The Ngorongoro Crater is the sixth largest unbroken caldera in the world, formed when a volcano erupted then collapsed about three million years ago. The crater has an area of 260km2 and a depth of 610 meters; its base is covered by savannah plains, lakes, marshes and acacia woodlands. The basin is filled with large populations of animals. Two sister craters are found here: Olmoti known for striking waterfalls and Empakai known for its lake and lush green escarpments. Mt Lengai, Tanzania’s third highest peak after Mt Kilimanjaro and Mt Meru, is an active volcano that last erupted as recently as 2007.
The Ngorongoro Conservation Area, in which the Ngorongoro Crater is located, measures 8,300km2 and has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The area contains over 25,000 animals including a high number of lions. The populations of rhino, elephant, wildebeest, zebra and numerous species of gazelle are likewise large. Over 500 species of bird have been recorded here.
The Olduvai Gorge stretches nearly 50km along the side of the Ngorongoro Crater. An important archaeological site, the gorge is the site where Dr Louis and Mary Leakey discovered the remains of several species of the world’s early hominids. Fossil data suggests that these species occupied this area up to three million years ago.
The name Ngorongoro comes from the Maasai El-Nkoronkoro meaning Gift of Life. The Maasai people, who have traditionally been nomadic, settled in the area about 200 years ago, and are the only people who have the right to take their herds of cows and goats into the crater for grazing.
As well as game drives, activities in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area include cultural visits to local Maasai villages, game walks with registered guides, visits to the archaeological sites in the Olduvai Gorge, and walks along the Endoro River Nature Trail where elephant caves and waterfalls make attractive places to visit.
Safari Itineraries Visiting Ngorongoro Crater National Park