Ngorongoro Crater is set in northern Tanzania, sharing part of the Serengeti plains to the north-west and with the towns of Arusha and Moshi, and Mounta Kilimanjaro, to the east, and forms part of the unique Serengeti ecosystem.
A major ecological survey of the Serengeti Reserve (which at the time included the Ngorongoro) by Dr. Bernhard Grizmek and his late son in the 1950’s resulted in the establishment of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area in 1959. The oversight and management of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area was provided by the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority.
The Ngorongoro Conservation Area was a pioneering experiment in multiple land use where pastoralism, conservation and tourism could all co-exist under agreement. At the same time, the Serengeti National Park was enlarged and extended northwards towards Kenya border, where is border the Masai Mara National Reserve.
Ngorongoro aims to maintain the historic balance of people and nature in a way which has not been possible in parts of Africa. At stake are the rich biodiversity and ecology of the Serengeti Plains and Ngorongoro Highlands, the major paleontologist and archaeological sites and the vital water catchment areas.
Within all this, man and wildlife have to co-exist without harming or destroying each others habitats. Tourism is vital to provide revenue for the area, has been encouraged and developed, with a respect for culture, and without damaging. the environment.
Ngorongoro Crater provides an opportunity to learn about the African contribution to global culture and to understand, its values in today’s world, educational visits are encouraged.Man and his ancestors have lived in the Ngorongoro ecosystem for more than three million years.
Evidence of a regional hunter-gatherer culture dates back 17,000 years and it is clear that various tribes have migrated in and out of the area, just as they have done in relatively recent times. By careful management and continuing research, the fragile balance between man and nature is successfully maintained.
The Ngorongoro Crater: Safari and Wildlife Experience
Ngorongoro Crater, a deep volcanic crater is the jewel in Ngorongoro’s crown. It is the largest unflooded and unbroken caldera in the world. The Ngorongoro Crater is 19.2 kilometer in diameter, 610 meters deep and 304 square kilometers in area. The rich pasture and permanent water of the Ngorongoro Crater floor supports a large resident population of wildlife of up to 25000, predominantly grazing animals. These include wildebeest, Zebra, Gazelle, buffalo, eland, hartebeest and warthog.
The swamps and forest provide additional resources for hippo, elephant, water buck, reed buck, and bush buck, baboons and vervet monkeys. Bull elephants of the Ngorongoro Crater regularly descend to the Ngorongoro Crater floor. The large breeding herds wander throughout the forest rim where they find the most suitable food.
The steep inner slopes provide a habitat for dik dik and the rare mountain reed buck. Jackals thrive in the crater and bat eared foxes live in the short grass areas. Predatory animals in the Ngorongoro Crater like leopards, lion, cheetah, serval cat, live off the abundant wildlife; large packs of hyena roam the Ngorongoro crater, making their own kills and scavenging from others. Lions in particular are abundant in the Ngorongoro Crater. There are five main crater prides of between 10-20 animals each defending its own territory.
Cheetahs live in the Ngorongoro Crater but sometimes find it hard to defend their kills against the many lions so African Mecca guests may have a better chance of seeing these beautiful animals on the plains. Cheetahs are the fastest land animals and can achieve speeds of nearly 115 kilometers per hour. Leopards are found in the forests and along the Munge stream, but they are solitary creatures, secretive and able to be spotted by well trained guides.
Thanks to the anti poaching patrols, the black rhino in the Ngorongoro Crater are relatively safe and the numbers are increasing with time. Ngorongoro Crater is one of the few places in East Africa where visitors can be certain of seeing the rhino in its natural environment. Bird life in the Ngorongoro Crater is superb. The mixture of forest, canyons, grassland plains, lakes and marshes provided habitats for a wide range of bird life.
The wet months see the arrival of the Eurasian migrants at the open pools. White storks, yellow wagtails and swallows mingle with the local inhabitants: stilts, saddle bill storks, Ibis, ruff, and various species of duck. Lesser flamingoes fly in to feed from their breeding grounds at Lake Natron. Distinctive grassland birds – ostrich, kori bustards, and crowned cranes – abound.
