Named after the iconic Ngorongoro crater in the area, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area is a huge natural property comprising highland plains, savanna, savanna woodlands, and forests. It is situated in the Ngorongoro district, 110 miles west of Arusha and its western part is contingent on the Serengeti ecosystem thus hosting the annual migration of the wildebeests. This natural environment was set up as a multiple land use area, with wildlife living harmoniously with the Maasai pastoralists rearing cattle traditionally including the Ngorongoro crater.

The area is a UNESCO Heritage Site and a biodiversity conservation area of global significance because of the availability of globally endangered species, the concentration of wildlife, and the yearly migration of wildebeest, gazelles, and zebras into the northern biosphere. A thorough archeological research has revealed vivid evidence of ancient human settlement and their activities, including early man footprints tracing back over 3 million years ago.

The conservation area is managed by The Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority, a Tanzanian government parastatal. The 2009 Ngorongoro Wildlife Conservation Act stipulated new limitations on human settlement and cultivation in the crater, evicting Maasai cattle keepers that had been relocated to Ngorongoro from their original areas to the north during the establishment of Serengeti national park in 1959 by the British colonial government.

The limitation on land use has created a rocky relationship between the conservation authorities and the local Maasai communities.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature is looking for solutions to waiver animosity and advance cooperation efforts concerning conservation with the communities.

Ngorongoro land is the only gazetted area in Tanzania that protects wildlife while permitting human settlement, making it a unique natural property. The land use is monitored and limited to avoid appalling ramifications on the wildlife population. For instance, large-scale farming is totally restricted yet subsistence is allowed.

The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is a section of the Serengeti ecosystem and to the northwest, it links with Serengeti National Park and is attached to the southern Serengeti plains. These prairies stretch to the north into the isolated Loliondo division and are left free for wildlife. The south and west of the Ngorongoro are volcanic mountains comprising the iconic Ngorongoro crater and the less popular Olmoti and Empakaai Craters. The eastern and southern margins are dominated by the rim of the east African rift wall that impedes animals from moving out of the area.

Within the area, there is Lake Magadi and Ngoitokitok spring which are major sources of water for exotic animals and the cattle of the Maasai, especially in the dry season. The stunning vegetation which churns around the volcanic highlands and other landscapes anchors an enormous number of animals of which some species are endemic to the area such as the African hunting dog and the black rhinos. With breathtaking landscapes and a colossal population of fauna, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area is a dream tourist destination. The area is only second to Serengeti national park for receiving the highest number of tourists in Tanzania.

Things to see in Ngorongoro Conservation Area

Ngorongoro Crater

Ngorongoro Crater floor
Ngorongoro Crater floor

This volcanic feature is a highly coveted gem of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Ngorongoro crater is the largest dormant and intact volcanic caldera in the world hence being a monumental piece to sight. It was created by the explosion of a volcano that caved in ages ago. The crater is 100 square miles in size and 2000 feet in depth. This iconic volcanic feature was listed among the ten natural wonders of Africa at a nature conservation ceremony in Arusha in 2012.
The crater has savannah grasslands, rainforests, and high open moorlands, making it one of the main habitats of mammals in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.

Animals such as lions, topis, leopards, black rhinos, zebras, gazelles, wildebeests, and buffaloes are common residents of the crater. It offers such an amazing wildlife viewing experience to tourists and this is why it is the most visited area in the conservation area.

Maasai cultural visits

Maasai are known to be the dominant tribe in the northern wilderness of Tanzania. In the Ngorongoro region, they mainly occupy a place known as Boma. This group of people is cultural and traditional, they were never diluted by western civilization. They still live in the African traditional society setting. The Maasai live in grass-thatched houses with no power and running water. Their daily routine is rearing cattle, grinding cereals, and making craft items like neckless, sandals, bracelets, and Shuka (their traditional attire). Visiting their communities permits tourists to experience such raw life without any sophistication. To mark the end of the visit, an entertainment rendition is put out through music, dance, and drama by local cultural groups.

