Nearly three million years ago Ngorongoro towered
alongside Mount Kilimanjaro as one of the highest peaks in Africa.
Forged during the tumultuous birth of the Rift Valley, its volcanic
top erupted at the time that ancient man first walked the plains.
The Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) covers
some 8,300 square kilometres. It boasts the finest blend of landscapes,
wildlife, people and archaeological sites in Africa. It is also
a pioneering experiment in multiple land use. The concept of multiple
land use in conservation perspective is a deviation from a traditional
approach of regarding conservation as complete absenteeism of human
Rifts and volcanoes shape the landscape of
Ngorongoro. A rift is a disturbance in the earth crust, which causes
rise or falls of its borders. Rifts also causes lava or melted rock
to penetrate to the surface where it hardens. If lava emerges from
the same penetration for a long period, it builds up into a volcano.
In the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, the main rifts
are north of Lake Eyasi and east of Lakes Manyara and Lake Natron,
where the nine volcanoes of Ngorongoro highlands were formed during
the past four million years. Of these, only volcano Oldonyo Lengai
is still active. The ash and dust from the eruptions was carried
by the wind to form the fertile soils of the Serengeti plains.
Today, Ngorongoro's caldera shelters the most beautiful
wildlife haven on earth. The rich pasture and permanent water of
the Crater floor supports a resident population of some 20,000 to
25,000 large mammals. They are not confined by the Crater walls,
and can leave freely; they stay because conditions are favourable.
Since most of the Crater floor is grassland, grazing animals predominate:
gnu, zebra, gazelles, buffalo, eland and kongoni (Coke's hartebeest)
and warthogs. The swamp and forest provide additional resources
for hippos, some of Tanzania's last remaining black rhinos, giant-tusked
elephants, waterbucks, reedbucks and bushbucks, baboons and vervets.
The steep inner slopes provide a habitat for dikdiks and the rare
mountain reedbuck. Towering euphorbias cling to the crater walls
and on the floor, Fever tree and Fig tree forests give shade to
an awe-inspiring array of creatures. All these animals in turn support
large predators such as Lion and Leopard, and scavengers such as
Hyena and Jackals.
For the best viewing and photography, approach the animals slowly
and quietly and stay on the official tracks.
What you can see of birdlife depends greatly on the
season of the year, because there are resident birds and migrant
birds. You are certain to see many residents, like ostriches, bustards
and plovers all year round. In wet season they share the Crater
with European migrants such as White Storks, Yellow Wagtails, swallows,
etc. The migrants pass through from November through May, coinciding
with the rains in Africa and the winter in Eurasia. There are also
local migrants such as flamingos, storks and ducks which come and
go depending on the state of the lake and ponds.
Other birds you can see are Stonechat, Anteater Chat, Schalow's
Wheatear, Fiscal Shrike. Augur Buzzards, Verreaux's Eagle and other
raptors live in the Crater.
Climate of Ngorongoro Crater
Ngorongoro safari lodges are situated on the rim
of the crater, which is 2,235 metres (7,264 feet) above sea level.
It can get quite fresh up here, and gets very cold at night in the
winter months of June to August, but is opposingly hot down in the
crater during the day.
The weather is usually dry from June to November.
July is the coldest month and highland temperatures may fall below
It rains anytime from November to May, with the
longer rains in April to May. The amount and pattern of rainfall
varies and a dry period in January and February may split the rainy
season into short and long rains. The forested eastern slopes get
much more rain due to their elevation than the arid country to the
west. The rain arrives in stormy showers usually during afternoons
and nights, which cleanses the air to reveal clear views.
The Ngorongoro Crater Floor
Interpretive game drives through the emerald plains
and forests of the crater floor engender guests with a respect for
the people and wildlife of this world wonder.
A sheer dirt road descends from Malanja Depression
on the crater rim to the crater floor. At the top of the road, Maasai
women and children allow you to photograph them for a small fee.
The Malanja depression is grassy and open and is a good place to
spot typical highland antelope such as mountain reedbuck and Kirks
dik-dik, and birds such as the striking auger buzzard and Schalows
wheatear. The dominant feature of the crater floor is Lake Magadi,
a shallow soda lake that supports large flocks of flamingo. Much
of the crater floor is open grassland, making animal spotting relatively
easy: black rhino, lion, hyena, gazelle, wildebeest and zebra are
all commonly seen. The hippo pool near Mandusi Swamp is a popular
Lodges and hotels around the Ngorongoro