Why Ngorongoro Conservation Area is a must-visit in Tanzania
World Heritage SiteAny avid traveler would want to tick off as many World Heritage Sites as possible — especially if the site promises an experience beyond your wildest dreams. Ngorongoro Conservation Area, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979, is that kind of site. Its main feature is the astounding Ngorongoro Crater which is famous for being the largest inactive and intact volcanic caldera in the whole world. A result of a major explosion and collapse about 2 to 3 million years ago, the Crater was officially hailed as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa in 2015. Some also refer to it as “the cradle of humanity.” An expanse that is truly more than meets the eye, Ngorongoro Conservation Area harbors a wide range of globally threatened species and incredibly dense wildlife. It is also one of the centers for extensive archaeological research for more than 80 years as it shows crucial evidence of human evolution and human-environment dynamics.
Africa’s Garden of EdenWhen people say “Ngorongoro Conservation Area,” what most human brain automatically pictures is the world-renowned Ngorongoro Crater. And we really can’t blame you for that. Ngorongoro Crater, the Garden of Eden of Africa, has a glorious landscape that’s teeming with about 25,000 animals including ungulates, four of the Big Five and other large mammals. It is also one of the best places to spot critically endangered animals like black rhinos, golden cats and wild hunting dogs. Home to one of the densest known population of Masai lions, Ngorongoro Crater guarantees an action-packed, heart-pounding game. In fact, it also supports the largest animal migration on earth, the Great Migration. You see, the Ngorongoro Crater area and Ndutu area are settings of the wildebeest calving season. During this time, you will be able to witness thousands of baby wildebeests being born and a plethora of opportunistic predators on stealth and killing modes. The splendor of this world wonder makes people say this is like “mini Africa in a bowl.” As one traveler would put it, “Imagine a bowl of an incredible landscape filled with just about every African animal you can think of.”
Unique settingThink of another place in the world where you can see such a unique setting with diverse scenery, prolific wildlife and birdlife, and an ecosystem like no other. The Ngorongoro Conservation Area covers mountain forests, woodlands, grasslands, lakes, swamps and two major rivers. Not to mention Ngorongoro Crater, Oldupai Gorge and Laetoli.
Maasai VillageThe Maasai tribe is the original inhabitants of this area. In fact, they named the place “Ngorongoro” which means “gift of life.” They are probably the most famous indigenous tribe if the east and a visit to their village is definitely an experience worthy of taking. During the visit, you will be able to meet Maasai men and women, enjoy dancing and listening to their native melodies, be entertained with a dramatic enactment, and maybe even try on their red cloaks! What makes this experience enriching is that you get to see an authentic social side of Africa and a glimpse of the rich Maasai culture.
Olduvai GorgeIf you love archaeology or you even if you just want to see important paleontological records related to human evolution, Olduvai Gorge is the place to go. It is one of the most important paleoanthropological sites in the world and gives us a good understanding of early human evolution.
A Day-TourThe main attraction, which is the Crater, is pretty small. It stretches at 8,292 km2 (3,202 sq mi) and goes for about 610 metres (2,000 feet) deep. The great thing is, animals are just in plain sight with nowhere to hide. Hence, you can see it one day. You can even make a quick side trip to Olduvai Gorge if you wish! If you think about it, you get to see A LOT in even just half a day. Every direction you look, you can spot zebras, lions, elephants, wildebeests and if you’re lucky, black rhinos, too! So if you are on a tight schedule, it would definitely be very easy (and wise) to squeeze a Ngorongoro Crater safari in your itinerary.
Amazing sunrise and sunsetTransitions between day and night are often spectacular times go view wildlife and observe their behavior. Aside from this, have we mentioned beautiful sunsets and sunrises? Ngorongoro Crater boasts of a lush landscape with jungles along its crater rim. If you stand or stay at a lodge by the crater rim early in the morning, you will be able to witness the breathtaking movement of the sun as it rises and slowly touches the green grasses of the savannah. If you stay in the middle of the afternoon before the sun sets, you can watch the golden hour and witness one of the most glorious sunsets of your life.
Very near SerengetiThe northern region of Ngorongoro Conservation Area shares borders with the eastern area of Serengeti National Park. In fact, Ngorongoro Conservation Area is one of the places where the must-see wildebeest calving season ensues. Most tourists in Tanzania targets to visit the Serengeti. As a matter of fact, most of them aim to stay around the area. If you want a cheaper accommodation option, Ngorongoro Conservation Area could be your most ideal solution. Aside from being incredibly close to the Serengeti, Ngorongoro promises a Tanzanian view that’s just as majestic as the Serengeti. If accommodation is not an issue, well, then a visit to the conservation area is just really very convenient and timesaving.
Self-driving is okayIf self-driving is tour thing, Ngorongoro Conservation Area allows this (unlike most parks in Tanzania). The advantage of this is that you get to manage your own time and have the tour at your own pace. The downsides, however, can be quite plenty. One, vehicles for rent can be costly and don’t have pop-up roofs that give you 360-degree views. Two, roads are not really very good at all. Three, you might not be able to catch the best game and best views. BUT, if you have an excellent Ngorongoro Crater safari operator, you will be able to experience the best of the area in a superbly comfortable, educational and entertaining way.
Breakfasts and lunches like no other
How do you feel about a picnic in the wild? In Ngorongoro Crater, designated picnic areas await you! Whether you are going to have breakfast or lunch or eating at the hood of the car, splendid views are guaranteed. Plus, wild animals are walking freely around. You might even share that breakfast spread with an elephant!