What to know about Ngorongoro Crater area

The Ngorongoro Crater is actually the world’s largest volcanic, intact, inactive and unfilled caldera and was formed approximately three million years ago when a large volcano exploded and collapsed. The crater is 610 meters deep, the diameter is around 30 miles and overall the floor covers 100 square miles, so this was definitely a huge volcano by its time of activity!

This volcano was around 5800 meters high before it exploded and you can still feel this when you are at the crater floor today as it is at 1800 meters elevation. Overall an impressive witness of the evolution of our earth and especially the African continent that is also one of the main reasons this crater was voted as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa in Arusha in February 2013.

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The crater is only part of the greater Ngorongoro Conservation Area and this is a protected area and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979 – so lot of history! Wildlife in the crater is covering black rhino, buffalo, hippo, wildebeest, zebra, eland, Thompson gazelle, waterbuck and some cheetah, wild dog and leopard and of course lion. Lake Magadi, you can see a part of it in the picture above, is a large lake in the southwest of the crater, where  you can find thousands of flamingos.

But wait, there is more history. Michael Grzimek, the second son of Bernhard Grzimek who was driving conservation work also in this part of Africa, was killed in 1959 when the plane he piloted collided with a vulture and crashed. He was buried the same day at the top of the Ngorongoro Crater where later the government of Tanzania built the stone pyramid for his grave and also Berhard Grzimek was buried there after he died in 1987.

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Definitely the most beautiful place to stay in this area is the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge that is designed in the Masai mud-and-stick manyatta style and is one of the most spectacular lodges I have ever seen. It was an out of this world experience to visit this lodge!

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Needless to say also the rooms are luxurious and make the stay a real dream!

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The nice and friendly personal of the lodge contributes to feeling great when resting from the efforts of game drives or any other activities.

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The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is home to Masai where you can still find them living in their original villages. The Masai are cattle herders and need to keep moving as the grass needs to be able to regrow.

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Sure enough their nomadic lifestyle is starting to change as many wildlife preserves were opened in Tanzania and Kenya recently, not longer allowing the Masai to graze their cattle on these preserves.

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We were lucky to visit one of their original villages. One can watch here traditional dances of men and women.

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They even allow you to enter their cabins that are really small and mainly built around an open fireplace where they cook and also can warm up during the cold nights.

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They offer quite impressive collections of handmade decoration and jewellery for sale, hard to resist not to buy some nice presents.

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Finally we were only visitors in this slowly disappearing world of traditional Masai life and needed to leave these friendly people after countless stunning impressions.

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Learn more about safari tours including Ngorongoro Crater on our African Safari Tours page with a variety of sample tours.

Peter Tomsu for Roho Ya Chui, Travel Africa

Peter’s African Safari Travel Diary

Waking up this morning in this wonderful place (The Manor) was like a dream. When walking out for breakfast everything had completely changed compared to last evening, it was now a bit cooler and foggy what resulted in nice colours of all the flowers and bushes around.

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We had a delicious breakfast in the main building and it was actually very hard for me to leave with so much hospitality offered and while residing in all these beautiful rooms, reminding us of great but long gone times of the last century.

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We finally said good bye to the nice people of The Manor and jumped back into our car in order to drive up to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area – the Ngorongoro Crater.

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While driving, Ute had the idea to try to visit the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, that is normally closed for day visitors but we wanted to give it a try, because from this lodge one has quite the best view over the crater. While driving towards the lodge we passed by at the memorial place for Michael Grzimek who died here in 1957 while his plane crashed against the crater walls in fog. Michael and his father Bernhard Grzimek had spent their lives working for conservation of the Ngorongoro area.

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After a short drive we arrived a the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge and were lucky, as they would let us in for sight inspection.

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The crater has an approximate diameter of 30 miles and is the caldera left from an ancient big volcano that is estimated to had a height of around 6000m. Today approximately 25000 large animals live in the crater including the black rhino, buffalos, hippopotamus, zebras, gazelles, impalas waterbucks, impalas, lions, leopards and Tanzanian cheetahs. The large lake in the southwest of the crater is Lake Magadi and gives home to flamingos.

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It is absolutely true, the lodge provides a magnificent view over the crater. But also the lodge itself is one of the most beautiful and comfortable places in whole Africa.

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We were enjoying the hospitality of Nafue, who showed us happily around and was also not shy to pose for some photos, what beautiful people the locals really are!

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Fast forward from this stunning place we visited a Masai camp outside of the crater on our way to the Serengeti National Park. We were not only seeing some original dances but were also shown the interior of one of the huts, a really interesting experience.

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Once in the Serengeti National Park we had lunch at the Serengeti Pioneer Camp where we could see the spectacle of a tropical thunderstorm accompanied by heavy rain. The storm lasted for maybe one hour and drained the whole Serengeti in some very welcome water.

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Before we reached Serengeti Migration Camp, our final destination of this exhausting but also exciting day, we were lucky to find a group of lions eating their kill – a zebra. This was so special as we could see the cubs play and eat more or less at the same time.

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If you would like more information on planning your African safari vacation, visit the safari tours page or contact a representative with Roho Ya Chui today.

Peter Tomsu for Roho Ya Chui, Travel Africa