The jewel in Ngorongoro's crown is a deep, volcanic crater, the largest un flooded and unbroken caldera in the world. About 20kms across, 600 meters deep and 300 sq kms in area, the Ngorongoro Crater is a breathtaking natural wonder.The Ngorongoro Crater is one of Africa’s most famous sites and is said to have the highest density of wildlife in Africa. Sometimes described as an ‘eighth wonder of the world’, the Crater has achieved world renown, attracting an ever-increasing number of visitors each year. You are unlikely to escape other vehicles here, but you are guaranteed great wildlife viewing in a genuinely mind-blowing environment. There is nowhere else in Africa quite like Ngorongoro!The Ngorongoro Crater is the world’s largest intact volcanic caldera. Forming a spectacular bowl of about 265 square kilometres, with sides up to 600 metres deep; it is home to approximately 30,000 animals at any one time. The Cm is over 2,200 metres high and experiences its own climate. From this high vantage point it is possible to make out the tiny shapes of animals making their way around the crater floor far below. Swathes of cloud hang around the rocky rim most days of the year and it’s one of the few places in Tanzania where it can get chilly at night.The crater floor consists of a number of different habitats that include grassland, swamps, forests and Lake Makat (Maasai for ‘salt’) - a central soda lake filled by the Munge River. All these various environments attract wildlife to drink, wallow, graze, hide or climb. Although animals are free to move in and out of this contained environment, the rich volcanic soil, lush forests and spring source lakes on the crater floor (combined with fairly steep crater sides) tend to incline both grazers and predators to remain throughout the year.
Ngorongoro Crater: Wildlife Highlights
Ngorongoro Crater is one of the most likely areas in Tanzania to see the endangered Black Rhino, as a small population is thriving in this idyllic and protected environment. It is currently one of the few areas where they continue to breed in the wild. Your chances of encountering leopard here are also good, and fabulous black-maned lions. Many flamingos are also attracted to the soda waters of Lake Magadi.
Ngorongoro Crater: Maasai village trips
Part of the reason behind the Ngorongoro Conservation Area has been to preserve the environment for the Maasai people who were diverted from the Serengeti Plains. Essentially nomadic people, they build temporary villages in circular homesteads called bomas. There are possibilities to visit a couple of these now, which have been opened up for tourists to explore. Here you can see how the huts are built in a strict pattern of order according to the chronological order of the wives, and experience what it must be like to rely on warmth and energy from a fire burning at the heart of a cattle dung dwelling with no chimney. These proud cattle herding people have a great history as warriors, and even though they are no longer allowed to build villages inside, they continue to herd their cattle into the crater to graze and drink, regardless of the predators nearby.
Ngorongoro Olmoti crater
Another dramatic relic of the volcanic activity that shaped the Crater Highlands over the past ten million years, Olmoti - a Maasai name meaning Cooking Pot - is a sunken caldera whose rim is reached along a 30-minute footpath from the ranger post at Nainokanoka. Covered in grass and bisected by a river valley, this shallow crater doesn’t quite match Ngorongoro or Empakaai for scenery, but it is very pretty, and it offers good grazing to the local Maasai cattle and various antelope. Look out for pairs of augur buzzard cartwheeling high in the sky, and the cliff-loving Verreaux’s eagle. From the main viewpoint, a short footpath leads to the seasonal Munge Waterfall, where the eponymous river cascades out of the crater.
Ngorongoro Empakai crater
The Empakaai Crater is a collapsed volcanic caldera which is 300 meters high and has a width of 6 km. The Crater is filled with a deep alkaline lake which occupies about 75% of the Crater's floor and is about 85 meters deep. You can see Oldonio Lengai, Mount Kilimanjaro and the Great Rift Valley from the Crater's rim. Walking down the crater you can also have magnificent view of the Mount Lengai. The Crater's rim offers two special campsites.The Empakaai Crater and the Olmoti Crater have similar vegetation and bird-life but the Empakaai Crater is marvelous for wildlife. Among the animals living in this area are: the Bearded Vulture, the Augur Buzzard, blue Monkeys, Bushbuck, water bucks and buffaloes.