Ngorongoro History

ngorongoro tripsThe Ngorongoro Crater is so often described as one of the wonders of the world, or Africa’s Eden. But what is it? Where is it? And why is it worth visiting?

The Ngorongoro Conservation area lies in the north-west of Tanzania, and is actually a part of the wider Serengeti ecosystem in the Crater Highlands area of the country. The conservation area covers 8292 square kilometres. According to scientific research, various hominids (or Great Apes, precursors to the modern human being) have occupied the area for some 3 million years. This part of the country is steeped in prehistoric drama and wildlife action.

The first European to set foot in the country was Dr Oscar Baumann in 1982. Since then, it has increased in fame, with famous anthropologists Mary and Louis Leakey beginning their crucial excavation work in the 1950s, and its declaration as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.

The main attraction of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area is the fabulous Ngorongoro Crater. This is the world’s largest unflooded and unbroken volcanic caldera (formed some 2-3 million years ago when a huge volcano exploded and collapsed in on itself). It is generally thought of as a “natural” sanctuary for wild creatures, as the 2000ft high walls of the crater limit movement in and out of the crater, yet it is not the case that the animals cannot leave. They simply wish to stay as the conditions in the crater, with good amounts of rain and sun per year, are very favourable!

Needless to say, animals are thriving in the lush green surrounds of the crater – in fact, the crater ecosystem supports a resident population of some 20 – 25,000 large mammals. There are vast numbers of plains game which feed on the short grasses of the crater floor – wildebeest, zebra, gazelle, buffalo, eland and hartebeest are all to be found here. In the swamp lands, elephant, rhino, waterbuck and bushbuck all reside quite happily.

Of course, which so many grazers, open and vulnerable on the short grasses, predators also thrive within the crater. Leopard, hyena and jackal can all be found stalking on the crater floor and in the pockets of woodland, and a strong and healthy lion population.

 

Often called the eighth wonder of the world, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area in northern Tanzania boasts a blend of landscapes, wildlife, people and archaeology that is unsurpassed in Africa.

 

The Ngorongoro Conservation Area covers a huge area and includes, alongside its eponymous famous crater, the archaeological site at Olduvai Gorge, huge expanses of highland plains, scrub bush, and forests that cover approximately 8300 square kilometres. Ngorongoro is a protected area, and only indigenous tribes such as the Masaai are allowed to live within its borders.

Lake Ndutu and Masek, both alkaline soda lakes, are home to rich game populations, and surrounded by peaks and extinct volcanoes, which create a stunning backdrop, completing the conservation area’s unique and beautiful landscape. The crater, actually a type of collapsed volcano called a caldera, is of course the main attraction. For many, the drive into the centre of the Crater is the highlight of their Tanzania safari. After a beautiful descent down the crater rim, passing lush rainforest and thick vegetation, the flora opens to grassy plains that spread across the crater floor. The game viewing is truly incredible, and the topography and views of the surrounding Crater Highlands out of this world.

 

This truly magical place is also home to Olduvai Gorge, where the Leakeys discovered the hominoid remains of a 1.8 million year old skeleton of Australopithecus boisei, one of the distinct links of the human evolutionary chain. In a small canyon just north of the crater, the Leakeys and their team of international archaeologists unearthed the ruins of at least three distinct hominoid species, and also came upon a complete series of hominoid footprints estimated to be over 3.7 million years old. Evacuated fossils show that the area is one of the oldest sites of hominoid habitation in the world.

The Ngorongoro Crater and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area are without a doubt some of the most beautiful parts of Tanzania, steeped in history and teeming with wildlife. Besides vehicle safaris to Ngorongoro Crater, Olduvai Gorge, and surrounding attractions, hiking treks through the Ngorongoro Conservation Area are becoming increasingly popular options. However you choose to visit them, the Crater Highlands are an unforgettable part of the Tanzanian experience.