Ngorongoro Conservation Area
Location: Northern Circle
The Ngorongoro Conservation Area can be visited at any time of the year. Unlike the plains, where the number of animals is determined by the availability of food and water, the crater is plentiful throughout the year, as food and water are always available.
From December to May (depending on rainfall), over a million wildebeests and thousands of zebras and gazelles migrate south to calve in the plain around Ndutu.
The road from Arusha to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area is good and paved. Another frequent entry point is from the Serengeti National Park on a gravel road through the Naabi Hill Gate. It is also possible to reach the Ngorongoro Conservation Area by charter plane via runway at the crater rim.
115 mammal species have been recorded in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. The two main areas for game viewing, apart from the crater, are the short grass plains west of the Gol Mountains, northwest of the Ngorongoro Crater and the surroundings of Lake Ndutu near the border with Serengeti National Park.The two areas become feeding and breeding grounds for over 2 million animals during the rainy season.
Carnivores in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area include lions, cheetahs, hyenas, leopards, jackals and the endangered wild hunting dogs.
There are over 550 recorded bird species in the Conservation Area, some of which are resident and others migratory birds. Lake Magadi, a salt lake on the floor of the crater, is often inhabited by thousands of flamingos and other water birds. These birds can also be observed around Lake Ndutu and in the Empakaai Crater Lake.
The forests of the Ngorongoro area are also rich with birds, including turaco and hornbill species. Birds of prey such as the hawk and the marsh harrier are common in the plains of the Conservation Area.
The Ngorongoro Crater is the only unbroken caldera on Earth and part of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. The crater is one of the seven Natural Wonders of Africa and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Unlike other national parks in Tanzania, people can also be found there. The Maasai are an integral part of the Ngorongoro ecosystem and live peacefully alongside the more than 25,000 large animals, including the Big 5.
The Ngorongoro Crater is considered one of the most popular destinations in Africa and is referred to as the heart of the Northern safari. Since the crater is surrounded by volcanic high walls, several lakes, and fertile soil, the animals find the crater as their permanent home. Although only a few small animals can migrate in and out of the crater, there is a chance of seeing more than 20,000 animals.
The Empakaai Crater is not as famous as the Ngorongoro Crater, but many travelers visit it for its beauty. The Empakaai crater has a diameter of about 8 km and a beautiful, round lake occupies almost half of the crater floor. The lake attracts flamingos and other water birds and is surrounded by steep, forested cliffs that are at least 300 m high.
Visitors to the Empakaai Crater can walk to the rim to enjoy the scenery or hike down into the crater accompanied by a park ranger. A trail leads through the mountain forest, which is home to birds and monkeys.
The Olduvai Gorge is the most famous archaeological site in East Africa, stretching for 50 km and up to 90 m deep. Bones of hominids belonging to the Homo lineage have been excavated in the gorge, as have hundreds of other fossilized bones and stone tools that are millions of years old, leading paleontologists to conclude that humans evolved in Africa. The most fa-mous fossil is the 1.8-million-year-old skull Zinjanthropus boisei which was discovered in 1959.
Olduvai Gorge Museum
At the edge of the Olduvai Gorge is a museum displaying numerous fossils and stone tools of human ancestors, as well as skeletons of many extinct animals excavated in the gorge. A guided tour of the gorge can be booked at the museum.
In addition to the beautiful scenery, archaeological wealth and abundant wildlife, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area is also blessed with a proud people - the Maasai - a pastoral tribe that maintains its traditional culture to this day. About 100,000 Maasai live in the Conservation Area and care for their cattle without harming the wildlife.
Along the tourist roads, touristically organized Maasai villages, so-called "cultural villages", can be visited and original Maasai handicrafts can be bought.