People and nature in symbiosis
Measuring 8,300 square kilometres, it is also the only place on earth where mankind and wild animals co-exist in harmony. The Ngorongoro Conservation Area became a “Man and Biosphere Reserve” in 1971 and was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1979. The archaeological and palaeontological site located at Olduvai Gorge and the early human foot-prints that were discovered at Alaitole in Ngarusi area make Ngorongoro Conservation Area
The Ngorongoro Conservation Area aims for the historic balance of people and nature in a way which has not been possible in many parts of the world. At stake is the rich biodiversity and ecology of the Serengeti Plains and The Ngorongoro Highlands, the major palaeontological and archaeological sites and important water catchment areas. Tourism is a vital element in raising revenue and has been encouraged and developed with a respect for culture and without damaging the environment. Man and his ancestors have lived in the Ngorongoro ecosystem for more than three million years. By careful research and continuing management, the fragile balance between man and nature will be successfully maintained.
The Main Crater
Had it not become the world’s sixth-largest unbroken caldera, then what is now known as the Ngorongoro crater could have been a towering volcanic mountain, as high as Kilimanjaro. The crater is the flagship tourism feature for the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. It is a large, unbroken, unflooded caldera, formed when a giant volcano exploded and collapsed some three million years ago. The Ngorongoro crater sinks to a depth of 610 metres, with a base area covering 260 square kilometres. The height of the original volcano must have ranged between 4,500 to 5,800 metres high. Apart from the main caldera, Ngorongoro also has two other volcanic craters: Olmoti and Empakai, the former famous for its stunning waterfalls, and the latter holding a deep lake and lush, green walls. On the leeward of the Ngorongoro highlands protrudes the iconic Oldonyo Lengai, an active volcano and Tanzania’s third highest peak after Kilimanjaro and Meru. Known to local people as the Mountain of God, Mount Lengai’s last major eruption occurred in 2007. At the mountain’s foot is Lake Natron, East Africa’s major breeding ground for flamingoes.
When is the best time to visit?
Since the wildlife mainly stays in the crater all year around, it is always a good time to visit the crater. However, during the absolute peak season it gets quite crowded with vehicles so it might be more pleasant to visit the crater in the low season.
Decending into the crater is a magical experience and whenever you decide to visit it will give you an excellent safari experience.
The season for Lake Ndutu is from late December up to late March early April- the migration covers the entire area during this period and offers excellent and game drive in a wild area.
What is there to do?
In the crater itself you can only do game driving; besides the couple of picknick sites you are not allowed to step out of the vehicle. Game viewing is excellent in the crater all year round and the chance of seeing the big five is fairly high.
If you visit the wider Ngorongoro highlands there are several activities you can engage in such as walking safaris and meeting local tribes such as the Maasai or visiting the Olduvai Gorge.
In Lake Ndutu the main activity is game viewing; however, Lake Ndutu allows both off-road driving and picknicks in the absolute wild surrounded by wilderbeest, zebras and gazelles. If you are visiting in February you might see the spectacular calving; more than 8000 wildebeest are born daily in this amazing place!
How about accomodation?
There are mainly two options that need to be considered when choosing accomodation here; weither or not to stay on the crater rim with a phenomenal view of the crater or a bit further in the Ngorongoro Highlands. If you decide to stay on the crater rim there are a few alternatives with Ngorongoro Crater Lodge being the absolute best (it does however cost thereafter) but Serena Lodge, Sopa Lodge and Wildlife Lodge are all great affordable options offering the spectacular view although they are a bit simpler than the Crater Lodge.
A bit away from the actually rim is Rhino Lodge that is a great option for those wanting to stay in the area but don’t want to spend too much.
You can also stay in the nearby village of Karatu there are plenty of great options; Ngorongoro Farm House, Tloma Lodge; Kitela Lodge are all fantastic places run by Tanganyika Wilderness Camps. There is also the very affordable Bougainvillea Safari Lodge and the little sister Country Lodge situated fairly close to the gate…and more!
Lake Ndutu and Ngorongoro Highlands
If you are planning to visit Ngorongoro Higlands the best place to stay is in the village Karatu. Here you will have many options of accomodation ranging from high end to budget and you are positioned in the middle of all activities available here; go biking in Manyara, visiting coffee palntations, hiking, going on cultural tours, walking safaris with Maasai in Ngorongoro, visit Oldonio Lengai, Lake Natron and Olduvai Gorge etc.
If you are visiting Lake Ndutu there are several options; some camps are situated inside the Serengeti like Tanganyika Wilderness Camps Ndutu Kati Kati. The camp is beautiful but not ideal if you are doing more than one day game drive in the Ndutu area (Ngorongoro) since the authorities have implemented single entry park fees. If you are spending several nights in the area then Ndutu Safari Lodge is our absolute favourite. Other good camps in the area are Tingitana Camps, Ndutu Wilderness Camp and on the higher end Ang’ata Camps, Lemala Camps and TWC’s better situated but more expensive option Ndutu Under Canvas. And not to forget Lake Masek Tented Camp, another amazing camp by TWC.
Some inspirational pics from Ngorongoro