Ngorongoro Conservation Area
The gemstone of Ngorongoro Conservation area (NCA) is the volcanic crater, the largest un flooded and unbroken caldera in the world. About 20kms across, 600 meters deep and 300 sq kms in area, the Ngorongoro Crater is a breathtaking natural wonder. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979 and is situated 180 km (110 mi) west of Arusha in Tanzania. The conservation area is administered by the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority, an arm of the Tanzanian government.
The conservation area is unique, as it is the only one in Tanzania providing protection status for wildlife whilst allowing human habitation.
Massive fig trees in the northwest of the Lerai Forest are sacred to the Maasai and Datooga people. Some of them may have been planted on the grave of a Datago leader who died in battle with the Maasai around 1840.
Wildlife at Ngorongoro Crater
The 2,000 feet high walls of the approximately 10 mile wide crater create a natural amphitheatre for the densest populations of large game anywhere. In one day it is possible to see a staggering array of East African wildlife including all the big and small carnivores; lion, hyena and cheetah, leopard, bat eared fox, serval, ratel and jackal. There are approximately 20,000 large mammals at any given time within the Crater walls. Herbivores in the area include Elephant, Wildebeest, Hartebeest, Zebra, Hippo, Black rhino, Buffalo, Eland, Waterbuck, Warthog, Grant’s gazelle and Thomson’s gazelle. Strange enough, Giraffe, impala and topi are conspicuously absent from the Crater floor, though they are common in the nearby Serengeti National Park.
Over the past 40 years, the Crater has undergone drastic changes. Where Wildebeest have been the major inhabitants of the crater, making up to 50% of the large animal population, now Buffalo populations have been on the rise as the Wildebeest populations have declined. Theories put forth for this change is the departure of the Maasai who regularly burned the grass to create fresh green pastures for their livestock. This grass was more palatable to the Wildebeest whereas now much taller and tougher grass grows that is favourable to the Buffalos. This fluctuation in large herbivores may have lead to a decrease in lion and hyena numbers which in turn allowed cheetahs to thrive. What is certain is that Ngorongoro Crater in all its changes is truly exceptional and one of the most beautiful natural wildlife sites in the world.
The Ngorongoro Crater Floor
Lerai Forest located in the southwestern section of the crater is a beautiful yellow barked acacia forest that is home to Elephants, waterbucks, bushbucks, vervet monkeys and baboons. The leopard is another inhabitant of this forest, though as in most other places, very elusive and lucky few are able to spot them.
In the central-western area is Lake Magadi (also known as Lake Makat) is in the central-western area of the crater floor and plays host to thousands of migratory flamingoes.
Spread throughout the central area of the crater is the short and long grass plains that are home to the thousands of herbivores that can be found here.
Oldupai gorge and Laetoli archaeological site
Oldupai gorge also known as ‘The Cradle of Mankind’ is one of the most important prehistoric sites in the world. This area has in the past been misspelt and known as Olduvai gorge.
At Laetoli, west of Ngorongoro Crater, hominid footprints are preserved in volcanic rock 3.6 millions years old and represent some of the earliest signs of mankind in the world.
Activities in the Ngorongoro Crater
- Game drives
- Walking Safaris in Karatu
- Village visits and Cultural experiences (Masai, Dorobo)