Ngorongoro Conservation Area

Called the eighth wonder of the world and stretching across some 8,300 sq km, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area boasts a blend of landscapes, wildlife, people and archaeology that is unsurpassed in Africa. The volcanoes, grasslands, waterfalls and mountain forests are home to an abundance of animals and to the Maasai.

The Ngorongoro Crater, feeling in many ways akin to Conan-Doyle’s Lost World (minus the dinosaurs), is a huge draw for visitors embarking on a Safari on the Northern Circuit, and virtually all safaris of three days or more will incorporate it. It is an amazing place to visit not only because of its magical setting, but also because the steep walls and favourable conditions ensure that it serves as a natural sanctuary for some of Africa’s densest populations of large mammals.

Ngorongoro Crater is now the world’s largest intact volcanic caldera and was formed by the collapse of one of Africa’s volcanic giants. This is believed by some to have been a volcano so high that it is possible that it would have overshadowed Mount Kilimanjaro – if it had not blown up instead, covering the Serengeti in ash and collapsing to the crater floor, which now covers 260 sq kms.

On a game drive into the centre of the crater you will encounter some of the 30,000 resident animals over areas as diverse as swampland, open savannah, grassland, forest and lake; all of this within the steep rock walls that climb some 600m to the rim. It is not unusual to sight a dozen different species within the first couple of hours.

Herds of elephants graze the Lerai Forest of yellow fever trees and adjoining Gorigor Swamp; hippos inhabit the swamps and Ngoitokitok Springs; wildebeest and buffalo feed on the open grasslands in their thousands, and hundreds of flamingos live around Lake Magadi, much to the delight of the many hundreds of scavenging hyenas. Even Africa’s extremely rare black rhino has found refuge within the crater’s walls, and is best spotted very first thing in the morning.

The Ngorongoro Crater also boasts the highest concentration of predators in Africa. One hundred black-maned lions, skittish cheetah and leopards stalk the crater floor to chose from thousands of potential victims.

To add to this surreal environment of wild harmony, Maasai tribesman – easily visible in their traditional scarlet robes –can sometimes be spotted guiding their cattle down the steep crater walls.

Olduvai Gorge (or Wongo Valley) lies to the north west of the crater, en route to the Serengeti. While the lecturers who deliver their vague spiels on palaeontology and comparative anatomy from the shelter overlooking the gorge, should not be regarded as scientists, are a couple of decades behind the consensus of secular scientific opinion, and are ill-equipped to answer any questions that challenge their assertions that they are apparently hoping will be received by blind faith, Olduvai Gorge was once believed by many macro-Evolutionists to be the site of some of Africa’s most important fossil finds relating to what they once believed were their primitive ancestors. Apparently, none of the local staff at the visitors’ centre are aware that Zinjanthropus Boisei is nowadays classified as belonging to the genus Australopithecus (latin for ‘southern apes’), which genus even the most traditionalist of informed Darwinists nowadays acknowledge was not an ancestor of modern man. (As a point of local protocol however, the centre’s staff remain very proud of ‘Nutcracker Man’s’ and would probably be mortified to learn that their supposed ancestor was merely an ape. Most visitors therefore merely listen politely and go away somewhat bemused, to continue with their incomparable game viewing).

Lake Ndutu is situated to the west of the crater and straddles the boundary between southern Serengeti and north western Ngorongoro Conservation Area. When full the Lake is used by the Maasai to water their cattle. Lake Ndutu offers excellent game encounters from December to April, and those aiming to enjoy a lodge safari within this time are strongly advised to book early so as to give us the best chances of securing accommodation at one of the very few available lodges there.

Gol Mountains: these isolated and ecologically fragile mountains have pink granite cliffs and are divided by a grassy pass (Angata Kiti) through which we drive if visiting Nasera Rock and Irkarian Gorge. This area is barren and dusty; however the soil is very fertile and with just a little rain the grass grows. This grass attracts huge herds of animals during the migration.

While the Ngorongoro Crater Highlands, stretching from Mount Oldean – just above our bush camp beside Lake Eyasi – all the way through Ngorongoro Crater, Olmoti and Empakaai Craters, to the escarpment overlooking the slopes of Oldonyo Lengai, is situated within the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, we have chosen to summarise this area separately, as we use this feature for walking safaris with the Maasai as opposed to game viewing. Please see here for further information.