The Ngorongoro crater is a very popular tourist attraction due to its strategic location and wide range of animals that live here. The Ngorongoro crater is found in the Ngorongoro conservation Area which is part of the Northern Tanzania circuit parks. The crater is about 120km from the town of Arusha and it sits on over 264 square kilometres. The main route that leads to the crater is from the Seneto descent road along the western side of the crater. Then as you come out of the crater you can use the Lerai ascent road which will lead you to the Park headquarters.
Ngorongoro Conservation Area is found in the Northern part of Tanzania and a top tourist attraction in the country. The conservation Area was declared as a UNESCO Heritage site in the year 1979 due to its unique diversity filled with animals, highlands, forests and people. Ngorongoro conservation area is a home to a wide range of wildlife and the most unique feature and top tourist attraction here is the Ngorongoro crater which was formed over 2 million years ago and it was named by the Masai after the Ngoro-Ngoo-Ngoro sounds which were made by the grazing animals in the area . It is also a home to major sites in Tanzania like Olduvai gorge which is referred to as the cradle of mankind. Ngorongoro is bordered by the Serengeti National park and they share the Ndutu Area where most of the calving of the animals before the great migration occurs. A trip to Ngorongoro will give you a chance to explore all the sites, wildlife as you enjoy your ‘me’ time in the several camps around.
The Ngorongoro crater was formed millions of years ago when a volcano erupted on itself forming the caldera. Before the formation of the crater, the standing volcano was said to be of the same size as the Kilimanjaro Mountain but 20 million years ago, the eastern side of the African continent started getting cracks and this softened the earth’s crust which led to the formation of the molten lava which caused the eruption of the volcano. When it erupted, the volcano collapsed on its self which led to the formation of the current Ngorongoro crater.
Ngorongoro crater is found in the Northern Tanzania circuit and is one of the easiest National Parks to get to while on a safari. You can get to the crater either by driving or flying but most tourists prefer driving because it is just 3 hours away from Arusha and driving provides good scenery for the tourists. If you are planning on driving, make sure that you use a 4×4 car due to the bumpy and dusty roads especially during the rainy season.
Arusha to Ngorongoro crater: The Ngorongoro crater is about 180km from Arusha making it an almost 3hour journey if you are driving to the crater. Arusha has an Airport which is the closest to Ngorongoro for tourists who need charter fly-in services. You can either drive to Ngorongoro from Arusha and this will lead you to the Loduare Gate in Karatu village or you can pass through the Serengeti National park from the western side and pass through the Naabi Hill gate. For those that want to use chartered flights, the airstrip is just right at the rim of the crater and although this is expensive, it’s the fastest way to get to Ngorongoro for tourists who are limited on time.
Ngorongoro crater is one those places that must be visited by everyone who goes for a safari in Tanzania. The caldera can be visited all throughout the year although in most cases it depends on the activities that one wants to carry out like game viewing, hiking, birding and many more others.
The dry season in Ngorongoro is experienced from the month of June to late October and is known to be the best time for tourists to visit the National Park. During this time many of the animals can easily be spotted due to the thinning of the vegetation and scarce water sources. It is also known as the peak season due to the large volumes of tourists that come in to view the animals in the park and this is when the safari cost to Ngorongoro is high.
The wet season starts in November and ends in April or early May. This is the best time for tourists who love birding and those that don’t love crowds but not for those that are into game viewing because the animals are scarce. From November to January, the rains are there but not so heavy and from March to April, the rains come in heavy sometimes causing floods around some parts of the Park.
Ngorongoro crater is a home to thousands of animals that are found in the different parts of the national park. the caldera is the best place to watch these animals since it acts as a home to various animals. Ngorongoro has over 25,000 animals with an estimation of about 30 black rhinos, 4000 zebras, 7000 wildebeests, 3000 elands, 60 lions, 6000 spotted hyenas and over 300 elephants and this is because of the vast grasslands, water sources and the conducive weather experienced in the park. A large number of predators are easily seen within the caldera and the best time to see all these animals is during the dry season.