Olduvai Gorge

Discovered as the earliest settlement of mankind, Olduvai Gorge is a 50km valley between Serengeti and Ngorongoro in the rift valley region. The area lies in the rain shadow side of the Ngorongoro volcanoes thus rarely experiencing rainfall. Because of its valuable history and relics that were discovered by the Leakey family, many travelers visit it. There is a little archaeological museum in that area established by the Leakey family which shows their archeological studies, findings, and early human remains that date back over 3 million years

Lake Magadi

In the northern section of the conservation at the margins of Kenya, there is an alkaline lake in Magadi which is a renowned habitat of the endemic lesser and greater flamingos. Loads of bird species also linger on its shores and water because of its richness in algae and salt. Jackals and hyenas also pass by the water to enjoy the corpse of birds and lick the salt.

Just as it is in Lake Manyara National Park, Ngorongoro also harbors some of the colourful lesser and greater flamingos at Lake Makat in the middle of the Ngorongoro Crater floor.

Lerai Fever Tree Forest

This is a bird haven including bar-tailed trogon, baglafecht weaver, larks, kori bustard, and many more. The nearby swamp, the Gorigor swamp is a lifeline of elands, bushbucks, rhinos, and elephants.

Gol Mountain:

It is such a beautiful raised landform fleeced with greenery. During the annual migration of wildebeests, gazelles, and zebra, it acts as a route to Serengeti. Gol Mountain is such an important feature in the conservation area.

Ol Doinyo Lengai

These ranges are less famous active volcanoes in Ngorongoro. They are occasionally hiked by daring tourists to watch its bubbling lava at the crater.

Olmoti and Empakaai

Tourists interested in walking safaris around Ngorongoro Conservation Area are taken to the two lower slopes of Olmoti and Empakaai. The area is rich in green vegetation that is conducive for so many grazers. Maasai are also sighted keeping their cattle in the area.

Animals in Ngorongoro, Tanzania

Rhinos Ngorongoro crater animals

Tourism in The Ngorongoro Conservation Area

Tourism at the Ngorongoro Conservation Area is vibrant, thanks to the abundance of attractions to enjoy in the region. Ngorongoro is the second most toured destination in Tanzania, thousands of travelers are recorded at its gates annually. Ngorongoro is a piece of heaven on earth, it is one place where exotic animals are seen at leisure without an extensive search.

Away from the wildlife, the conservation area has breathtaking landscapes never seen anywhere in the world, for instance, the Ngorongoro crater, Ol Doinyo Lengai, OLmoti and Empakaai, and the rift valley among others. The features are covered by blistering vegetation from savannah grassland, woodlands, and moorlands to forests that make them more gorgeous. Ngorongoro is also one of the areas where great migration of wildebeests, zebras, and gazelles is witnessed. The major tourist activities carried out in the areas are game drives and walking safaris.

Village walks are organized within the Hadzabe tribe and Maasai to know more about the African ethos and norms in the region. The historical Olduvai Gorge is a great place to tour while in the area. Know more about our existence by visiting the museum where the early human remains discovered by the Leakey family are kept.

How to Access Ngorongoro Conservation Area

Ngorongoro can be accessed by either road or air. The most convenient station for international tourists is Arusha International Airport which is about 110 miles away from the Conservation Area. It only takes about 3 hours by car to reach the national park. Booking a trip with a local tour agent is highly recommended for better organization of ground transportation to access the park. For faster means, charter flights from Arusha to Lake Manyara are available daily.

The best time to visit Ngorongoro Conservation Area

Ngorongoro is a perennial exciting tourist destination that can be visited at any time of the year. However, the most preferred period to explore this remarkable wildlife habitat is the dry months of the year, namely June-October, December, and January to March. In these months, the weather is conducive for outdoor activities such as game drives and walking safari. These times offer the best chance to watch the great migration of ungulates (Wildebeests, zebras, and gazelles).

The wet months such as April, May, and November come with their merits, like low rates on tourism axillary services like accommodation and transport, seclusion because of a low number of tourists in the park and the vegetations are green hence availing an amazing scenery. The demerit is the heavy rains which mar tourism activities and also make the area inaccessible.

Safari Lodges in Ngorongoro Conservation Area

There are a handful of safari lodges to stay in at Ngorongoro. Most of these establishments are situated on the rims of the rift valley and crater. Many lodges provide luxury and standard accommodation services, there are a few budget ones. Lodges to look out for while in Ngorongoro include Seasonal Kirurumu Ngorongoro Camp, Lemala Ngorongoro, Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, and Ngorongoro Farm House.