Ngorongoro Crater Safari Tanzania
Ngorongoro crater is one of the world’s breath taking natural wonders with a breathtaking setting and one of the places to see the big five. Once a giant volcano, Ngorongoro crater in northern Tanzania is the largest caldera in the whole world. Some people still maintain that before its eruption it was higher than Mt. Kilimanjaro which has the highest peak in Africa. This one of the most beautiful natural wildlife Tanzania safari sites as well as a must go to place if you would like to interact with people of the Masai tribe who have a very rich culture.
Highlands surrounding the crater together with the crater itself form one of Africa’s most unique and beautiful regions. The volcanic craters create a stunning backdrop to some of the most fertile and richest grazing grounds in Africa. The walls of the crater rim are steep and soar 400 to 610m high giving off an incredible natural drama as predators and prey stalk and graze their way into the open grasslands, acacia woodlands and swamps on the crater floor thereby giving off a heavenly sight.
Ngorongoro Crater Attractions
Wildlife Game Safari
You will find very few safari destinations that deliver the same experience as Ngorongoro crater does; it is one place you go to when you need the easiest and most rewarding game viewing in East Africa.
The world’s largest intact caldera is home to the highest density of big game in Africa including plenty of wildlife and the famous big five. A healthy population of endangered black rhinos protected with its rims as well as some of the largest tusker elephants (200 to 300) left in the world that wander all day in the forests are the prize spots here. There is also a good population of black maned lions that stalk the grasslands, healthy herds of wildebeests along with zebras, hyenas (600) and leopards. In total large mammals residing in this bowl is estimated to be 25,000 with a population of 6000 resident wildebeests, 70 lions and about 30 endangered black rhinos inhabit the crater floor. Flamingos can be seen crowding the soda lakes giving off a pink hue from a distance. In addition to these there are other wildlife including serval cat, bat eared foxes, Giant and Thompson’s gazelle, cheetah, jackal and a population of about 400 different species of birds. In addition you find plenty of hippos converging on the Ngoitoktok springs picnic site. Though less commonly seen, warthogs, hartebeests, waterbucks, bushbucks and Bohor’s reedbucks also inhabit here.
All this wonder is in plenty mainly because of the presence of water both the permanent springs which make sure they maintain the swamps as well as the permanent streams and rivers that flow off the crater rim.
The vegetation cover
Ngorongoro is a mixture of lush green, rain watered vegetation and desert plants. The area is made up of semi arid plant communities, uncultivated lowland vegetation, highland forests and abundant short grass that is used for grazing. High open moorland, grasslands, scrub health as well as the remains of dense evergreen forests line the steep slopes of the crater as highland trees which include yellow-wood, peacock flower, sweet Olive and Kousso (Hagenia abyssinica) form an exciting mix.
Extensive stretches of pencil cedar on Makarut Mountain to the west and pure bamboo on Oldenani Mountain can be seen as Dove weeds dominate the lower slopes. Red thorn Acacia and Gum Acacia constitute the upland woodlands and these are very important for protecting the watershed.
The crater basin is covered by open short grass plains which are dotted by fresh and brackish water lakes, swamps, marshes and two patches of Acacia woodland. Inside there you will find Lerai forest which is home to Acacia and the yellow fever tree as well as Laiyanai forest that has Acacia Lahai and Pillar wood. Occasional umbrella acacia and Commiphora Africana trees make up the grass covered undulating plains to the west as the Zebrawood and Blackthorn acacia dominate in the dry conditions beside Lake Eyasi. The richness of the extensive grassland and bush which is relatively untouched by cultivation supports the large population of wild game.
How To Get To Ngorongoro Crater
You can get to Ngorongoro crater through Arusha airport which is located just outside Arusha. The crater is only a 3 hour drive on a tarmarc road from Arusha which is the starting point of most safaris in northern Tanzania. Once in Arusha you can get go around the parks of northern circuit with a chartered flight or you can use safari vehicle and drive the whole circuit. It is a usual occurrence that your tour operator will pick you from the airport and then handle all your ground and domestic operations.
