Ngorongoro Crater forms part of a larger ecosystem called Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Ngorongoro Conservation Area covers a total area of 8300 sq km. This general area also includes two more stunning craters, outstanding archeological site in the world, a number of volcanic mountains such as the still active Oldonyo Lengai – considered a Mountain of God by the Maasai tribe, unparalleled scenic plains, traditional Maasai people, and wildlife. Designated as a World Heritage Site, Ngorongoro Conservation Area is home to the last remaining population of one of the most endangered animal species in the world, Black rhinoceros. Swala Safaris offers affordable Ngorongoro Crater Safari packages. Ngorongoro Crater also known as Ngorongoro Conservation Area is the permanent home of nearly 25,000 animals with ideal game viewing opportunities all year round.
The distinct phenomenon the Ngorongoro Conservation Area is the manner in which the Maasai tribe with their cattle coexists peacefully with the wildlife. It is a common sight where the young Maasai Moran (young warriors) leading their cattle to watering places in the crater, carrying spears for protection against the wild animals.
Ngorongoro Crater is the largest unbroken and an unflooded caldera in the world. The first view of it takes ones breath away! The crater is about 3188 m above sea level, and was formed several millions of years ago by the collapse of the cone of the volcanic mountain into the empty magma beneath the crust. Surrounded by very steep walls rising 610 meters from the crater floor , this natural amphitheatre spans an area of about 304 sq km, 117 sq miles, is home to up to 25,000 larger mammals, almost half of them being Wildebeests and Zebras. Elands, Buffaloes, Hartebeests, Warthogs and Gazelles are found here with mainly Lions, Hyenas, Jackals and Cheetahs attracted as predators. Leopards can be spotted in the forested patches of the crater floor merely as visitors. Some days one can easily see all of the Big Five animals within minutes of descending in the Crater.
For the Bird – lovers, more than 100 species of birds not found in the Serengeti have been spotted here. As with most lakes in the Rift Valley area, the small lake in the crater is a soda lake, and is the seasonal home for thousands of flamingoes forming a spectacular pink blanket over the lake!
Animals are free to leave or enter the Crater; most of them find no reason to leave because of food availability and plentiful water al the year round. The Crater floor is a self – contained world apart likened to Noah’s Ark for its preservation of a diversity of wild animals in a relatively small area. With good reason, it has been termed The Eighth Wonder of the World, a natural Garden of Eden!
Within the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, on the Naabi Plains that unfurl between the Crater and the Serengeti, straddles Olduvai Gorge, popularly known as “The Cradle of Mankind” where Dr. Louis Leakey and his wife Mary Leakey first discovered the remains of a distant ancestor of human origin, ancient tools and bones from various prehistoric animal species, which are now extinct. This area’s chief claim to fame is the rich treasure-trove of human and animal fossils that it has yielded. Humans have been part of the Ngorongoro’s landscapes for millions of years. Olduvai Gorge is a canyon carved by water through the southern part of the Serengeti Plains. It is well worth visiting the site where “Zinj” was found, just five minutes’ drive from the visitor centre. Ask the guides for the latest discoveries!
It is in the Olduvai area that one is privileged to also see the fascinating marches of the crescent – shaped sand dunes called Shifting Sands, another geological by product of the volcanism from the Ngorongoro Highlands.
The two other Craters, Olmoti and Empakaai, also worth a visit as their sceneries are really spectacular at every point. From the northern and eastern sides of Empakaai, you can look out to the dramatic cone of the active Oldonyo Lengai, the Great Rift Valley and L. Natron and on clear days one can be able to see the distant snows of Mount Kilimanjaro far on the eastern valley.