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Ngorongoro Conservation Area

"the largest unbroken and un-flooded caldera in the world"

Encompassing three spectacular volcanic craters, the Olduvai Gorge, huge expanses of savannah, forest and bush land, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area is the flagship of Tanzania's tourism industry.

The Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA), measuring 8,300 square kilometers, is also the only place on earth where mankind and wild animals coexist in harmony. The NCA became a Man and Biosphere Reserve in 1971 and was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1979.

Originally part of the Serengeti National Park when the latter was established by the British in 1951, in 1959 the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA) was formed, separating NCA from Serengeti. Land within the area is multi-use, providing protection status for wildlife while also permitting human habitation. Its uniqueness lays in the fact that the NCA is where man, livestock and wild animals live in peace: Maasai cattle can sometimes be seen grazing alongside zebras on Ngorongoro's grassland.

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Introduction

Had it not become the world's sixth-largest unbroken caldera, then what is now known as the Ngorongoro crater could have been a towering volcanic mountain, as high as Kilimanjaro.

The crater is the flagship tourism feature for the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. It is a large, unbroken, un-flooded caldera, formed when a giant volcano exploded and collapsed some three million years ago. The Ngorongoro crater sinks to a depth of 610 metres, with a base area covering 260 square kilometers. The height of the original volcano must have ranged between 4,500 to 5,800 metres high. Apart from the main caldera, Ngorongoro also has two other volcanic craters: Olmoti and Empakai, the former famous for its stunning waterfalls, and the latter holding a deep lake and lush, green walls.

On the leeward of the Ngorongoro highlands protrudes the iconic Oldonyo Lengai, an active volcano and Tanzania's third highest peak after Kilimanjaro and Meru . Known to local people as the Mountain of God, Mount Lengai's last major eruption occurred in 2007. At the mountain's foot is Lake Natron, East Africa's major breeding ground for flamingos.

The name Ngorongoro is derived from llkorongoro, a Maasai word given to the age group of Maasai warriors who defeated the previous occupants of the area, known as the Datong around the 1800s. The Datong had in turn taken them from their predecessors the Hadzabe (bushmen/hunter-gatherers). The name Ilkorongoro echoed sounds of the bells ‘koh-rohng-roh’ that the Maasai wore during the battle, and it is from this that the name Ngorongoro comes from. Furthermore the Maasai have also given names to the walls known as ‘entiak’ which defines as sheer drop, and the floor as ‘ramat’ meaning heath-land of the crater.

Locality, Size and Elevation

Locality

Ngorongoro Conservation Area lies about 190 km west of Arusha. It is located between S02o30' and S3o30', E34o50' and E35o55

Size

The conservation area occupies an area of 8288km2

Elevation

The altitude ranges from 960 metres to 3,648 m on Mt. Loolmalasin

Season

RAINY SEASON (NOVEMBER TO APRIL)

The short rains are from November to December and the long rains from February to April, the latter generally being considered the off season. However, the rainy season is a very exciting time of year as this is when animals congregate on the Short Grass Plains to have their young. Late February, early March is usually a good time to see the migration on the plains. In turn, this attracts large number of predators and results in spectacular interactions between predators and prey. Keep in mind that part of the Serengeti Plains fall within the NCA.

DRY SEASON (MAY TO OCTOBER)

The dry season holds its own beauty. In Africa the dry season is the best time for game viewing because the animals are concentrated along permanent water sources. Within the Crater game viewing is excellent during this time. However, keep in mind that the Short Grass Plains become completely devoid of game during this season. This is the best time of the year to visit Empakai and Ndutu, which has resident game that remains around the lake all year round.

Accommodation

Below are the various options we recommend for your stay in Ngorongoro Conservation Area

Enjoy animal encounters in your 4x4 safari vehicle and the spend your night camping in a light dome tent, with distant roars of lions and the laughs of hyenas, in designated campsites across the plains of northern Tanzania. A much closer to nature approach for the more adventurous and cost conscious travellers. A personal cook (who will accompany you in your vehicle) will freshly prepare all meals at your campsites.

