NGORONGORO CONSERVATION AREA
The famous Ngorongoro lies within Ngorongoro Conservation Area. The conservation area was part of Serengeti National Park until 1959 when the two-wildlife sanctuaries were separated into two different Protected Areas with different conservation statuses. The Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority was established as a multiple-land use area, the Conservation Authority Area, where wildlife could co-exist with the semi-nomadic Maasai, who move from one place to another in search of water and pasture. The Ngorongoro Conservation Area was therefore established as a multi-purpose protected area that balances residential, pastoralism, conservation, and tourism.
Ngorongoro Crater was formed when a volcano erupted and then collapsed and sunk leaving a huge caldera. The caldera in the Conservation Area host both human being settlement and wildlife including endangered species. The crater has been named the “Garden of Eden” due to the crater’s beautiful landscape, majestic vistas, and animal paradise. This breathtaking caldera stands to be one of the World’s natural wonders.
The Conservation Authority Area has two different seasons that tourists need to be aware of; the dry season which is the best time for a safari experience, and the rainy season when the vegetation is heavy and green with greater pastures. During the rainy season, the grass becomes long and thick therefore spotting wildlife is not easy, especially for predators. These two different seasons make the Crater unique depending on the travel interests.
The dry season is from June to October when the weather is sunny and the vegetation is dry. Expect less dense vegetation in the area during this time. The less-dense plants make spotting wild animals simple as animals have fewer places to hide and can be seen hanging out around the water bodies. During the dry season, you will have a better view of the overall ecosystem of the entire caldera as you will see beautiful scenery with animals roaming freely.Continue reading
The short rainy season is experienced from November to January, while heavy and long rains are experienced from late March to May. During this season the area receives few tourists and it is less crowded as the vegetation is long and thick therefore spotting wildlife is not easy, especially for the predators. Despite, these two different seasons we highly recommend exploring Ngorongoro Crater at any time of the year depending on your interest. The crater never gets very hot during the day, but the crater rim gets cold, and it can freeze at night.
ACTIVITIES IN NGORONGORO
See our safari page for the list of recommended itinerary ideas which includes Ngorongoro
WILDLIFE GAME DRIVE
This is the northwestern part of the conservation bordering southern Serengeti. While in Ndutu it’s hard to demark between Serengeti and Ngorongoro part even for some frequent visitors like safari guides. There is not too much resident wildlife at Ndutu compared to central Serengeti or inside the crater, however, it’s a perfect spot for migrating wildebeests and Zebras.
The great wildebeest migration of Serengeti never lasts, it’s ongoing, and wildebeests are on constant move. Ndutu is where life begins, they annually come here for calving in the month of March through May, and once the calves can barely walk the journey resumes. They enter Serengeti from the south and head west to the Grumet area on their way north to cross river Mara.
Calving season brings in many groups of predators who are eagerly after easy prey. Big cats find their food shelter brought closer, with the plains of Ndutu flooded with countless wildebeests, zebras, calves, and antelopes, there is no more scarcity of food.
The conservation has permitted off-roading in Ndutu, therefore making the area ideal for wildlife enthusiasts who want to get closer to the animals. Photographer finds Ndutu safaris best among all. If anyone wishes to live among wild animals, one should consider a safari to Ndutu.
GAME DRIVE INSIDE NGORONGORO CRATER
Once inside the crater you start to wonder how complete the ecosystem is inside Ngorongoro Crater. Everything including the weather is different from the extreme cold on the crater rim. Different wild animals co-exist and there are water sources enough for even hippos to enjoy life. Most animals inside the crater are resident except for a few bird species like migrating flamingos.
During the game drive, you will descend to the crater floor through the lush forest. Whilst on the floor you will have great views of Rhinos roaming freely along with other wild animals. Zebras are commonly sighted and if lucky you might witness Lion hunting. Cheetahs are present though rarely spotted. Some notable wildlife you will see include; Elephants, Buffaloes, Waterbucks, Wildebeest, Warthogs, Reedbucks, Jackals, Serval Cats, Hippopotamus, Gazelles, East African Wild Dogs, Hyenas, Baboons, and many species of birds like; Flamingoes and Exotic Birds
Ngorongoro Conservation Area is home to numerous bird species including migratory birds, grassland birds, and endemic birds. Bird watching can best be experienced in the morning but it is perfect exploring in the evening hours as many birds will return to their nests after the whole food hunt.
