Ngorongoro Conservation Area
- Size: 8,292 sq Kms
- Geographical Location: west of Arusha Town.
- Distance from Arusha: 200 Kms
Set in northern Tanzania, sharing part of the Serengeti plains to the north-west and the towns of Arusha and Moshi, and Mount Kilimanjaro, to the east, Ngorongoro forms park for the unique Serengeti ecosystem.
The Ngorongoro conservation area was established in 1959 in a pioneering experiment in multiple land use where pastoralism, conservation, and tourism could co-exist. It was subsequently awarded World Heritage Site and International Biosphere Reserve status.
The park is home to the famous volcanic Ngorongoro crater which is the largest unbroken caldera in the world. The crater (610 meters deep and 260 km squared) is a microcosm of East African scenery and game and is usually visited on the way back from the Serengeti to Arusha. Scenic grandeur and stunning views are the hallmark of this wonder of the world. All the lodges are built high on the crater rim and afford amazing views over and into the crater - the perfect setting for a well deserved sundowner
Lake Magadi –the shallow lake at the floor of the crater.
Lerai Forest -is the yellow-barked acacia forest seen south-west of the Crater. A picnic site is located in the forest
Gorigor Swamp –rising from Nkoitokitok springs, the vast Gorigor swamp is home to many water birds, where hippos lounge in the deeper parts and the grazing animals come to drink.
Oldonyo Lengai –located just outside the NCA to the North-East near Lake Natron, this volcano, whose Maasai name means ‘Mountain of God’ has had a major influence on the development of the area. Its ash had blown westwards onto the plains and helped sharing the landscape and ecology. It is the only active volcano in the area, having erupted in 1966, 1983 and 2008.
Olmoti and Embakaai Craters –noted for their beauty and solitude although smaller than the Ngorongoro Crater. The Olmoti Crater is 3,700 meters but the crater itself is shallow. The grassy caldera is home to Eland, Bushbuck, and sometimes Buffalo along with the Maasai and their livestock. Water flows across the crater to the south side where it pours out through a cleft in a small but spectacular waterfall known as Munge Stream. The 300 meter deep, 6 kilometer wide Embakaai Crater is dominated by the very deep soda lake which occupies nearly half the floor.
Gol Mountains –the remote and ecologically fragile Gol Mountains with their pink granite cliffs are divided by the grassy pass of Angata kiti
Archeologists will be interested in Olduvai Gorge which is in the Conservation Area and where it is possible to see the famous discoveries of remains of early Man by Mary and Louis Leakey. However most of the activity is within the crater which is popular for bird watching, photography, walking safaris, and game viewing from a vehicle (4 wheel drive).
There are 25,000 larger animals within the crater itself, mostly Zebra, wildebeest, Black Rhinoceros, Lions, Cheetah, and Leopards. Only bull Elephants descend regularly to the Crater floor.
The Maasai arrived here about 200 years ago and have since colonized the area in substantial numbers, their traditional way of life allowing them to live in harmony with the wildlife and the environment. Today there are some 42,000 Maasai pastoralists living in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area with the cattle, donkeys, goats and sheep.
The Maasai are allowed to take their animals into the Crater tor water and grazing, but not allowed to live or cultivate there. They are however allowed to road freely everywhere else in the NCA.
Where to stay/Accommodations
There are a number of lodges and camps to stay at on the rim of the Crater. Lodges includes -Ngorongoro Wildlife Lodge, Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge, Ngorongoro crater Lodge and Ngorongoro Serena. Lake Ndutu Safari Lodge is on the Serengeti plains
Outside the crater are many other facilities e.g. Gibbs Farm, Then Manor House, Kifaru Lodge, Bougainvillea Lodge etc. there are many other guest houses in the town of Karatu midway between Lake Manyara and the Ngorongoro
This is not allowed in the crater itself; however there are some designated campsites on request