Simba Campsite
Simba Campsite

A basic campsite on the edge of the Ngorongoro Crater. Nights can be cold and misty due to the altitude. Facilities here include covered cooking area, basic dining area, cold showers and toilets.

 

 

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Twiga Campsite
Twiga Campsite

A private campsite located at the most popular stopover point in the Northern Safari Circuit where there is the colourful market village of Mto wa Mbu, close to the entrance gate of Lake Manyara National Park along the foot of the Great Rift Valley Escarpment and a convenient stopover point from/to Ngorongoro crater

 

 

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Haven Nature Campsite
Haven Nature Campsite

A private campsite located at a quiet point North of Lake Manyara National Park along the foot of the Great Rift Valley Escarpment. A convenient stopover point from/to Ngorongoro crater as well as Lake Manyara

 

 

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Explore the Park in your 4x4 vehicle and reach budget lodges (usually outside of the National Parks) for your Dinner and overnights. A perfect choice for those on a tight budget who do not wish to sleep in a tent

Endoro Lodge
Endoro Lodge

Set amid the green foothills of the Highland Forest just outside of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, only a few kilometers from the Lodoale main gate. Eighteen spacious private chalets each feature grand canopy beds, a fireplace and modern bathroom complete with a emersion tub as well as both indoor and outdoor showers. Beautiful hardwood floors accent the warm wood tones of the locally crafted furniture while oversized windows let in cool breezes and warm light. 

 

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Bougainvillea Safari Lodge
Bougainvillea Safari Lodge

Just outside of Ngorongoro Conservation area in Karatu. Twenty-four cottages each fitted with mosquito-netted king or twin beds, a fireplace, large bathroom with shower and a veranda from which to enjoy the views of the tropical gardens. Triples are possible with prior notice and two of the cottages can be used as family suites, with connecting rooms. There is a large common area building housing reception, lounge, bar, gift shop and dining rooms. The swimming pool sits in the centre of the property surrounded by the cottages and gardens.

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Flamingo Safari Lodge
Flamingo Safari Lodge

Just outside of Ngorongoro Conservation area in Karatu. The lodge offers 15 Bandas housing 30 rooms. The lodge is built on a 5 acre land and offers a swimming pool, bar and restaurant. Rooms are available in singles, doulbes and tripples and all are en-suite with hot water provided by solar heating.

 

 


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Explore the Park in your 4x4 vehicle and reach mid-range (equivalent of 3*) properties for your Dinner and overnights. A perfect choice for those on a medium budget.

Ngorongoro Wildlife Lodge
Ngorongoro Wildlife Lodge

Ngorongoro Wildlife Lodge has 80 guest rooms, all of them with views over the crater. The modern rooms are all en suite, with central heating systems and mosquito netting over the air vents. 
The 80 rooms include twin rooms, double rooms (with one double bed), one Presidential suite and three Junior suites. There are also interconnecting rooms, specially designed for families. The first Lodge built on the Ngorongoro Crater.

 

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Ngorongoro Rhino Lodge
Ngorongoro Wildlife Lodge

Rhino Lodge is located on the edge of the Ngorongoro crater rim. The Lodge was originally the home of Ngorongoro’s first conservator, and its developers have maintained the house’s original rustic, low-impact style and natural setting. There are 24 rooms each with a verandha overlooking the high mountain forest. Each room is en-suite and has hot/cold running water. Additionally the rooms are equpped with a wood-burning stove and water bottles are also available.



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Explore the Park in your 4x4 vehicle and reach mid-high range (equivalent of 4*) properties for your Dinner and overnights. A perfect choice for those who want that added piece of luxury

Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge
Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge

Ngorongoro Sopa lodge is located on Lemala Hill on the uppermost, eastern rim of the Ngorongoro Crater. 91 double bedrooms are very spacious and each have two queen sized beds and a separate dressing area. Each room has a glass fronted verandah, where you may enjoy a private view of the Crater The lodge has 6 single rooms, all of which have a queen sized beds and glass fronted sliding doors

 

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Ndutu Safari Lodge
Ndutu Safari Lodge

