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Ngorongoro Conservation Area

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Lion Cubs in Ngorongoro Conservation AreaNgorongoro Conservation Area was established in 1959, most of it having previously belonged to the now contiguous Serengeti National Park. And, surprisingly, the Ngorongoro Crater is only one of many natural attractions that are contained within its vast boundaries (8,300 sq km). These include both dormant and active volcanoes, soaring mountains, archeological treasures, rolling plains, rivers, forests, lakes and shifting sand dunes whilst almost half of the NCA is made up of vast tracts of open grassland, which swing in a vast arc stretching from the Serengeti in the northwest through the Gol Mountains to the Salei Plain in the northeast.

Close to the center of the NCA is Olduvai Gorge, the ‘Cradle of Mankind’, where the remains of our earliest ancestors, the hominids, were found. To the west lie the alkaline lakes of Ndutu and Masek, to the south Lake Eyasi and to the north the shimmering waters for alkaline Lake Natron. The Crater Highlands consist of an elevated range of volcanoes, craters and collapsed volcanoes (calderas) that rise from the side of the Great Rift Valley. Its peaks include Oldeani (3216m), Lemagurut 93107m0, Olmoti (3100m), Loolmalasin (3648m), Empakaai (3262m) and the still active Oldoinyo Lengai (2878m), as well as the Ngorongoro Crater (2200m0.

The Ngorongoro Crater

Lions feeding on Zebra in Ngorongoro Conservation AreaAs recently as 2.5 million years ago the young Ngorongoro Volcano became filled with molten rock that subsequently solidified into a crust or roof.

As the lava chamber emptied, the solid dome collapsed and thus was formed the largest perfect caldera in the world (almost 20km wide).

Often referred to as -the eighth wonder of the world- the Ngorongoro Crater is one of Africa's best-known wildlife arenas.

A World Heritage Site, it is also one of the largest volcanic craters in the world almost 20 km wide, 610-760m deep and covering a total area of 264 sq km).

Explanations as to how it derived its name vary; some say it commemorates an especially valiant Jackal - Ngorongoro Conservation Areagroup of Datoga warriors who defeated their Maasai enemies in a pitched battle on the crater floor some 150 years go whilst others believe it relates to a long-forgotten Maasai age- set. Most evocative is the suggestion that it refers to an old Maasai warrior, named Ngorongoro, who lived in the crater and made cowbells for his beloved herds of wandering cattle. An utterly unique biosphere, the Crater harbors grasslands, swamps, forests, saltpans, a fresh water lake and a glorious variety of bird life, all enclosed within its towering walls.

Due to its high concentration of wildlife, close-range viewing opportunities and striking scenery it is also Tanzania's most visited destination. Quite apart from the ‘big five’ 9lion, elephant, rhino, leopard and buffalo), all of whom can often be spotted in a morning, the Crater also hosts up to 25,000 large mammals. Most are grazers, of which zebra and wildebeest comprise almost half, the rest being gazelle, buffalo, eland, hartebeest and warthog. As a result of these extraordinarily large numbers of herbivores, the crater also numbers one of the densest predator populations in Africa, most of which are lion and spotted hyena. Finally, the crater supports a large elephant population, most of which are bulls due to the relative paucity of food for the breeding herds, whilst certain animals such as giraffe, topi and impala, are notable by their absence.

The Climate

Only two seasons exist, wet and dry. From November to May is the wet season when virtually all the annual rain falls whilst the dry season extends from June to October.


The landscape of Ngorongoro Conservation Area reflects the combined effects of intense earth movement, violent volcanic activity and aeons of erosion. Essentially, however, it is composed of two separate rifts covered by a layer of molten rock that spewed from the vents of volcanoes ancient and modern.

The People

There are approximately 120 tribal groups in Tanzania, most of which are so small that one hundred tribes combined would only account for one-third of the total population. As a result, no tribe dominates either politically or culturally. About 95% of Tanzanians are of Bantu origin, the largest tribes being the Sukuma (approximately 13% of the population), the Nyamwezi, Makonde, Haya and Chagga. The Maasai and several smaller groups, including the Arusha and Samburu, are of Nilotic origin. There is also a small but economically significant Asian and Arabic population. According to the most recent census, Tanzania is one of the least-urbanised countries in sub-Saharan Africa, urban dwellers making up only 11.5% of all mainland Tanzanians.

The Maasai Tribe

Easily the most memorable human feature of the Ngorongoro Crater are the fabled Maasai whose brushwood Manyattas sprinkle its slopes, proud warriors patrol its rim and patient lines of cattle graze its floor. Often strikingly tall and slender, swathed in brilliant red cloth ‘Shukas’, hung about with beads and metal jewellery, the young men (Moran) favor long, plaited, ochre-daubed hairstyle and have a formidable reputation for glamour, prowess and ferocity. Traditionally the Maasai live off the milk and blood of their beloved cattle and believe that all the world’s cattle are theirs by God-given right.

Their nomadic and pastoral lifestyle , though historically based on the pursuit of migratory wildlife, is slowly changing thanks to a combination of education , favorable new new laws , projects , jobs and income. After deep reflection on my people and culture, I have painfully come to accept that the Maasai must change to protect themselves, if not their culture. They must adapt to the realities of the modern world for the sake of their own survival. It is better to meet an enemy out in the open and to be prepared for him than for him to come upon you at home unawares.


The coast is always hot with an average daytime temperature of 27- 31 degrees centigrade whilst the average daytime temperature in Nairobi is 21- 26 degrees centigrade. Temperature elsewhere depend on altitude. July to August marks the Kenyan winter. Broadly speaking January – February is dry. March –May is wet. June- September is dry. October – December is wet.

When To Visit

The Ngorongoro Crater can be visited at any time of year. The gates leading down to the crater floor open at 7am and close at 4pm, all vehicles must be out of the crater area before 6pm.

Ngorongoro Conservation Area Accommodation

Ngorongoro Wildlife Lodge | Ngorongoro Serena Lodge | Gibbs Farm | Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge | Ndutu Safari Lodge | Suyan Camp |

Feedback From Clients

Michelle Kimberley

Just got back last night - what a trip! Kenya versus Botswana.... It is a hard question to answer and something I have been thinking about a lot over the past 2 weeks. Botswana is very different - I like that there are less people and that you are on a private concession. But, on the other hand, it seems like you really need to visit at least 3 camps to really see everything. I think for someone like me, Botswana is really a great place to go - since I know I will go again and experience the other camps. But for people who are going only once in a lifetime, then I think I am inclined to suggest Kenya - you see it all at once and stay at one camp. I am so glad you convinced me to go to Botswana though - it really was a wonderful experience. I d...

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