Visiting Ngorongoro Crater is like stepping into an adventure movie: a sprawling, forested volcanic crater teeming with lions, cheetahs and flamingoes! Stretched out before you in this near-perfect blue-green caldera resides the densest concentration of wildlife in Africa. You only have to descend the crater walls with your guide to enter one of the most extraordinary habitats on the continent.
It’s said the Ngorongoro Conservation Area is the best place to see all the “Big Five”. Where else could you find the highest density of predators in Africa, plus giant tusker elephants and seas of fuchsia pink birds? The 25,000 large animals here, living in the world’s foremost, intact volcanic caldera have earned the accolades that come with the titles of World Heritage Site and Seven Natural Wonders of Africa.
Standing astride the 610m (2000 ft) crater rim, looking out over the lush expanse filling the 264 sq. km (101 sq. mi) crater you may get your first glimpses of the wildlife below – black rhino, hippo, buffalo, zebra, wildebeest, hyena, jackal and gazelle – grazing and stalking over the grasslands, acacia forests and swamps filling the crater floor.
It’s time to descend into this extraordinary Eden and begin a most exceptional day of discovery.
How it happened
How did this seemingly magical place arise? Millions of years ago, a volcano about the size of Mt. Kilimanjaro rose in this spot. A violent eruption blew the top off, collapsing onto itself. The resulting immense crater is what remained. As crater-rim forests developed, their streams fed into the caldera creating springs, swamps and woodland and attracting great populations of wildlife.
In your exploration of the different habitats in the crater you’ll come across a large variety of animals. In the Lerai Forest look for baboons, vervet monkeys, waterbucks and great tusker bull elephants. If you’re lucky you may spot an elusive leopard.
Lake Magadi attracts migratory flamingos in the rainy season. Ngoitoktok Springs is home to hippos and is an excellent picnic spot.
As with the crater’s terrestrial creatures the birdlife here is profuse and varied. You’ll find avocet, egret, ostrich, wallow, grebe, fire finch and starling. And especially be on the lookout for raptors like the marsh harrier, augur buzzard, tawny eagle and white-backed vulture.
In this dynamic environment, the high crater walls have created its own eco-system, protecting the immense quantity of wildlife below. And though some animals do migrate, the vast majority live in the crater year-round.