Ndutu Safari Lodge is situated in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area in the southern Serengeti ecosystem. The Lodge nestles under giant acacias overlooking a soda lake, Lake Ndutu. The lodge is a good base from which to explore the range of habitats that lie within the area, including swamps, woodlands, soda lakes and the Serengeti short grass plains.
The lodge consists of 34 stone cottages that extend from the central, open-sided bar, lounge and dining room.
Each room has it’s own verandah that overlooks Lake Ndutu. All rooms have en-suite facilities. The cottages are made from local materials. Ten rooms have a double bed, and five are triple rooms. One family room is also available, which can accommodate up to 2 adults and 2 children. All other rooms have 2 single beds. All the rooms are single storey and are accessible with a wheel chair.

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Ngorongoro Farm House
Ngorongoro Farm House

A small and exclusive lodge facing the Oldeani Volcano, only 5 kilometers from the Ngorongoro Lolduare gate, built to offer an original experience reminiscent of the atmosphere of the old days. Ngorongoro Farm House offers 50 room cottages with ample space inside, built on the style of an old colonial farm and rustically decorated with local materials and full of details of good taste.

 

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Explore the Park in your 4x4 vehicle and reach high range (equivalent of 5*) properties for your Dinner and overnights. For maximum relaxation after a tough day on the roads of Arusha National Park

Ngorongoro Crater Lodge
Ngorongoro Crater Lodge

Set in classic crescents and inspired in design by the Maasai mud-and stick manyatta, there are three separate camps – North and South Camp each with 12 suites and Tree Camp with six suites. Each stilted
suite is sumptuously furnished with panelled walls and floors made of Tanzanian hardwoods, rich raw silk curtains, hand beaded chandeliers, gilt mirrors, a fireplace and a butler’s lobby. Ensuite bathroom with a centerpiece of red roses has twin hand basins, shower, chandelier lit bathtub and separate WC The suites all feature decks with magnificent
views of the Crater floor

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Exploreans Ngorongoro Lodge

Ngorongoro Crater LodgeSet in 50 acres of Tanzanian bush in the Ngorongoro volcanic landscape. The lodge offers 20 suites in Individual cottages with open fire places, a living room and a private viewing terrace with sofa and dining area. Facilities in the tents include a King Size canopy bed, butler on call, en-suite with spacious bathrooms, large shower, living room with furniture, in-room safe.



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Ngorongoro Serena Lodge
Ngorongoro Serena Lodge

On the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater. Long and low, the lodge is built from local river stone and camouflaged with indigenous vines. Designed to blend completely into the landscape, it is entirely invisible from the floor of the Crater 600 metres below. Strung around the Crater rim, each with its own rock-enclosed balcony, the rooms feature brass lamps, embossed leather headboards, wildwood mirrors, Maasai carvings and stylized prehistoric cave paintings. Each room enjoys uninterrupted views over the Crater's unmatched splendor.

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The Manor at Ngorongoro
The Manor at Ngorongoro

Adjacent to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area within the 1,500 acre Shangri-La Coffee estate, African hospitality fused with old world Afro-European architecture and décor. 20 luxurious cottages all with open fire places including a 3 bedroom family cottage

 

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Explore the Park in your 4x4 vehicle and reach semi permanent / permanent tented camps for your Dinner and overnight. An incomparable experience under canvas, with en-suites and even electricity at some camps. Truly a night to remember!

Intimate Places Ngorongoro Camp
Intimate Places Ngorongoro Camp

Each sleeping tent consists of a bedroom measuring 4 metres (13 feet) by 3 ½ metres (11 ½ feet), a dressing area measuring 4 metres (13 feet) by 1 metre (3 ½ feet) and a separate shower and toilet each measuring 2 metres (6 ½ feet) by 1 metre (3 ½ feet). The dressing area, shower and toilet are all “open air”. A cover made from ‘insect proof’ netting ensures that the bathroom and dressing room areas are a sealed unit with your sleeping area so as to keep out unwelcome visitors. Each tent is also provided with enough power for lighting as well as for charging mobile telephones, cameras and laptop computers.