The other parts of the Ngorongoro apart from the Ngorongoro Crater itself has areas which will reward the keen ornithologist. In conclusion, the Ngorongoro Crater is a dynamic and constantly changing ecosystem and the numbers of some of the animals increase and decrease with time.
Around Ngorongoro Crater: Laetoli and Olduvai Gorge
At Laetoli, west of Ngorongoro Crater, hominid footprints were preserved in volcanic rock 3.6 million years ago and represent some of the earliest signs of mankind in the world. Three separate tracks of a small-brained upright- walking early hominid, Australopithecus Afarensis, a creature about 1.2 to 1.4 meters high, were found. Imprints of these are displayed in the Olduvai museum.
More advanced descendants of Laetoli’s hominids were found further north, buried in the layers of the I00 metres deep Olduvai Gorge. Excavations, mainly by the archaeologists, Louis and Mary Leakey, yielded four different kinds of hominid, showing a gradual increase in brain size and in the complexity of their stone tools.
The first skull of Zinjanthropus commonly known as ‘Nutcracker Man’, who lived about 1.7 million years ago, were found here. The excavation sites have been preserved for the public viewing and word continues during the dry season, coordinated by the Tanzania governments department of antiquities.
The Ngorongoro Crater: Lake Magadi
Lake Magadi seen on the Ngorongoro Crater floor is alkaline, caused by deposits of volcanic ash. The depth, never more than 3 meters, varies during the year and during the dry season it shrinks dramatically. The lake edges are favorite stalking grounds for golden jackals, lions and hyenas.
The Ngorongoro Crater: Lerai Forest
Lerai in the language of the Maa, spoken by the Maasai, means tall yellow barked acacia trees that dominate the Lerai Forest in the south west of the Ngorongoro Crater. Eland, Elephant, vervet monkeys, bush buck, tree hyrax, francolin, saddle -billed stork, vulture, and eagle all co-exist here.
The Ngorongoro Crater: Gorigor Swamp
Rising from the Ngoitokitok Springs, the vast Gorigor swamp, is home to many water birds. Hippos also are seen in the deeper parts and grazing animals come to drink.
The Ngorongoro Crater: The Grassland
Much of the Ngorongoro Crater floor is made up of grassland and this supports a large number of plains animals and birds throughout the year, particularly hartebeest, buffalo, wildebeest, zebra, gazelle, warthog, kori bustard, blacksmith plover, crowned plover, cape rooks, crowned cranes and ostriches.
Around Ngorongoro Crater: Oldonyo Lengai
The Oldonyo Lengai located just outside the Ngorongoro Crater, to the north east near Lake Natron, this volcano, whose Maa name in the language of the Maasai means “Mountain Of God” has had a major influence on the development of the area.
Its ash has blown westwards onto the plains and helped shape the landscape and ecology. It is the only active volcano in the area, having erupted in 1966 and 1983.
Around Ngorongoro Crater: Olmoti Crater and Embakaai Crater
Olmoti Crater and Embakaai Crater are smaller than Ngorongoro Crater, both are noted for the beauty and solitude. The floors of both craters are easily accessible on foot but visitors are accompanied by our guides.
The rim on the Olmoti Crater is measured at 3700 meters but the crater itself is relatively shallow. The grassy caldera is home to eland, bush buck and sometimes buffalo along with the Maasai and their livestock. Water flows across the Olmoti 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-six kilometer wide Embakaai Crater is dominated by a very deep soda lake which occupies nearly half the floor. Waterbirds such as the black winged stilt, cape teal and flamingo inhabit its shores. Much of the 32 kilometer Embakaai Crater rim can be walked and provides spectacular views. Wildlife is often seen around the lake.
Around Ngorongoro Crater: Lake Natron
This extremely alkaline lake is a major source of food for the flamingoes. who thrive on the algae which grows there. Lake Natron, just outside the Ngorongoro to the north-east, is the largest breeding ground in East Africa for flamingoes.