Some of the most common animals found in Ngorongoro include lions, zebras, black spotted hyenas, wildebeests, elephants, warthogs, Thomson’s gazelles, buffalos, giraffes although these are not found in the caldera due to the descend and leopards which are hard to spot. Besides the animals, the park is also a home to over 500 bird species both residents and international species and these are best seen during the wet season. There are two ways in which you can see the different animals in Ngorongoro and these through guided walks and game drives.
Ngorongoro safari costs in Ngorongoro depend on a lot of additional costs like park fees, entrance fees and camping fees. The safari cost to Ngorongoro is affected by different factors which may increase or reduce the cost of the Tanzania safari.
Duration of the safari: the more time that you spend on your safari the more you are bound to pay and if your safari is short, you will spend less money.
When to visit: the peak season which is experienced from June to October sees a lot of tourists traveling to Ngorongoro which leads to a hike in the cost of everything like accommodation, transport and food but if you are traveling on a budget, the best time is during the low season which is experienced from November to April.
Size of the group: when you travel as a group, the costs are shared which reduces the safari costs and traveling alone increases the safari cost.
Additional costs: these include insurance fees, shopping costs, park entrance fees and additional safari activities that are not included in the itinerary.
In order for you to gain entrance into the conservation Area, you will need an entry permit and this can only be used once in a day. Below is what the different age groups pay as entrance fees to Ngorongoro conservation Area.
0 to 5 years: these do not pay
5 to 15 years: $23.6
15 and above: $70.8
Ngorongoro conservation Area has a wide range of campsites that can be used by tourists who visit the area. Most of the camps that are found within Ngorongoro are basic camps which means that they do not have any facilities and when you decide to use them, you have to find ways of catering for your personal needs. There are also public campsites that you can use while here and it is better if you book in advance especially during the peak season. Camping is also not allowed at the rim of the crater but with permission, you can camp in the designated areas within the conservation.
Non East African residents 5 to 16years $30 per day
Below 5 years its free
16years and above $60 per day
East African residents 5 to 16years Tshs7, 500
16years and above Tshs15, 000
Below 5years its free
Non East African residents 5 to 16years $10
Below 5 years its free
16years and above $30
East African residents 5 to 16years Tsh5, 000
16years and above Tshs10, 000
Below 5years its free
Ngorongoro is an expanse of land which is a home to many animals and one of the best ways in which you can explore the Park is through game drives. The game drives here are done after descending into the crater which is a home to many animals both herbivores and carnivores. You can also drive through the conservation area and explore the other parts of Ngorongoro during a leisure drive.
See Things to do in Ngorongoro
Game drives in Ngorongoro are best done during the morning hours and late afternoon hours before the heat becomes too intense. The good thing about going for the morning drive is that you will be able to see most of the animals during this time as they move around hunting down for food and it is also the best time to watch the birds while they are in their natural habitat. Some of the animals that you will be able to see during the morning drive include the big five that is lions, elephants, buffalos, leopards and hippos. The afternoon game drives start right after lunch roughly at around 3:00pm and although it is a short drive as compared to the morning drive, it is the best drive because it is normally done within the crater which is a home to many of the animals found in the Park.
Game drives in Ngorongoro are carried out all throughout the day but all safari cars are supposed to be out of the crater by 4:30pm. The best time for a game drive through Ngorongoro is during the dry season where animals can easily be spotted.
Ngorongoro conservation area is not only a home to thousands of animals and birds it is also a home to some of the best archaeological sites in the country. These can be visited all throughout the year irrelevant of the season and the sites that you should check out on while in Ngorongoro include:
The Nasser Rock: this is located north of the Olduvai gorge and is the largest fully exposed Inselberg which was discovered in the 1930s. The discovery of the rocks also led to the discovery of bones, traditional artefacts and a few pottery items which were used by the early settlers. The rock can easily be accessed from the different parts of the conservation area with a 30 minutes’ drive from Olduvai gorge. The rock is a good place for birding excursions during the rainy season, hiking during the dry season and it also offers a great view of the calving season during the wet season.
