After a day in Tarangire National Park, we woke up bright and early to catch the sunrise. We only had a day in Tarangire so sadly it was time to leave the park and head to our next destination, the Ngorongoro Crater in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.
The Ngorongoro Crater was the second stop on our safari, and we were looking forward to it as we’d heard fabulous things about it. Also known as the Garden of Eden, Ngorongoro Crater is a dazzling beauty and paradise on earth for so many animals. We were not disappointed with our visit.
Where is Ngorongoro Crater?
The Ngorongoro Crater is in the Eastern Great Rift Valley of northern Tanzania. It’s 120 kilometres west of the town of Arusha. Its caldera measures around 20 kilometres across and 600 metres deep.
From the gate of Tarangire it’s around two and a half hours drive to the gates of Ngorongoro Crater, so if you can, combine the two of them on your next Tanzanian Safari.
Why should you visit Ngorongoro Crater?
The Ngorongoro Crater is a very popular Tanzanian attraction for good reason. It is the world’s largest inactive, unbroken, and unfilled volcanic caldera. The Ngorongoro Crater was formed approximately two and a half million years ago, when a large volcano erupted and collapsed on itself. It is a wildlife haven, being home to around 30,000 animals, so it is the perfect place to add to your Tanzanian safari.
The wildlife of Ngorongoro
Because the crater walls of Ngorongoro are too steep for most animals to climb, most of them were trapped after descending into the crater. Therefore, they continue to multiply within the crater. There are so many animals of various species now living in the crater, including a few endangered black rhinos. Sadly, we didn’t spot any close enough to photograph with our zoom here in Ngorongoro. We did later in our trip though.
The Ngorongoro Crater is also home to a dense population of lions, leopards, cheetahs, elephants, wildebeest, zebras, hyenas, warthogs, buffalos, hippos, impalas and many more.
Giraffes are one of the only animals that cannot be found in the crater because the predators can spot them way too easily due to their size. Sadly, when we were halfway down the crater, we spotted a baby giraffe that had lost its mum. Our guide told us it had a very slim chance of survival since it was doubtful that it would manage to make its way back up alone at such as young age. It was so cute, but I felt so sad for it. Apparently, it’s very unusual to spot them so far down into the crater.
The birdlife of Ngorongoro
There are 500 bird species that can be spotted in the Ngorongoro Crater. These birds can be both migrants and native bird species.
Some of the many bird species found in the Ngorongoro conservation area are flamingos, grey crowned cranes, secretary birds, kori bustards, yellow billed storks, woodpeckers, ostriches, guinea fowls, saddle bills, herons, white pelicans, plovers, bee eaters, kingfishers, falcons, starlings, shrikes and many more.
We saw many flamingos hanging by Lake Magadi, a soda lake down in the crater.
The incredible views from above
Before you make your way down into the crater, be sure to stop at the first viewpoint on the rim of the crater to get the best view of the crater from above.
The viewpoint is not far from the entrance gate. The area has been cleared of the dense forest that surrounds the crater lip and the opposite side of the crater is just visible in the haze. If you have binoculars, you may be able to see some larger animals on the crater floor.
As you make your way down to the crater floor, you’ll get some incredible views too. It’s a magical spot!
When is the best time to visit the Ngorongoro Crater?
Wildlife spotting inside the Ngorongoro Crater is considered good at all times of the year. However, the grass on the crater floor is shorter in the dry season (from June through September), and the animals also gather around the watering holes. This makes wildlife spotting even easier.
For the prettiest scenery, the wet season (from November to May) is the best as the crater is looking lush and spectacular during that time.
Where to stay in Ngorongoro Crater?
The Retreat at Ngorongoro
We only had one night in Ngorongoro Crater, and we stayed at The Retreat at Ngorongoro. The Retreat at Ngorongoro is in Karatu, about 25 minutes from the crater and 40 minutes to Lake Manyara. The Retreat at Ngorongoro provides accommodation with free WiFi in all rooms, well-appointed rooms with fireplaces. Some units also have a terrace and/or balcony. Find out their latest prices here.
Pakulala Safari Camp – Ngorongoro
If you can afford it and want to stay inside the crater, the Pakulala Safari Camp looks great. This full board tented camp offers deluxe tents with two comfortable double beds, a private bathroom with bucket shower, eco-toilet, original local handmade washbasin, and mirror. Find out their latest prices here.