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Kirurumu Under Canvas Ngorongoro
Kirurumu Ngorongoro

Kirurumu Ngorongoro camp is a mobile camp set on the eastern (Sopa) side of the caldera. The eastern rim affords the visitor much easier access to the crater than the western side and there are less camps and lodges here too. There are  7 double and twin customised safari tents. Each tent is fully and tastefully furnished with Comfortable, (twin or double) beds with 6” mattresses, pillows, blankets & sheets, Luggage rack, table, safari chairs, mats & soft furnishings in individual style, Solar lighting in both the bedroom and en-suite loo and shower room, Dining room with waiter service


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Masek Under Canvas
Masek Under Canvas

Nestling between the prime wildlife areas of central and southern Serengeti. The area is witness of the Great Migration from December to March. This luxurious tented camp enables guests to be within reach of the Great Migration and to explore remote, beautiful corners of the Serengeti with excellent resident game. This seasonal camp is intimate and exclusive, offering spacious safari tents, each with double bed, en suite bathroom, separate portable WC and a bucket shower. Only ten tents at the campsite.

 

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Flora and Fauna

Wild Life
A population of about 25,000 large animals, largely ungulates along with the highest density of mammalian predators in Africa, lives in the crater. These include black rhinoceros Diceros bicornis (CR), which have declined from about 108 in 1964-66 to between 11-14 in 1995, and hippopotamus Hippopotamus amphibius which are very uncommon in the area. There are also many other ungulates: wildebeest Connochaetes taurinus (7,000 estimated in 1994), zebraEquus burchelli (4,000), eland Taurotragus oryx, Grant's and Thomson's gazelles Gazella granti and G. thomsoni (3,000). The crater has the densest known population of lion Panthera leo (VU) numbering 62 in 2001. On the crater rim are leopard Panthera pardus, elephantLoxodonta africana (EN) numbering 42 in 1987 but only 29 in 1992, mountain reedbuckRedunca fulvorufula and buffalo Syncerus caffer (4,000 in 1994). However, since the 1980s the crater's wildebeest population has fallen by a quarter to about 19,000 and the numbers of eland and Thomson's gazelle have also declined while buffaloes increased greatly, probably due to the long prevention of fire which favors high fibrous grasses over shorter less fibrous types.

In summer enormous numbers of Serengeti migrants pass through the plains of the reserve, including 1.7 million wildebeest, 260,00 zebra and 470,000 gazelles. Waterbuck Kobus ellipsiprymnus mainly occur mainly near Lerai Forest; serval Felis serval occur widely in the crater and on the plains to the west. Common in the reserve are lion, hartebeest Alcelaphus buselaphus, spotted hyena Crocuta crocuta and jackal Canis aureus. Cheetah Acinonyx jubatus (VU), though common in the reserve, are scarce in the crater itself. Wild dog Lycaon pictus (EN) has recently disappeared from the crater and may have declined elsewhere in the Conservation Area as well. Golden cat Felis aurata has recently been seen in the Ngorongoro forest.

Over 500 species of bird have been recorded within the NCA. These include ostrich Struthio camelus, with white pelican Pelicanus onocrotalus, and greater and lesser flamingo Phoenicopterus ruber and P.minor on Lake Makat in Ngorongoro crater, Lake Ndutu and the Empakaai crater lake where over a million birds forgather. There are also lammergeier Gypaetus barbatus, Ruepell's griffon, Gyps ruepelli (110) Verreaux's eagle Aquila verreauxii, Egyptian vulture Neophron percnopterus, pallid harrier Circus macrourus, lesser falcon Falco naumanni (VU), Taita falcon F. fasciinucha, kori bustard Choriotis kori, Fischer's lovebird Agapornis fischeri, rosy-breasted longclaw Macronyx ameliae, Karamoja apalis Apalis karamojae (VU), redthroated tit Parus fringillinus and Jackson's whydah Euplectes jacksoni. Sunbirds in the highland forest include the golden winged sunbird Nectarinia reichenowi and eastern double collared sunbird N. mediocris. Other waterbirds found on Lake Eyasi include yellowbilled stork Mycteria ibis, African spoonbillPlatalea alba, avocet Recurvirostra avosetta and greyheaded gull Larus cirrocephalus. The butterfly Papilio sjoestedti, sometimes known as the Kilimanjaro swallowtail, flies in the montane forests. It has a very restricted range but is well protected in national parks.