The other option to get to Arusha is to fly to Kilimanjaro International Airport which is just 46 kilometres from Arusha. You can as well as go through Julius Nyerere international airport in Dar es Salaam and fly to Arusha airport.
Ngorongoro Crater Accommodation
Ngorongoro crater lodge.
Sitting on the rim of the crater, Ngorongoro crater lodge has spectacular views to die for. This lodge is best accessed by aircraft which lands at Manyara airstrip from which you drive to the lodge in an hour’s journey. If you plans of visiting Serengeti national park, this is the best lodge to be at as Serengeti is just next door. This gives it a unique intrinsic part of any top end to a Tanzanian safari holiday or better yet a honeymoon.
The lodge is divided into three camps which has a very similar feel with the rest of the camps. The camps are known as South, North and tree. Tree camp is nearer the rim and lower down among the trees although at times the views are obstructed by the trees. The main communal area in tree camp is huge and slightly over the top with massive windows for expanse and magnificent views, grand chandeliers and open log fires which give that cosy feel in the wake of the night.
Their Bandas are private and spread out into the green grassland that lies in front of the lodge, chandeliers, and the deep reds. This lodge is very different to anywhere else in north Tanzania mainly because of this lodge.
The major activity that takes place here is game driving in the crater itself which normally takes about 6 hours. Masai villages are found in the vicinity of the lodge which you can visit on return from the game drive.
North and South camps
These camps are set slightly higher up the hill and these are very similar. Their main lounge of the camps is decorated with large beaded chandeliers, wood panelled walls, velveteen sofas and raw silk curtains. Their roofs are creatively crafted from banana leaves as Persian rugs make up the floor and fresh roses are replenished on a daily. There is an expanse of decking on the outside of each camp is decorated with terracotta pots all full of Masai spears and a large fireplace in the middle gives off the perfect setting for pre-dinner drinks with the moon sought high above over the crater rim.
Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge
This is a truly marvellous location set in the western rim of the crater and it has views of the magnificent caldera with an almost “flintstones” design. The lodge is uniquely decorated with a hand painted cave type illustration and style all over giving the lodge quite a large outlook. The large arches in the walls combined with a central fire place that sticks out in the communal areas and the lovely views down the restaurant make this lodge exceptional. The crackling wood fires in the dining room and bar give a warm invite as the menu offers both delicious and extensive choices of food incorporating at least four courses.
The rooms which total to 75 are laid out on two levels in long lines along the rim of the crater making one think they were built into the natural gradient of the crater. All necessary requirements are found inside these rooms; bathrooms, large double beds and large windows giving you a great view.
Ngorongoro Sopa lodge
Located on the eastern side of the crater, Ngorongoro Sopa lodge is only an hour and half drive from Manyara airstrip and about 3 and a half hours from Arusha. This lodge has an ancient lavishly decorated establishment and has one of the best prices on the crater rim for budget travellers.
Ngorongoro Sopa lodge is centred around a striking glass fronted central atrium that overlooks the swimming pool that only the brve ones that can bare the highland chill only swim in. To the left is the lounge and the restaurant to right where you can sit and relax away in the peaceful environment. The restaurant is famous for its excellent atmosphere especially when the central open fires are burning accompanied with the mouth watering dishes they offer.
There is a total of 92 rooms at this lodge and each of them is spacious, warm and fitted with a glass fronted veranda that is aimed at giving wonderful views of the crater. They are fitted with self contained bathtubs with warm water available. This is the perfect place to spend your night once here.
Best Time To Visit Ngorongoro Crater
The wild experience at Ngorongoro crater is all year round but there are peak seasons just like all other places that offer an optimum game viewing experience. During the dry season that is July to September as well as December to February, high vistor numbers are expected. Putting this in mind, you may consider to come between April to May which is a rainy season when the visitors are fewer and you will have the crater to yourself. At this time the crater is wonderfully covered with a green lush blanket of vegetation compared to the dusty dry landscape.
WHAT TO PACK
Knowing what to go with to a trip is the best thing that can happen to anyone planning to travel so that you are not caught off guard. Here are a few options of things you may consider when packing to go Ngorongoro crater.