The Laetoli footprints: these were discovered by Mary Leakey and are believed to be over 3 million years. The footprints that were discovered were made by early humans and after the volcanic eruptions and ashes washing over the prints, they became a permanent mark in the conservation area.
Olduvai gorge: also referred to as the cradle of mankind is just 40 kilometres away from the crater and one of the most popular archaeological sites in the country. This is where the fossils of the first humans were discovered and other rudimentary tools that were used by the early humans. Although the findings were taken to the museum in Dar es Salaam, there is a small museum that you can explore and find out more about the fossils.
A photography safari through Ngorongoro is the perfect way to explore the vast plains, highlands and the crater while behind a camera. Tourist need to carry their own camera equipment in order to ease their trip like cameras, protective gear for the cameras especially during the dry season when the dust is too much and camera stands. The best time for a photography safari in Ngorongoro is either during the morning hours or late in the evening and this is because of the effect that too much sun has on the photos. Tourists will be able to take photos of animals, birds and the Masai people but only after seeking for permission form the elders because it is prohibited for you take their photos without permission.
Walking safaris in Ngorongoro conservation area is one of the main activities that tourists who visit Ngorongoro engage in and the some of the best ways to explore the home of the largest caldera in the whole world. Walking safaris are normally done around the rim of the crater where most of the animals are like elephants, buffalos, lions and elands among others and through the highlands which offer some of the best views of the Park, you can also take a walk along Lake Eyasi and the Empakaai crater. These can take between 1-4 hours and the cost for each walk depends on the length of the walk.
All walking safaris in the conservation area are carried out with an armed ranger and tour guide as a precaution from animal attacks. Best done during the dry season (June to October), some of the local communities also join in the walks as tour guides and this is considered to be one of the best ways for tourists to get to know more about the cultures practiced in the economy.
Ngorongoro is mainly known for the Ngorongoro crater and being a home to some of Africa’s greatest wildlife but there are other activities that you can engage in while in Ngorongoro and one of them is the cultural tour around the conservation Area. The Masai people who live around the conservation area are a top tourist attraction for tourists interested in cultural trips due to their unique culture.
The Masai people who are mainly nomadic pastoralists live in organized communities known as Bomas and this is where the trip will take place. There are several Bomas that are scattered along Ngorongoro and the ones that you should definitely visit while here include the Loonguku cultural Boma, Seneto cultural Boma and the Kiloki Senyati cultural Boma.
A cultural trip through the Masai villages will be like a step back in time because even though the world around them is evolving, they have stuck to their traditions and it has been hard for them to adapt to the changes. You will get to experience how they live, listen to the stories and also learn how to track animals all with the help of your tour guide. you might want to take photos with the locals but it is advisable that you first ask for permission since it is considered rude to take their photos and you get to pay a small fee of $20 for each Boma that you visit.
Ngorongoro is a home to over 550 bird species which are found in the different parts of the Park in their natural habitats like the swamps, Lake Magadi and the Ngorongoro forests. Some of the birds that are found in Ngorongoro are residents whereas others are migratory birds that fly into the country during the rainy season.
Birding has a few terms that are used in order to understand the type of birds you see and these are NE which stands for near endemic (birds found within the country and neighbouring countries)and E means endemic (found in only Tanzanian parks). Bird specials that you should look out for while in Ngorongoro include the Augur buzzard, Egyptian vulture, Greater flamingo, Jackson’s widowbird (NE), Hildebrandt’s starling, kori bustard, living Turaco, black kite, Kenya Rufous sparrow, Hartlaub Turaco (NE), Namaqua dove, capped wheater, African spoonbill, Rufous-tailed weaver (E), white eyed slaty flycatcher, Speke’s weaver, crowned cranes, lesser flamingos, saddle billed storks, ducks, yellow wagtails, Red and yellow barbet, Egyptian vulture and the Greater flamingo.