Vegetation Cover
The variations in climate, landforms and altitude have resulted in several overlapping ecosystems and distinct habitats. WithinTanzania the area is important for retaining uncultivated lowland vegetation, for the arid and semi-arid plant communities below 1,300 m, for its abundant shortgrass grazing and for the water catchment highland forests. Scrub heath, montane long grasslands, high open moorland and the remains of dense evergreen montane forests cover the steep slopes. Highland trees include peacock flower Albizzia gummifera, yellowwood Podocarpus latifolia, Hagenia abyssinica and sweet olive Olea chrysophylla. There is an extensive stand of pure bamboo Arundinaria alpina on Oldeani Mountain and pencil cedar Juniperus procera on Makarut Mountain in the west.Croton spp. dominate lower slopes. The upland woodlands containing red thorn Acacia lahai and gum acacia A. seyal are critical for protecting the watershed.

The crater floor is mainly open shortgrass plains with fresh and brackish water lakes, marshes, swamps and two patches of Acacia woodland: Lerai Forest, with codominants yellow fever tree Acacia xanthophloea and Rauvolfia caffra; and Laiyanai Forest with pillar wood Cassipourea malosana, Albizzia gummifera, and Acacia lahai. The undulating plains to the west are grass-covered with occasional umbrella acacia Acacia tortilis and Commiphora africana trees, which become almost desert during periods of severe drought. Blackthorn Acacia mellifera and zebrawood Dalbergia melanoxylon dominate in the drier conditions beside Lake Eyasi. These extensive grasslands and bush are rich, relatively untouched by cultivation, and support very large animal populations.

People and Culture

For thousands of years a succession of cattle herding people moved into the Area, lived here for time, and then moved on, sometimes forced out by other tribes.

About 200 years ago the Maasai arrived and have since colonized the Area in substantial numbers, their traditional way of life allowing them to live in harmony with the wildlife and the environment. Today there are some 42,200 Maasai pastoralists living in the NCA with their cattle, donkeys, goats and sheep. During the rains they move out on to the open plains; in the dry season they move into the adjacent woodlands and mountain slopes. The Maasai are allowed to take their animals into the Crater for water and grazing, but not to live or cultivate there. Elsewhere in the NCA they have the right to roam freely.

Visitors are welcomed at two designated Maasai cultural bomas one on the road to Serengeti and another close to Sopa Lodge at Irkeepusi village.

The Datoga, Nilo-Hamitic-speaking pastoralists, who arrived more than 300 years ago and were subsequently forced out of the Serengeti-Ngorongoro area by the Maasai, today they live just outside the NCA, in the Lake Eyasi basin and beyond.

Lake Ndutu

Lake Ndutu and Lake Masek form shallow basins where water accumulates from the nearby areas of slightly higher altitude. The water in both lakes are extremely saline, too saline for human consumption. Lake Ndutu becomes alive with animals during the migration because it is surrounded by the Ndutu woodlands and the Short Grass Plains, which provide ample cover and food.

Oldoinyo Lengai

Located just outside the NCA, to the north-east near Lake Natron, this Volcano, whose Maasai name means ‘Mountain of God’, has had a major influence on the development of the area. It rises 1830m above the Valley floor. Its ash has been blown westwards onto the plains and helped shape the landscape and ecology. It is the only active volcano in the area, having erupted in 2006 and more recently July 2007.

See our dedicated section for Oldoinyo Lengai here...

The Shifting Sands

This remarkable black dune, composed of volcanic ash from Oldonyo Lengai, is being blown slowly westwards across the plains, at the rate of about 17 meters per year. Some 9 meters high and 100 meters long in its curve, it can be found to the north of Oldupai Gorge.

Olkarien Gorge

The Gorge is ecologically important because it is a vital nesting site of the Ruppell’s Griffon Vulture. The best time to visit Olkarien Gorge is from March to April when the vultures are breeding. This coincides with migration when there is plenty of food available.

Olduvai Gorge

See our dedicated section for Olduvai Gorge here...