The Ngorongoro Crater was created when a large volcano erupted and collapsed in on itself around two to three million years ago. The crater covers 260 square kilometres and is 610 metres deep, creating a microcosmic environment for an abundance of vegetation and wildlife, as well as the Maasai people, all of which call the crater home.
Today, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA) has UNESCO World Heritage Status and the region is unique in that it’s the only conservation area in the country to protect wildlife while allowing human habitation. The Maasai people have lived here for the past few hundred years, the latest in a long line of traditional pastoralist tribes which have inhabited the crater.
The world’s largest unbroken caldera, the crater holds a global significance due to the concentrated biodiversity and density of globally threatened species.
Once you’ve taken in the epic views from the crater rim and descended to the crater floor, you’ll see wildebeest and zebra, grazing gazelles, as well as pods of hippos bathing in the waters of Lake Magadi, among countless other species.
Predators include spotted hyenas, lions and both black and golden-backed jackals. With so many herbivores and carnivores living in close proximity, it’s likely that you’ll see some hunting interactions during a game drive.
Another big attraction is the opportunity to see one of the 30 critically endangered black rhino which live in the crater. They can sometimes be seen between Lemala Road and the Lerei Forest.
You’ll also encounter some of the 40,000 Maasai people who live around the crater, as they go about their day herding cattle or selling handicrafts along the roads. Many children come to the roads to interact with tourists, but be mindful not to encourage this behaviour, as it turns the children into a tourist attraction and discourages them from attending school.
A genuine Garden of Eden filled with a fertile pool of life, the Ngorongoro Crater is a must-visit for any trip to Tanzania and a humbling experience for even the most seasoned of safari enthusiasts.
Best times to visit Ngorongoro Crater
The spectacular lush scenery made available by the rains between November and May provide verdant views of the lush caldera, especially from the crater’s rim. The low season in April and May means fewer tourists and better rates. These are some of the wettest months, though rains are often just short downpours in the afternoons and may not interfere too much with your trip. The dry season (June to October) shrinks the water sources and the foliage peels back, making wildlife spotting much easier. However, this period is the most popular with tourists, so it can be busy.