Ngorongoro Crater is a Tanzanian must-see. Situated within the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, a vast park of spectacular beauty, this caldera or collapsed volcano has created a mini game reserve with many habitats in a very small area. This provides a home to an incredibly diverse range of birds and animals including the Big Five in a concentrated space.

Highlights
  • Diverse scenery and spectacular bird- and wildlife
  • Abundant wildlife concentrated within a small area
  • Densest population of Maasai Lion in the crater
  • Great opportunities to meet and interact with local Maasai
  • Spectacular accommodation both on the rim of the crater and in the area
  • Walking safaris, mountain biking and trekking in the area

Spanning just over 8,000 km², the Ngorongoro Conservation Area includes the spectacular Ngorongoro Crater, the Olduvai Gorge, vast highland plains, forests and mountains stretching to Serengeti in the northwest. It is known for its beautiful scenery, archaeological and geological significance and concentrated wildlife, especially within the crater.

The area is unique in that it is a conservation area which allows human habitation. The local Maasai tribe still live on subsistence farming within the area. This also means that the area is not only a wonderful place to see the animals of Africa but also to get to know its people.

The Ngorongoro Crater is a caldera, or collapsed volcano, with walls 610 m high and a floor covering 260 km². Within this small area is a diverse range of habitats; montane forest on the rain-facing wall and grassland on the drier west wall. The floor is a vast grassland with a couple of acacia forests, the salt-lake Lake Makat, and Ngoitokitok Spring, which creates a swam in the east of the crater. The diversity of the habitat provides home to an incredibly wide range of animals and birds.

Southeast of the Ngorongoro Crater lies the Karatu area, in the highlands. It's a lush area with many coffee plantations and a variety of wonderful places to stay, a little away from the crater itself.

Animals of Ngorongoro

Within the Ngorongoro Crater, there is an incredible abundance of wildlife, including all of The Big Five. Hippo, zebra, crocodile, a wide range of antelope, leopard, cheetah and lion all live here. It's estimated that about 25,000 big animals live within this natural enclosure. The salt lake in the crater is home to hundreds of beautiful pink flamingo and over 500 species of bird live in the area, making this a birdwatcher's paradise.

Things to see and do in Ngorongoro

  • Game drives within the crater
  • Hiking, trekking and safari walks within the Ngorongoro Conservation Area
  • Meet the Maasai and learn about their culture and traditions
  • Hike to Oldoinyo Lengai, an active volcano known as the Mountain of the God
  • See Empakaai Crater, the lesser-known, smaller sister of Ngorongoro Crater
  • Mountain biking

When to visit Ngorongoro

The wildlife living in the crater itself is there all year, so from an animal viewing point of view, it's good all year. Due to its size, the area may get crowded during peak tourist seasons which are the dry season from July to September and the baby season after the first rains between December and February. March and April are generally the wettest seasons and heavy rains can make some roads unpassable.

Getting there

By car - Ngorongoro is about 185 km from Arusha by road. The trip can take between two and four hours.

By air - There are daily flights from Arusha to Lake Manyara Airstrip. From there, it is a scenic 1½ hour trip to the crater. Arusha is served by two airports; Arusha Airport has daily flights from numerous local destinations and Kilimanjaro International Airport has daily flights from local, African and international airlines.

Ngorongoro Rhino Lodge
Rhino Lodge - Ngorongoro Crater - Tanzania

Situated a few hundred metres from the southern rim of the spectacular Ngorongoro Crater, Rhino Lodge offers comfortable accommodation and friendly staff. While not on the rim of the crater itself, the lodge has beautiful surroundings and provides easy access to the road into the crater. Here, one can marvel at Ngorongoro's concentration of wildlife, including the Big Five, and breathtaking scenery.

Ngorongoro Farm House
Ngorongoro Farm House - Ngorongoro Karatu Region - Tanzania

With easy access to the spectacular scenery and abundant wildlife of Ngorongoro Crater, Ngorongoro Farm House has cottages spread out over beautiful gardens and a coffee plantation in the Karatu area. It's a working farm with an organic garden. Expect fresh, delicious food and the tantalising aroma of the farm's own coffee beans which are grown, picked, roasted, ground and enjoyed right there.

Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge
Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge - Ngorongoro Crater - Tanzania

Situated on the eastern side of the spectacular Ngorongoro Crater, the Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge offers comfortable accommodation with breathtaking views. Watching the sun set over the crater from your private balcony or the welcoming central lodge area is an experience not to be missed. With easy access to the road down to the crater floor and its concentration of wildlife, including the Big Five, this lodge is a great base at Ngorongoro Crater.

The Plantation Lodge
Plantation Lodge - Ngorongoro Crater Region - Tanzania

Set just 12 km from the entrance to Ngorongoro and with easy access to the spectacular scenery and abundant wildlife of Ngorongoro Crater, Plantation Lodge is the perfect spot to lay your head. With a range of different rooms set in a tranquil garden on a coffee plantation, it's hard not to relax here. Go game viewing in Ngorongoro, meet the local people, go for walks both in and around the Ngorongoro Conservation Area; the options are endless.

Lake Manyara National Park
Africa Travel Guide Lake Manyara National Park Tanzania Flamingo Game Drive

The spectacular alkaline Lake Manyara forms the centre point of this small and very beautiful park with surprisingly diverse fauna and flora. A circuit drive through the park passes through forest, wetlands, grassy plains and acacia forests, offering views of different animals and multitudes of birds. Elephant, hippo, giraffe, tree-climbing lion and baboon are just a few of the game that call Manyara home.

Empakaai Crater

On an Empakaai Crater hike, you can expect to see buffalo, hyena, blue monkeys and the occasional elephant.

Oldoinyo Lengai

Maasai for Mountain of the God, Oldoinyo Lengai is an active volcano which can be spotted on a hike into Empakaai Crater.

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Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge - Ngorongoro Crater - Tanzania
Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge

Situated on the eastern side of the spectacular Ngorongoro Crater, the Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge offers comfortable accommodation with breathtaking views. Watching the sun set over the crater from your private balcony or the welcoming central lodge area is an experience not to be missed. With easy access to the road down to the crater floor and its concentration of wildlife, including the Big Five, this lodge is a great base at Ngorongoro Crater.

Rhino Lodge - Ngorongoro Crater - Tanzania
Rhino Lodge

Situated a few hundred metres from the southern rim of the spectacular Ngorongoro Crater, Rhino Lodge offers comfortable accommodation and friendly staff. While not on the rim of the crater itself, the lodge has beautiful surroundings and provides easy access to the road into the crater. Here, one can marvel at Ngorongoro's concentration of wildlife, including the Big Five, and breathtaking scenery.

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