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Ngorongoro crater area – Tanzania

Standing on the Ngorongoro Crater rim, looking across to the other side or down to the plains, ranks as one of the mosr incredible sights in the world. It will take your breath away. This is not sight seeing, it is sight feeling!

Nearly everybody has heard of one of the best places to see wildlife in Africa, the Ngorongoro Crater. It is such an incredible feature, with the wildlife inside and the stunning location. You will not forget the first time you reach the rim of the crater and look into this huge expanse, trying to spot any animals from up there.

The crater is located inside the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (often called the NCA), but what a lot of people don’t know is that the NCA also encompasses the Olduvai Gorge and a huge wildlife area to the east of the Serengeti, as well as the Ndutu Plains.

Discover this extraordinary piece of Tanzania.

Delve into the millions of years of human history, and peek over the crater rim and descent into this wildlife hotspot. Soak up some of the Maasai wisdom and learn something about this amazing culture. And if you are there in the right season, witness the birth of thousands of wildebeest at the start of the migration circle.

This is an area like no other. If it isn’t on your bucket list yet, add it now and move it right to the top. You won’t regret it.

About the Ngorongoro Conservation Area

The Ngorongoro Conservation Area was created in 1959 and is 8,292 square kilometres in size. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a UNESCO International Biosphere Reserve. The area is unusual being the only site in Africa where human settlement (the Maasai people) is allowed within a wildlife protected area.

The most famous features of the area are the Ngorongoro Crater, Olduvai Gorge, and the Ndutu Plains.

In 2013 experts declared the Ngorongoro Crater as one of the 7 Natural Wonders of Africa. The inside of the crater covers 265 square kilometres and the rim sits just over 600m above the crater floor. It is the world’s 6th largest unbroken caldera.

Main Attractions

The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is an incredibly diverse region and the crater a stunning destination or backdrop, its main attractions are:

  • Spotting the Big Five, including the black rhino inside the Ngorongoro Crater
  • Watching the birth of thousands of wildebeest on the Ndutu plains
  • Getting a history lesson at Olduvai Gorge
  • Enjoying a Maasai cultural experience
  • Exploring the lesser known other craters, Olmoti and Empakai
  • Hiking with a guide in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area


Spot the big 5 in the Ngorongoro Crater

Often referred to as the ‘Garden of Eden’, the most famous spot in the NCA is the Ngorongoro Crater. It is blessed with rich grazing grounds, and is full to the brim with over 30,000 animals, from antelopes to predators to birds.

The natural confines of the topography ensure the caldera is crawling with species and every drive is jam packed with animals. It’s one of the best places to try to see black rhino and the rest of the Big 5, the lion, the elephant, the buffalo and the leopard. Although leopards are usually found around the rim and are therefore hard to spot.

Witness the birthing of thousands of wildebeest on the Ndutu Plains

Thousands of wildebeest give birth on the Ndutu Plains each year at the start of the long rains. Due to the sheer number of births, most survive and soon start the clockwise motion of the annual wildebeest migration. It is an incredible experience with lots of predators in the area and a highlight for many people.

Step back in time at Olduvai Gorge

Olduvai Gorge is the prehistoric hotbed of early man. Often cited as the ‘cradle of mankind’ this stretch of ravine in the Rift Valley was one of the hangouts for our oldest ancestors, the world’s first humans! In fact, various different hominid species from over three million years of continuous inhabitation have been discovered in this archaeological goldmine.

Find out how man’s use of tools led to a bigger brain, creating a significant advantage in a world of survival of the fittest. There is a fascinating museum dedicated to all the finds of ancient man plus extinct animals and also the famous footprints of our earliest relatives walking upright.

Visit a Maasai village for an introduction to live as it has been for centuries

The NCA is a good place for a cultural visit. Whilst they might feel touristy, it does provide a great insight in the way of life as it has been for many centuries and continues to this day. The Maasai are an iconic symbol of Tanzanian tribal living, with mud huts, initiation ceremonies, drinking of milk and blood, spears, fancy jewellery and an impressive dance routine. Join them for a dance and see if you can jump as high as the Maasai warriors.

Explore the other two craters in the NCA, Olmoti, and Empakai

They may not be as famous as its bigger cousin Ngorongoro to the south, but Olmoti and Empakai are well worth a visit. Empakai is filled with a lake in its crater and attracts lots of waterbirds, including flamingos. The view from the rim, 300m above the crater lake, is spectacular, but you can also walk down into the crater for a close-up experience. Olmoti has grasslands in its shallow crater and from the east of the crater it is possible to walk to the rim in around an hour. From the rim you can walk to the Munge waterfall.

Hiking in the Ngorongoro Crater area

As the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) is not a national park, it is possible to go hiking in this vast and beautiful area. Day hikes are possible, as well as long overnight hikes. You can even hike the length of the NCA, starting in the south at Lake Eyasi and continue to Lake Natron and Oldonyo Lengai north of the NCA. The only place in this vast area where you can’t hike is inside the Ngorongoro Crater.

How to get there

Fly to the Ngorongoro Crater area

Most people fly to Arusha or Kilimanjaro International Airport if they want to visit the Ngorongoro Crater or the other destinations in the NCA (Ngorongoro Conservation Area).

The closest (smaller) airstrip to the Ngorongoro Crater with scheduled flights is Manyara (LKY). Another small airstrip lies on top of the crater rim, but has no scheduled flights.

There is one small airstrip at Ndutu in the west of the NCA, convenient if you want to experience the births of thousands of wildebeest calves.

Book your cheap flight to the Ngorongoro Crater area with Tripindigo today.

Drive to the Ngorongoro Crater area

From Arusha it takes approximately 2 hours to reach the entrance gate of the NCA (Ngorongoro Conservation Area), called Lodoare Entrance Gate.

Best time to visit

The cool, dry months of spring from June to October and the hot and dry summer months of December to February are the best times to visit.

High season

You can visit the Ngorongoro Conservation Area at any time of the year, with the dry months from June to October being the most popular. But January and February are also dry and good alternatives. The November and December short rains mean you might have a shower once in a while, but this area is ertainly worth visiting during this time.

Low season

The long rains are generally from March to May and this is usually the low season in this area. However, see the section below for the birthing of the wildebeest.

Best time to visit Ndutu for the calving season

From late February to the end of March, the calving season of the wildebeest on the Ndutu plains takes place. This is the start of the migration and is hard to predict as it hugely depends on the rain in the area.


  • Parts of the classic 1985 movie ‘Out of Africa’ starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford was filmed in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.
  • The Hadza people speak a click-language unrelated to any other. They live in the southern area of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area around Lake Eyasi.
  • There is a remarkable black dune slowly being blown westwards across the NCA. It moves around 17 meters per year, is nearly 10m high and 100m long. It is currently located north of the Olduvai Gorge and is made of the ashes of the still active Oldonyo Lengai volcano which sits just outside the NCA (Ngorongoro Conservation Area).

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