden cats
  • African wild dogs (or painted dogs)
  • Lions
  • Bush elephants
  • Spotted hyenas
  • Serval and caracal cats
  • Bat-eared foxes
  • Cheetahs
  • Leopards
  • African buffaloes
  • Wildebeests
  • Zebras
  • Gazelles
  • Hartebeests
  • Bushbucks
  • Elands
  • Waterbucks
  • Monkeys
  • Hippos

Certain animals on this list live in this African crater all year round, while other species migrate in and out of the crater with the seasons. For example, half of the crater’s zebras and a small portion of the wildebeest population leave the crater during the rainy season. However, eland and buffalo migrate into the crater from the surrounding Ngorongoro Conservation Area during this time.

When Is The Best Time To Visit Ngorongoro Crater?

The question of when to visit this African crater depends on two things: 1) do you want to optimize your game viewing experience and 2) how many people (and vehicles) are you comfortable sharing the crater with? Most people visit Ngorongoro Crater during the dry season, which runs from June to October. During the dry season, the temperatures are cooler and wildlife watching is spectacular because there is less vegetation to hide the animals. However, this is also peak safari season, when throngs of tourists from all over the world come to Tanzania to see wildlife!

Tanzania’s two rainy seasons run from April to May and November to December. During this time, the temperatures are warm and the roads around the Ngorongoro Crater can get muddy. But fewer tourists brave the rains, making it a good time to visit if you are up for an adventure. It is also an incredible experience for visitors to watch Tanzania’s rains transform this crater in Africa into a wonderfully lush, emerald Garden of Eden.

Five Fun Facts About The Ngorongoro Crater

Unlike many wild places in Tanzania, the Ngorongoro Crater is not located within a national park. Instead, it is located within the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, where members of the Maasai tribe live with their domestic animals and the native wildlife. The Ngorongoro Conservation Area spans vast expanses of highland plains, savanna, savanna woodlands, and forests. Of course, it also includes the spectacular Ngorongoro Crater, the largest crater in Africa as well as the world.

Here are five fun facts about this spectacular natural feature:

  • The word “Ngorongoro” is an onomatopoeic word used by the Maasai people to describe the sound of the bells that hand around the necks of lead cows in a herd. The bell makes an echoing sound, similar to “ngor ngor.” This led to the crater being named Ngorongoro.
  • Ngorongoro has several different ecosystems, including the steep and forested crater wall; the alkaline and seasonal Lake Magadi; the Mandusi and Gorigor Swamps; the Hippo Pool; the Lerai Forest; and extensive grasslands populated with large numbers of lions, elands, wildebeests, plains zebras, black rhinos, and spotted hyenas.
  • Giraffes live in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, but not in the crater itself. Most parks in Tanzania have large herds of all the major animals, so it is interesting to note that giraffes are absent from this African crater. Most people speculate that giraffes haven’t made it into the crater ecosystem because the walls are too steep for them to descend.
  • However, the Ngorongoro Crater is home to the world’s highest density of lions. In fact, your chances of spotting lions on a safari to this crater in Africa are the highest of anywhere in the world! Even nearby Serengeti National Park cannot boast the same number of lions as Ngorongoro Crater.
  • More than 550 species of birds live in Ngorongoro Crater. The area is home to many species of raptors, as well as flamingoes, swans, storks, pelicans, geese, plovers, teal, pheasants, lapwings, sparrows, larks, cranes, and rails. Even migrant bird species such as kestrels and wheatears visit the crater between September and April.

Epic Adventure Awaits: Exploring the Crater Floor

Are you interested in planning a trip to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area to see the Ngorongoro Crater? If so, you’re in good company! Each year, a third of all tourists visiting Tanzania make their way to this African crater. This means that more than 450,000 people visit Ngorongoro each year. The Ngorongoro Crater is one of the top attractions in Tanzania, perhaps even more so than Mount Kilimanjaro, Serengeti National Park, or the beaches of Zanzibar. What are you waiting for? Make sure you are number 451,000 today

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