The short rains are from November to December and the long rains from February to April, the latter generally being considered the off season. However, the rainy season is a very exciting time of year as this is when animals congregate on the Short Grass Plains to have their young. Late February, early March is usually a good time to see the migration on the plains. In turn, this attracts large number of predators and results in spectacular interactions between predators and prey. Keep in mind that part of the Serengeti Plains fall within the NCA.
DRY SEASON (MAY TO OCTOBER)
The dry season holds its own beauty. In Africa the dry season is the best time for game viewing because the animals are concentrated along permanent water sources. Within the Crater game viewing is excellent during this time. However, keep in mind that the Short Grass Plains become completely devoid of game during this season. This is the best time of the year to visit Empakai and Ndutu, which has resident game that remains around the lake all year round.
Encompassing three spectacular volcanic craters, the Olduvai Gorge, huge expanses of savannah, forest and bush land, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area is the flagship of Tanzania’s tourism industry and is the only place on earth where mankind and wild animals coexist in harmony.
The Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) measures 8288km2 with altitude ranges from 960 metres to 3,648 m on Mt. Loolmalasin. The Ngorongoro Conservation Area lies about 190 km west of Arusha, located between S02o30′ and S3o30′, E34o50′ and E35o55. The NCA became a Man and Biosphere Reserve in 1971 and was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1979.
Originally part of the Serengeti National Park when the latter was established by the British in 1951, in 1959 the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA) was formed, separating NCA from Serengeti. Land within the area is multi-use, providing protection status for wildlife while also permitting human habitation. Its uniqueness lays in the fact that the NCA is where man, livestock and wild animals live in peace: Maasai cattle can sometimes be seen grazing alongside zebras on Ngorongoro’s grassland.
Had it not become the world’s sixth-largest unbroken caldera, then what is now known as the Ngorongoro crater could have been a towering volcanic mountain, as high as Kilimanjaro.
The crater is the flagship tourism feature for the Ngorongoro crater safari. It is a large, unbroken, un-flooded caldera, formed when a giant volcano exploded and collapsed some three million years ago. The Ngorongoro crater sinks to a depth of 610 metres, with a base area covering 260 square kilometers. The height of the original volcano must have ranged between 4,500 to 5,800 metres high. Apart from the main caldera, Ngorongoro also has two other volcanic craters: Olmoti and Empakai, the former famous for its stunning waterfalls, and the latter holding a deep lake and lush, green walls.
On the leeward of the Ngorongoro highlands protrudes the iconic Oldonyo Lengai, an active volcano and Tanzania’s third highest peak after Kilimanjaro and Meru . Known to local people as the Mountain of God, Mount Lengai’s last major eruption occurred in 2007. At the mountain’s foot is Lake Natron, East Africa’s major breeding ground for flamingos.
The name Ngorongoro is derived from llkorongoro, a Maasai word given to the age group of Maasai warriors who defeated the previous occupants of the area, known as the Datong around the 1800s. The Datong had in turn taken them from their predecessors the Hadzabe (bushmen/hunter-gatherers). The name Ilkorongoro echoed sounds of the bells ‘koh-rohng-roh’ that the Maasai wore during the battle, and it is from this that the name Ngorongoro comes from. Furthermore the Maasai have also given names to the walls known as ‘entiak’ which defines as sheer drop, and the floor as ‘ramat’ meaning heath-land of the crater.