Ngorongoro Crater : You cannot ignore the fact that, Tanzania is a marvelous place for every safari-goer or any naturalist. Apart from devoting its 50% of its land to be protected areas, Tanzania is home to three of the Seven Wonders of Africa. They are the Mount Kilimanjaro, the Great Migration and the Ngorongoro Crater. Tanzania is also home to seven World Heritage Sites, which are Kondoa Rock art sites, Kilimanjaro National Park, Serengeti National Park, Stone Town of Zanzibar, Selous Game Reserve and the Ruins of Kilwa Kisiwani and Ruins of Songo Mnara.
Ngorongoro Crater is the major attraction inside the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Ngorongoro Conservation Area was separated from Serengeti National Park in 1959. UNESCO declared it as a World Heritage Site in 1979 and since 2013, Ngorongoro Conservation Area along with Mount Kilimanjaro and Serengeti National Park were put among the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa. Ngorongoro Conservation Area is located at about 120 kilometers west of Arusha accessible by all major means of transport i.e. by air, railway and road.
Ngorongoro Crater is the largest unbroken volcanic caldera in the world, which has been, formed about two to three million years ago from large active volcanic eruption. This caldera is about 20 kilometers across, 600 meters deep and 300 square kilometers in area, a breathtaking crater having a high density of wildlife in Africa.
History of Ngorongoro Crater
Ngorongoro Crater was formed about 2 to 3 million years ago after the collapse of Ngorongoro Mountains whose cones collapsed inward after a major eruption leaving unbroken caldera. According to geologists, Ngorongoro Mountains were tallest in the world before they collapse and erupted. If they were to be present up to now, Tanzania would be home to the tallest Mountains range. The formation of Ngorongoro Crater along with Olmoti and Empakai craters dates back to the Mesozoic periods.
Attractions in the Ngorongoro Crater.
Lake Magadi. This is an alkaline lake in the floor of the crater. Magadi is Maasai word for salt. They named it so because when it dries it leaves crystalline salt lumps. This lake appears blue and it host large population of pink flamingos, which cover it in the shores and in the shallow waters. Pink flamingos are usually found in many soda lakes because they eat blue-green spirulina algae, which are highly concentrated in alkaline lakes.
Lerai Fever Tree Forest. This is a forest found in the crater floor. It is made of yellow-barked acacia trees. In this forest, you will encounter elephants, black rhino, eland, hyrax, bushbuck and birds. You are guaranteed to spot a black rhino in this forest because, its delicious food (foliage of leaves) is found there. Swamps within this forest attract large herds of elephants, buffalos, antelopes and many others, which seek water to cool their thirsty after grazing for a long time. Predators like lions are usually close to their preys for catching them easily for a meal.
Wild animals. Ngorongoro Crater is home to various animal species including the famous Big Five. Here is a short description of the Big Five Animals:
Big Five animals pose huge threat on their predators. Therefore, they have very few or no predators at all. They include African elephant, African lion, African leopard, Cape buffalo and black rhino
African elephant. This is the largest land animal on earth. Elephants are usually encountered in long-grass grasslands and in the acacia woodlands. They live in small groups of up to fifty individuals. A group has one superior male, which is usually larger than the rest.
African lion. Renowned as the King of African Savanna, the African lion is an excellent predator in the Ngorongoro Crater. They are usually spotted in the long grasslands and in the lush forests within the crater. They live in small groups of up to five members consisting of lion, lioness and up to four puppies. The lioness is always responsible for hunting and feeding the family.
African leopard. This should not be confused with cheetahs. Leopards are always encountered in rocky outcrops and kopjes within the crater. Leopards live in a group of up to four consisting of female and her young ones. If you will witness the excellent kill done the leopard. They split the group and chase only prey to destination.
Cape buffalo. This is a dangerous wild cow in the Ngorongoro Crater. They are aggressive to humans especially when alone. They live in large groups. However, a conflict between bulls lead to the removal of defeated bulls from the group. Cape buffalos are encountered in both short-grass and long-grass grasslands. They are seen in lush forests like Lerai.
The Black rhino. This is the most endangered species in the world. Its life dates back to several millenniums ago and is said to be undergoing extinction. In the Ngorongoro Crater, black rhinos are encountered in the small forests and shrubs. They are less social animals living in groups of 3 to 4 individuals. They prefer leaf foliage as their food.
