Ngorongoro Conservation Area
The spectacular scenery of Ngorongoro is well deserving of the UNESCO World Heritage status it carries, and it doesn’t disappoint on the wildlife front either. The attraction is two-fold, you can view the crater from above, from here the wildlife looks like thousands of tiny ants, criss-crossing the landscape then, as you venture down into the crater, you are in the thick of it. It’s a Big 5 area too, with the endangered black rhino making an appearance.
The Ngorongoro crater is the largest volcanic caldera in the world, at 20km wide and 600 metres deep and while you will see other vehicles on your safari here, with guaranteed wildlife viewing it’s well worth a visit. The varied landscape incorporating grassland, forest, swaps and lakes attracts many different animals and birds. When the flamingos appear at Lake Magadi it’s a spectacular site, blushing and pink – a splash of colour in the landscape. There is nowhere quite like the Ngorongoro crater, and it fits perfectly into a northern circuit safari.
Things to do in Ngorongoro
- Game Drives in the crater– this is what the area is all about, it is rich in wildlife and the best way to cover a large area is by vehicle. All day game drives are the way forward here.
- Picnic Lunch – enjoy a delicious picnic lunch down on the crater floor as part of your safari experience.
- Birding – the birdlife here is prolific. Kori bustard, crowned cranes and flamingos are all found here.
- Wildlife watching – this is Big 5 country with black rhino, leopard and majestic black-maned lions roaming the landscape.
- Visit Olduvai Gorge – where Mary Leakey discovered an ape-like skull believed to be 1.8 million years old, an important archaeological discovery.
- Laetoli footprints – also of anthropological importance are the ancient footprints left by human ancestors 3.6 million years ago. Though covered to preserve them, you can visit the site and also the Olduvai Gorge Museum which has casts of the prints and related artifacts.
- Combine it with a trip to the Serengeti and Tarangire – Ngorongoro works perfectly as part of a northern circuit safari and is easily accessible from Arusha.
When to visit Ngorongoro
Wildlife viewing at the crater is excellent all year round but if you want the ultimate best time to go then opt for the dry season from June to September, early mornings are cold, so wrap up and wear layers. November to May is the rainy season. March and April sees the most rainfall, and the fewest visitors. This is an excellent time for birding due as many migratory species will be present.
Excellent Good Fair
JUNE TO OCTOBER
- This is the dry season when wildlife viewing is at its best
- Vegetation is sparse making wildlife easier to spot
- Animals are drawn to water sources
- There are fewer mosquitos at this time of year
- Early mornings and evenings can be cold
- In peak season the Ngorongoro crater will be crowded
NOVEMBER TO MAY
- Vegetation is lush and green, perfect for photography
- The Ngorongoro crater has excellent wildlife viewing all year round
- It’s at its quietest in April and May, so fewer crowds
- There may be some good rates on offer for accommodation
- Birding is excellent at this time of year
- March to May sees the heaviest rainfall
- Early mornings and nights are cold, you will need layers to stay warm
Where to stay in Ngorongoro
Availability and budget will be key to choosing your accommodation. There are some lodges set on the crater rim, but these are luxurious with a pricetag to match. The nearby town of Karatu has some good, affordable options though you do travel for about an hour before reaching the crater.