Ngorongoro Conservation Area

The Ngorongoro Conservation Area spans vast expanses of highland plains, savanna, savanna woodlands and forests. Established in 1959 as a multiple land use area, with wildlife coexisting with semi-nomadic Maasai pastoralists practicing traditional livestock grazing, it includes the spectacular Ngorongoro Crater, the world’s largest caldera.

Ngorongoro has global importance for biodiversity conservation due to the presence of globally threatened species, the density of wildlife inhabiting the area, and the annual migration of wildebeest, zebra, gazelles and other animals into the northern plains. 


There is much variation in climate within Ngorongoro Conservation Area, mainly because of the altitude differences. There is a dry season from June to October and a wet season from November to May. The dry season holds its own beauty due to the fact that animals are concentrated along permanent water sources. The wet season is divided into the “short rain” (Nov-Dec) and the “long rains” (Feb- May). It is often cloudy on the highlands and in summer it rains almost every day. Game viewing and the scenery during rainy season is superb as most animals congregate on the short grass plains.

Getting there

By Road

Most visitors approach the Ngorongoro Conservation Area from the town of Arusha, about 180 kilometres away. The road from Arusha to Ngorongoro Conservation Area is good and is paved; it enters the Conservation Area through the Loduare Gate near the town of Karatu.

By Air

It is also possible to get to Ngorongoro Conservation Area by flying a charter plane. There is an airstrip on the crater rim, close to the headquarters of Ngorongoro Conservation Area.Other local airlines have scheduled flights from Arusha, and other major destinations in the country to Serengeti next door, which makes easy connection to Ngorongoro.


Ngorongoro is gifted with variety of attractions ranging from wildlife inhabiting the wilderness to craters and mountain peaks.

Ngorongoro Crater

Ngorongoro Crater is the world’s largest intact and unfilled volcanic caldera, and is indeed the flagship tourism attraction of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.

Measuring an area of 260 square km and extending about 20km in diameter, the crater is actually a huge caldera of a volcano that collapsed to a depth of 610m about three million years ago. The crater is host to over 25,000 animals including populations of large mammals such as elephants, buffaloes, elands, wildebeests, zebras, gazelles, hippos, and rhinos, as well as such carnivores as lions, hyenas, jackals, and cheetahs. The ponds, or rather small lakes on the floor of the crater also host a wide-range of water birds including flamingoes and pelicans. Away from the crater floor, the forests on the crater rim is home to leopards, reedbuck, warthogs, and forest birds to complete a natural zoo, and Africa’s ultimate destination to see the “Big Five” (lion, elephant, rhino, leopard and buffalo).

Empakaai Crater

Empakaai Crater may not be as famous as Ngorongoro, but many travellers consider it to be its match in beauty. Empakaai is about 8km in diameter, and holds a beautiful; round lake that occupies nearly half its floor. The lake draws flamingos and other water birds and is surrounded by steep-sided, forested cliffs at least 300m high. When flamingos are there, from the rim it looks like pink beaches around the lake.

On the outside, the elevation of Empakaai on the western side is 3,200m above sea level and on the eastern side, 2,590m above sea level. Because of this high altitude Empakaai is almost always shrouded in mist, and the lake appears emerald or deep blue in colour.

Visitors to Empakaai can walk to the rim to catch the appealing scenery or hike down into the crater. From the rim, visitors can view the volcanic cone of Oldonyo Lengai to the northeast, and even the alkaline Lake Natron shimmering in the distance.

Olmoti Crater

Olmoti Crater is to the North of Ngorongoro Crater and south of Empakaai Crater. The floor of Olmoti is shallow and grassy, and it is the source of the Munge River, which feeds the Ngorongoro Crater.

Though not as famous as Ngorongoro and Empakaai, Olmoti Crater is worth visiting when travelling North into the highlands. Trekkers can start a two-day walking safari from Olmoti to Empakaai.

It is also possible to climb to the rim and descend down the floor of Olmoti. The highest point at Olmoti is 3,080m and the crater is about 6.5km in diameter. There is a short trail that leads to the Munge Waterfall. Beware of dangerous games along the way and visitor should be accompanied by an armed ranger.

The Maasai

Visitors to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area can learn about the culture of the Maasai and take photographs or buy original Maasai handicraft at designated areas known as cultural bomas. In order to safeguard the livelihood of these people and at the same time conserve the flora and fauna of the area, Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority supports and initiates community-based projects, such as ecotourism in the form of these cultural bomas.In partnership with the Maasai council known as Ngorongoro Pastoral Council, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority oversees the progress of these cultural bomas, and also enables Maasai guides to conduct walking safaris and other part-time work at the lodges and at the headquarters of the Conservation Area.

Olduvai Gorge

Olduvai Gorge (sometimes spelt Oldupai) is the most famous archaeological location in East Africa, and has become an essential stop for travellers to Ngorongoro or Serengeti. It is located about 40km northwest of Ngorongoro Crater, just a few kilometres off the main Serengeti road.

Olduvai Gorge stretches about 50km and is up to 90m deep. Research at the Gorge began more than a century ago, producing a wealth of archaeological and palaeontological data for the study of some key phases of early human evolution.


Tourism activities at Ngorongoro range from walking safaris, cultural tourism, camping , game drives and birding watching, amongst others.

Walking safaris  

Walking safaris are one of the adventurous experiences for visitors. Both short and long safaris can be organized in different parts and attractions in the Ngorongoro conservation area, especially trekking down Empakai to Olmoti crater, one of the most beautiful craters in the Ngorongoro conservation area. 

Game drives  

As one of the world’s wonders, the Ngorongoro conservation area, as a mixed world heritage site and international biosphere reserve, is full of wild animals and marvelous landscapes, which makes game drives, especially down the crater, memorable for visitors. All game drives in the Ngorongoro conservation area are by four-wheeled vehicles only.

Bird watching  

The Ngorongoro conservation area is blessed with both abundance and diversity of bird species, with over 550 bird species including both resident and migratory birds. This creates an opportunity for bird lovers to enjoy their trip to the Ngorongoro conservation area. Supportive habitats such as grassland plains, lakes, marshes, highlands, and Ngorongoro conservation are all areas for birding.



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