The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is situated some 118 miles west of Arusha, between Lake Manyara and Serengeti National Parks. Covering approximately 3,200 square miles, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area consists of the Ngorongoro Crater itself, the Olduvai Gorge, the Empakai crater and the Oldonyo Lengai Mountain. The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is a pioneering experiment in multi-purpose land use where the diverse interests of wild animals, plants and people are being integrated. Wild animals are protected as in the National parks. The craters of Ngorongoro and Empakai are reserved exclusively for wildlife, while the rest of the Conservation Area is shared by wildlife, people and livestock.
Ngorongoro was once a gigantic volcano, perhaps taller than Kilimanjaro. Today, its peak collapsed into a caldera, it is an extensive highland area with the spectacular 600m deep crater as its focal point. Apart from being one of Africa’s scenic wonders, and having approachable wildlife that it’s sometimes derogatorily labeled a ‘zoo’, Ngorongoro has diverse habitats and micro-climates. The rim is at an altitude of 7,500 feet, so be prepared for cool temperatures and clouds that roll over the rim like a waterfall in slow motion.
About 2.5 million years ago the young Ngorongoro Volcano became filled with molten rock that subsequently solidified into a crust or roof. As lava chamber emptied, the solid domed collapsed and thus was formed the largest perfect caldera in the world that has its wall intact (12 miles wide, 610-760 deep and covering 102 sq miles). The Ngorongoro Crater is a UNESCO protected “World Heritage Site” and one of Africa’s best- known wildlife arenas. The sight of the Ngorongoro Crater is simply stunning. “There is nothing with which to compare. It is one of the wonders of the world…” once wrote Professor Bernard Grzimek. An utterly unique International biosphere reserve, the crater harbors grasslands, swamps, forests, saltpans, a fresh water lake and glorious variety of birdlife, all enclosed within its towering walls. In addition to the Big Five the crater hosts up to 30,000 large mammals. Most are grazers, of which wildebeest and zebra comprise almost half, the rest warthog, gazelle, eland, kongoni etc. As a result of these extraordinarily large numbers of herbivores, the crater also numbers one of the densest predators’ populations in Africa, most of which are lion, cheetah and hyena.
And if the mix of big game and birdlife hasn’t made you giggle yet, head to the freshwater pools in the crater where you’ll see a range of a cranes and ducks, including migratory garganey and European shoveller, squeezed in among the abundant hippos.