Ngorongoro Conservation Area
Ngorongoro conservation area is located in the northern part of Tanzania and one of the most visited destinations in the country. The conservation area is part of the Serengeti ecosystem and was established as a multi land use area where wildlife co exist with the semi nomadic Maasai who move from one place to another in search of water and pasture for their livestock. Ngorongoro conservation area was established in 1959 mainly to promote conservation of natural resources, to safeguard the interests of natives and to encourage ecotourism. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979 due to its rich biodiversity and in 2010 it was awarded the status of cultural conservation area. Ngorongoro conservation area covers a total area of 8,292 square kilometers which is composed of grass plains, acacia woodlands, crater filled highlands , harbors Olduvai gorge which is the most important archaeological site, Ngorongoro crater which is the main attraction in the area and also a habitat for wildlife including animals like giraffes, elephants, buffaloes, hippos, zebras, wildebeest, rhinos, lions, leopards, cheetah, hyenas, golden jackal, spotted hyenas, bird species like long crested eagle, augur buzzard among others.
Attractions in Ngorongoro conservation area
Wildlife, Ngorongoro conservation area harbors abundant wildlife animals including lions, leopards, black rhinos, hippos, buffaloes, wildebeest, zebras, giraffes, elephants, spotted hyenas, cheetahs, warthogs, jackals among others.
Birds, the conservation area is a home of over 500 bird species ranging from endemic species, migratory and forest birds which makes it one of the best birding destinations in Tanzania. different bird species in the area include white eyed slaty flycatcher, kori bustard, Livingstone turaco, ostriches, secretary birds, crowned cranes, Kenya rufous sparrow, black kite, black winged lapwing, double collared sunbird, greater flamingo, Namaqua dove, schalows wheatear, rosy throated long claw among others.
Ngorongoro crater, this is the most attraction in the park and the world’s largest unfilled volcanic caldera that is 2000 feet deep, 19km wide and 264 square kilometers surface. The crater was formed when a volcano exploded and collapsed on itself many years ago, it’s an impressive sight that offers visitors with great views of the crater, animals and bird species.
Olduvai Gorge, this is a place where the remains of the early man were discovered by Dr Leacky in 1959. Olduvai Gorge was named after Oldupaai the Maasai word for the wild sisal plant a herbaceous plant that grows abundantly inside it and it’s believed to be over 2 million years old. It’s about 48 km long and harbors the Oldupai River that carries water from Lake Masek in the eastern border of the conservation area to Olbalbal swamp near Olmoti and the western border of the conservation area. Olduvai Gorge is one of the most important prehistoric sites in the world that should be visited on your safari in the conservation area.
Gol mountains, the Gol Mountains are located in the remote area of Ngorongoro conservation area on its northern part. They are a series of ridges described by geologists and are locally translated as the mountains of the Gods by the Maasai people. The mountains were formed a million years ago before the formation of Ngorongoro crater and they are feared and respected by the Maasai people who believe and have a cultural attachment to them. Gol mountains are lush green during the rainy season and dusty brown during the dry season, they harbor various herbivores and act as a home to Maasai who kill lions as their rite of passage into warrior hood.
Oldupai museum, this is the small museum that is located in the edge of Oldupai gorge and offers education exhibits of fossils and stone tools of our human ancestors and skeletons of many extinct animals excavated in the gorge. The museum was founded by Mary Leaky and it has special guided archaeological site tours, lectures, native handcrafts and a stocked bookshop where you will read about the human origins.
Top things to do in Ngorongoro conservation area
Game drives, this is one of the famous activities in Ngorongoro conservation area that shouldn’t be missed during your safari. Game drives are best done in the morning hours at around 6:00am because that’s the time when wild animals are active compared to day hours. during the game drive you will follow different game tracks where you will be able to view animals like rhinos, elephants, buffaloes, giraffes, zebras, predators like lions, spotted hyenas, cheetahs among others if you are lucky, different bird species among others.
Bird watching, Ngorongoro conservation area harbors over 500 bird species which makes it one of the birders paradise due to various habitats including grassland plains, lakes, marshes among others. the bird species range from forest birds, migratory birds from Europe and asia, endemic and aquatic species including saddle billed storks, casping lapwing, rosy breasted long claw, European bee-eater, kori bustard, ostrich, grey crowned crane, fischers sparrow lark, red capped lark, secretary birds, rufous napped lark, pallid harrier among others.
Guided nature walks, this is an adventurous activity that gives you an opportunity to come out of the vehicle and explore the conservation area on foot. Nature walks are done with the company of an armed park guide and the conservation area offers short and long walks. guided nature walk starts at the park headquarters with a briefing and the trails to follow while hiking such as trail from Olmoti to Empakai, down to the floor of the great rift valley, trails to the northern highland forest reserve, trails to the eastern plains around the Nasera rock, Olkarien gorge, Gol mountains, trails to the crater among others. During hiking you will get close and personal with wildlife species including animals like zebras, buffaloes, elephants, giraffes, butterflies, view beautiful landscape, plant species, view birds flying up in the air, enjoy the cool breeze, take great pictures among others.
Cultural tour, this is an interesting activity where you will visit the local communities living around Ngorongoro conservation area. During the cultural tour you will be able to interact with the Maasai people which gives you an opportunity to learn more about their culture, tradition, way of living, dressing code, taste their local dishes, enjoy entertainment inform of dance, music, take photos among others.
Best time to visit Ngorongoro conservation area
Ngorongoro conservation area can be visited anytime throughout the year though the best period is during the dry season in the months of June to October. During this time there is less vegetation therefore you will be able to clearly view different animals.
The conservation area can also be visited in the wet season in the months of March to May and November because this is the best time for birding in that you will be able to view migratory bird species.
Where to stay in Ngorongoro conservation area
There are a number of accommodation facilities ranging from luxury, midrange, budget and campsites in Ngorongoro conservation area where you can stay during the safari and they include Neptune Ngorongoro luxury lodge, Ngorongoro Serena safari lodge, Ngorongoro Tented camp, Angata Ngorongoro, Lions Paw Ngorongoro, Ngorongoro Wild camps, Crater Forest tented camp, Lemala Ngorongoro, Exploreans Ngorongoro lodge, Hostel Ebeneza, Pakulala safari camp, Gnu Ndutu camp, Ngorongoro wildlife lodge, Acacia migration camp Ndutu, Chaka camp, Rhino lodge, Sopa Ngorongoro lodge among others.
How to get to Ngorongoro conservation area
Many people visit Ngorongoro conservation area as a continuation of the Tanzania safari to other national parks in Tanzania such as Serengeti national park because it’s found on the way. The conservation area can therefore be accessed by both road and air transport means.
Road transport, Ngorongoro national park is located in the northern part of Tanzania and when using road transport it takes about 3 hours drive from Arusha town to the park headquarters.
Air transport, there are various scheduled and chartered flights from Arusha or Dar es Salaam to an airstrip in the park and flights can be booked by your tour operator.