Luggage and bags; you will need a day bag that is large enough to carry food and water during game drives and also a main pack that can carry approximately 70 litres of liquid.
Toiletries and medical supplies; you may need to carry extra tissue for your comfort but incase of medical supplies you can pack the essentials say bandages, insects, repellent, anti bacterial cream, sun screen to mention but a few.
Clothing/Weather gear/Shoes; expect chilly conditions as you are at 2500M when camping at Simba A therefore pack enough warm clothing as much as possible. The conditions are usually dusty especially in the dry conditions so plan accordingly what you wear in your feet. Don’t forget to pack a wet and wind proof jacket in case of rainy days these come very handy. Quick dry T-shirts and shorts are also very advisable so pack a few.
Camping/outdoor/Beach gear; if you are planning to engage in these activities you will need to carry a sleeping bag, ground mat and tent unless your tour provider is willing to provide that, however if you can carry your own it will be advisable not to be inconvenienced.
Photo equipment; carry a good digital camera with a long battery life as well as large storage media. Keeping memories is one thing you cannot miss and these memories will live with you forever.
Ngorongoro Crater Safari Activities
Enjoy the African drummers
The rythm of African music is a very unique one and experiencing it first hand is one the unforgettable things you can do for yourself. A group of local drummers entertain guests with their unique culture and skill. The Tanzanian culture has a unique instrument called marimba that gives it the melodic drive and will have you to your feet in no time. This is an outdoor event so it entirely depends on the weather and a few charges may be added.
Experience Bushmen in Tanzania
Bushmen are ancient hunter-gatherers that inhabit the land near Lake Eyasi and these are one of the few remaining people whose tradition and culture remains crude and untouched. This is a fascinating cultural highlight that is offered to guests visiting the crater where you will see their traditional unchanged way of life as well as the obvious harmony with the earth is spellbinding. In the company of a guide, you will engage with the Bushmen and learn all you can about their survival skills, time-honoured hunting tactics, cultural norms and their kitchen secrets. This undeniably authentic cultural journey into the rural Tanzania is a veritable step back in time that every one ought to encounter.
Crater view walk
This is a late afternoon walk which is very popular where guests get to walk along the western rim of the Ngorongoro crater allowing them to experience various natural habitats say like open grasslands, thick lush forests and acacia woodland. Here you can get the opportunity to see Masai with their cattle en route, see Schalow’s wheatear and mountain white eye very clearly and lastly excellent birding route with sightings of African cytrill, golden winged sunbirds, mountain buzzard and white eyed slaty flycatcher.
Hike the Empakaai crater
This is an energetic full day hiking experience right from the beautiful forests that encircle the Empakaai crater to the fabulous birdlife, impressive strangler figs. Ardent birdwatchers will have paradise here, and you will also have an opportunity to sight grey headed negro finch, crowned eagles, barred tailed trogon, greater and lesser flamingo and steppe eagles
Game drives at the crater take quite a big amount of time therefore you will be offered morning or afternoon game drive per day. You will go down into the crater through a lush highland forest there enjoying sights of rich birdlife and once on the crater floor you will be thrilled to discover a large variety of grazing herbivores and predators lingering around for prey. You may also see a huge flock of pink flamingos around the shores of Lake Magadi depending on the time of the year as hippos inhabit the surrounding swamp.
A walk along Lake Eyasi
Enjoy a half day walk through Masai villages and open grazing lands which will get you to enjoy the culture as well as their lifestyle. This coupled with spectacular views of Lake Eyasi you can never go wrong.
Take a visit at Olduvai Gorge and shifting sands tour
Olduvai Gorge is an archaeological site and the cradle of Mankind mostly known as the home of the earliest remains of Homo Sapiens. From here you will then move to the crescent shaped volcanic ash dunes famously known as shifting sands which amazingly creep across the desert floor in response to the prevailing winds.
This amazing adventure is a must go to if you are looking for an unforgettable experience in the wild, it will get you to your toes and fill you with ecstasy.
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