Birding in Ngorongoro can be done all throughout the year although the best time is during the wet season which is experienced between November and April when the migratory birds fly into the country joining the residents.
The Gol Mountains are located in the Northern part of Ngorongoro conservation Area. Believed to have been formed over millions of years ago, the Gol Mountains are said to be one of the oldest formations in the world. It is surrounded by lush green vegetation and is a home to numerous animals especially during the wet season from March to June. The main activities carried out around the Gol Mountains are hiking which is best done during the dry season, animal viewing and camping.
The Laetoli footprints are located in the Northern part of the National park and these are believed to have been made by early humans. The footprints that are over 3 million years were discovered by Mary Leakey. After the volcanic eruption that happened many years ago the ashes that blew over the short footprints and that is why they can still be seen today. A short walk with an experienced tour guide will give you the chance to also study and get a history on the footprints.
The Ngorongoro conservation Area has a wide range of hotels & accommodation facilities that fit in each and everyone’s budget. The accommodation facilities are categorized into three that is luxury, mid-range and budget friendly accommodation facilities. It is easy to get where to stay while in Ngorongoro but if you are visiting during the peak season, then it’s advisable that you book in advance due to the large crowds.
Ngorongoro Serena is built on the western part of the Ngorongoro crater rim with about 75 rooms that act as accommodation for all tourists who visit the conservation Area. Ngorongoro Serena was constructed in the year 1996 near Lake Magadi and the Lerai forest. The rooms are spacious and comfortable and they have a clear view of the animals that lie within the crater like black spotted hyenas, elands, hippos, elephants and lions among others. Activities offered at Serena include private game drives, cultural tours and walking safaris. The Ngorongoro Serena is open throughout the year although it gets large numbers of tourists during the peak season.
The Ngorongoro crater lodge is known to be the most luxurious and beautiful lodge in the conservation Area. The crater lodge is found along the rim of the crater with a clear view of the animals within Ngorongoro and a view of the neighbouring Serengeti. It is divided into three categories that is the 1st and 2nd category have 12 suites and the last category has 6 suites with comfortable self-contained rooms, a dining room and decks from where you can view the animals with comfort. Its open all throughout the year with activities like game drives, walking safaris and sun downers offered to the guests.
Kirurumu lodge in Ngorongoro is a tented camp that is found along the rim of the Ngorongoro crater and like the other accommodation facilities they also offer some of the best views of the animals that are found within the caldera.it has sister camps in both the Lake Manyara National Parka and Tarangire Park all with a simple and intimate setting. The camp has tents that can house only 10 guests and each of these tents has an ensuite bathroom, a campfire is set up in the evenings as guests enjoy their dinner and since it neighbours the Masai villages, tourists can walk through the villages as they connect with the locals.
The Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge located at the eastern side of the crater rim is quite famous for its floor to ceiling windows which have a great view of both the sunrise and sunset in the Park. the lodge has both public and private rooms which are all spacious each with a unique touch from the other with Wi-Fi, minibars, private decks and en-suite bathrooms. services offered at the lodge include babysitting, a gift shop, laundry services and a shared pool. It also offers trips around the conservation Area and the crater.
Gibbs farm located near the Karatu village is one of the oldest lodges in the country as it was constructed in 1929. Gibbs farm has 17 old fashioned cottages which are roughly about 45 minutes away from the Ngorongoro crater. The rooms are spacious with inbuilt bathrooms, meals are provided all throughout your stay, every guest has their privacy overlooking spacious gardens. Activities that are carried out around Gibbs farm include birding, guided nature walks, cycling, private game drives and they also provide masseur services from a local Masai healer.
Tanzania safaris to Ngorongoro Crater Africa.
Visiting Tanzania is not only limited to Ngorongoro. Take safaris to Tarangire National Park, Serengeti National Park, Lake Manyara National Park and other safari destinations.
In East Africa, you can go for gorilla trekking in Uganda and Rwanda, or visit the wildebeests of Masai Mara in Kenya and Amboseli for wildlife safaris and tours in Kenya.