Ngorongoro Crater hosts other beautiful wild animals apart from the Big Five. They include cheetah (world’s fastest land animal), wildebeest, zebra, Grant’s and Thomson’s gazelles, warthog, bushbuck, eland, impalas, jackals, reedbucks, waterbucks, wild dogs and many others.
Birds. Ngorongoro Crater has many bird habitats where birds dwell there like marshes, grassland plains and Lake Magadi. If you are not birder, you will probably be a bird lover after visiting this crater. Colorful birds decorates the crater while songbirds sing their attractive songs. You will not stop staring at them. Some bird species, which can be spotted in the Ngorongoro Crater, are black kite, lesser flamingo, grey crowned crane, Kori bustard, Black-winged lapwing, Living turaco, Egyptian vulture, Verreauxs eagle, Hildebrandt’s spurfowl, ostrich, White-eyed slaty flycatcher, secretary bird, African spoonbill, Red and yellow barbet, Jacksons widowbird, Hartlaubs turaco, Namaqua dove Rufous-tailed weaver, Rosy-throated long claw among others.
Other attractions within the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.
Olduvai Gorge and Laetoli. These places are said to be early habitats of our genetic ancestors. This had been proved by the discovery of ancient skull by Dr. Leaky, a famous East African archeologist in the Olduvai Gorge. The skull dates back millions of years ago. The footprints of our ancestors were also found in a sedimentary rock in Laetoli. The footprints dates back about 3 million years ago. A trip to Olduvai Gorge and Laetoli would more worth if you combine it with a visit to Olduvai Gorge Museum where you will find every detail about the remains found in these two places.
The Shifting Sands. This sand moves at a rate of 15 meters per year. It is a dune of moving sand with a length of up to 5 hundreds and 9 meters thick. This is excellent place for you to observe this natural wonder.
Gol Mountains. These mountain ranges are located in the northwest of Ngorongoro Crater. The Maasai have spiritual respect to these mountains. They call them as “the Mountains of God” and they worship them through their traditional rituals.
Olmoti Crater and Empakai Crater. Olmoti crater is a shallow, grassy, hollow crater where the Munge stream emerge and flows into the Ngorongoro Crater to feed Lake Magadi. The Maasai feed their cattle there. Within this grassy crater, you will spot eland, bushbuck and reedbuck. The Empakai crater is occupied by a soda lake. On its rims, you can see the views of the distant Mount Kilimanjaro.
Things to do in the Ngorongoro Crater
There are many activities to do while you are in the Ngorongoro Crater. Some of the activities include:
Game viewing. This is a guaranteed activity, which will reward you and makes your trip extraordinary. Within Ngorongoro Crater, you will observe many species of large and small animals include the Big Five. You can view wildlife on a nature walk, hot air balloon safari or a game drive. Morning game drives are more rewarding than afternoon and night game drives. However, night game drives enable you to spot nocturnal species, which cannot be seen in the day.
Cultural tours. In the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, the Maasai coexist with other wild animals grazing their livestock in the Ngorongoro Crater and other places within. They have unique dress code, cuisines, lifestyle, culture and traditions. A visit to their huts built in proper order of wives is super and cool. They also perform traditional dances for visitors.
Nature walks. Guided nature walks in the Ngorongoro Crater rewards you with the view of smallest animals like hyraxes. You will also see some unique plant species. Long and short walks are so gorgeous for you. An armed ranger will accompany you to keep you safe from aggressive and dangerous animals.
Other activities include photography, filming, birding, picnic and honeymooning.
Accommodation in the Ngorongoro Crater
Since it is a spectacular place, Ngorongoro Crater offers incredible accommodation facilities located inside the crater rim and outside the crater rim. Accommodation facilities inside the rim are expensive than those found outside the crater rim. Some accommodation facilities are Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, Entamanu Camp, Kirurumu Ngorongoro, Lemala Ngorongoro Camp, Ngorongoro Serena Lodge, and Ngorongoro Sopa among others.
In order to view all the beauties of the Ngorongoro Crate,r which cannot be put into words, consider planning a trip to this wonderful place. You will never regret your trip.