Around Ngorongoro Crater: Gol Mountains (Oldonyo Gol Hills).
The remote and ecologically fragile Gol mountains, with their pink granite cliffs are divided by the grassy pass of Angata Kiti. In the rain shadow on the Ngorongoro highlands, this area is usually barren and dusty, yet it is exceptionally fertile and only a small amount of moisture produces mineral rich grass that attracts huge herds of animals during the migration.
Around Ngorongoro Crater: Nasera Rock
Nasera Rock is a granite monolith rising 80 meters above the plains and lies in the shadow of the Gol Mountains. During the wet season wildebeest romp across the green grass and baboons clamber up the steep sides of the rock. Klipspringers are resident on the rock and a wide variety of bird life is found in the trees near Nasera’s base.
Around Ngorongoro Crater: Olkarien Gorge
The Salei plains lead to Olkarien Gorge, a spectacular, narrow rocky cut at the eastern edge of the Gol Mountains, and the nesting site of the Ruppel’s griffon vulture.
Around Ngorongoro Crater: Northern Highland Forest Reserve
The Northern Highland Forest Reserve extends in a wide band along the outer, southern and eastern slopes of the Ngorongoro. It is a montane – not rain forest and is a vital source of water for the wildlife and people of the Ngorongoro, as well as the farmland to the south. The forest is home to elephants, buffalo, and the elusive leopard. along with plenty of bird life.
Around Ngorongoro Crater: The Shifting Sands
The Shifting Sands are black dune, composed of volcanic ash from Oldonyo Lengai, is being blown slowly westwards across the plains at the rate of about 100 meters every six years. Some nine meters high and 100 meters long in its curvature, it can be found to the north of Olduvai Gorge.
Around Ngorongoro Crater: Oldeani Mountain
Oldeani Mountain is located in the south-west of the Ngorongoro. This forest-clad ‘bamboo mountain’ is the source of the stream which tumbles into the Ngorongoro Crater and supports the Lerai Forest. It supplies Ngorongoro village and the nearby safari lodges with drinking water, while its western flanks feed water into Lake Eyasi.
Around Ngorongoro Crater: Lake Eyasi
Lake Eyasi borders the south-western fringe of the Ngorongoro. The salty, sometimes dry, Lake Eyasi is rimmed by the steep wall of the ancient Eyasi Rift.
Around Ngorongoro Crater: Acacia Woodlands
The north wall of the Ngorongoro Crater is covered by red thorn acacia, which is gradually taking over from the high montane forest in the east. Steinbok are resident here and you may also see elephant and giraffe, with the latter never venturing into the crater itself. In the South west of the Ngorongoro, between the treeless plains of the Serengeti and the escarpment near Lake Eyasi is a band of acacia woodland. Fed by the Kakesio, and other small rivers, this area supports giraffe and a range of migratory plains game animals.
Around Ngorongoro Crater: Serengeti Plains
The plains extend from the Serengeti National Park into the western portion of the Ngorongoro around the small Lake Ndutu and Lake Masek to the north of Olduvai Gorge. The plains play their part in the annual Wildebeest migration which sees many animals head out of the area in may, when the long rains arrive and northward into the Serengeti.
Around Ngorongoro Crater: Salei Plains
Over half of the Ngorongoro is made up of vast tracts of open grassland – dry and barren for most of the year, swinging in an arc from Serengeti in the north-west, through the Gol Mountains, to the Salei Plains in the north east. Stretching westwards from the highland and craters, the Salei plains are lower and drier than the Serengeti, remote, harsh and thinly populated by the Maasai. Only the hardiest and most drought tolerant animals stay on the dusty plains during the dry months but it comes alive in the rainy season.
Around Ngorongoro Crater: Engaruka
Engaruka is a mysterious ruined city at least 500 years old, located just outside the Ngorongoro at the foot of the eastern escarpment. The long abandoned site includes remnants of an advanced irrigation system, terraced stone houses and odd rubble filled platforms.