The experienced bird guide will take you through and explain different bird habitats such as forests, grassland plains, Lake Magadi, marshes, and many more. During bird watching you will be able to view bird species like Black Kite, Lesser Flamingo, Grey Crowned Crane, Secretary Bird, Ostrich, White-EyedSlaty Flycatcher, Living Turaco, Kenya Rufous Sparrow, Black-WingedLapwing, Hildebrandt’s Spur-fowl, Jacksons Widow-bird, Kori Bustard, Hartlieb’s Turaco, African Spoonbill, Namaqua Dove, Egyptian Vulture, Red, and YellowBarbet, Rufous Tailed Weaver, Rosy Throated Long Claw, Verreaux Eagle, and many others.
This is an adventurous activity in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area where tourists get the opportunity to explore the conservation area on foot under the guidance of a knowledgeable park guide and an armed park ranger to protect tourists from any danger. Ngorongoro conservation area offers short and long walks like trekking to Empakai or Olmoti craters, and crater rim walks.
During the guided nature walk you will be able to get closer to some wildlife species within the conservation area. Such species include; animals, birds like Greater and Lesser Flamingos, Crowned Eagle, White-EyedSlaty Flycatcher, Golden-WingedSunbird, views of colorful butterflies, an encounter with the Maasai and their cattle, view of the crater, and different plant and tree species.
VISIT SHIFTING SAND
Ngorongoro Conservation Area boasts the most unique attractions including the famous shifting sand. Blend your Tanzania experience by visiting the undistinguished part of the savannah grassland. Located near the Olduvai Gorge on the road to the Serengeti National Park, are two crescent-shaped fine dunes. This shifting sand is remarkably dark in color, especially in comparison with the surrounding soil dunes. This is because it is highly magnetized with volcanic ash, and this perfectly explains why the particles tend to fall back on the dunes instead of being blown away by the wind when thrown in the air.
It is possible to throw a handful of sand in the air and see how it clamps together and re-joins the dunes. However, when strong winds blow, these dunes, also known as barchan, begin to move. Slow but sure, the dune particles travel through the desert, at an average of 55 feet (17 meters) a year. It’s estimated that these shifting dunes have been itinerating the savannah for 3 million years.
The local Maasai community believes the shifting dunes have come from the nearby sacred Mountain Ol-Doinyo Lengai, ‘’the Mountain of God’’. A stop and explore this enchanting feature will add more value to your experience.
The best time to visit the place is during the dry season from June to October. This is due to the trails leading to the area where the shifting dunes roam requiring a 4×4 vehicle in the dry season and visiting the dunes shortly after rainfall is not recommended, as the trails can turn into impassable mud pits.
VISIT OLDUVAI GORGE
This archaeological site was founded by Mary Leakey and Luis Leakey in 1959. This paleoanthropological site in the eastern part of Serengeti Plains is now under the jurisdiction of the Tanzanian government’s Department of Cultural Antiquities. It is a museum dedicated to the appreciation and understanding of the Olduvai Gorge and Laetoli fossil sites.
The Olduvai Gorge inside the Ngorongoro Conservation area is one of the most important archaeological sites on earth. The geological stratification exposed in the gorge reveals a remarkable record of animal and humankind evolution from thousands of years ago. Among the significant elements found in the Olduvai is the range of stone tool types, the thousands of animal fossils; both extinct and extant species, and the fossil bones of hominids (pre-Homo Sapiens) and early Homo sapiens.
The Cradle of Mankind
A tour to Ngorongoro will take you to Laetoli “The Cradle of Mankind.” This is the place where three separate tracks of small-brained upright-walking early hominids, “Australopithecus Afarensis’’, have been miraculously preserved in muddy ash deposited by volcanic eruptions and hardened by the sun some million years ago.
It was conclusively proved that these creatures stood and walked upright (bipedalism) with a human-like stride a million years before the invention of stone tools and the initial growth in hominin brain size. It is undoubtedly one of the most astounding and magnificent scientific discoveries of the time. When you visit Laetoli, you can see and touch a huge cast of the actual “Lucy’’ footprints in Laetoli Museum.
The discoveries of Louis and Marry Leakey over five decades, as well as more recent investigations of the gorge, are displayed in the Olduvai Gorge Museum. The museum and tourists Centers offer numerous educational exhibits, including fossils and artifacts of human ancestors and skeletons of many extinct animals who shared the world. There are also informative lectures, special guided archaeological site tours, and native handicrafts. Olduvai Gorge can be visited by a member of the Olduvai Museum staff.