This dual-use conservation area – inhabited by the Maasai and their cattle as well as wildlife – protects a large part of the Ngorongoro Highlands, including the magnificent Ngorongoro crater, the largest intact caldera in the world.
Ngorongoro Crater Floor
There are few places where you can reliably see such large concentrations of wildlife all year round, and the striking backdrop of the 600m high crater wall creates awe inspiring views at every turn. There are several notable features within the crater. Lerai Forest consists entirely of yellow fever trees, large acacias noted for their jaundiced bark. To the North of this forest, Lake Magadi is a shallow soda lake that varies greatly in extent depending on the season. To the South, the Gorigor Swamp usually supports some seasonal water. There is also a permanent hippo pool at the Ngoitokitok Springs at the eastern end of the swamp.
The crater floor reputedly supports the densest concentration of predators in Africa and the best chance of spotting Rhino. It also offers some great bird watching.
The authorities rigidly forbid tourists from entering the crater before 7am, and they must be out of the crater before 6pm. It is forbidden to enter the base of the crater after 4pm. A $200 ‘crater service fee’ is required per vehicle for every entry into the crater floor.
Empakai and Olmoti Craters
Both are dwarfed in size by the peerless Ngorongoro crater, but both are worth a visit. The view from the Empakai Crater is among the most spectacular in East Africa. It is enclosed by sheer forested cliffs and supports a sparkling soda lake. A hike to the crater floor, accompanied by an armed ranger is possible.
Lake Ndutu, an alkaline lake, provides for some varied game drives in the area – particularly when the migration is crossing through the area on the Serengeti and Ngorongoro borders. In the rainy season it supports large numbers of wildlife amongst the acacia woodland around the lakeshores.
More correctly known as ‘Oldupai’, the Maasai word for sisal, Olduvai Gorge lies within the Ngorongoro Conservation area. The site museum displays replicas of some of the interesting hominid fossils found there, as well as a replica of the 3 million year old footprints found at Laetoli. A short drive away from the center are the famous shifting sands.