The Crater is made of a vast caldera, formed when a volcano the size of Mount Kilimanjaro erupted and then collapsed on itself over 2.5 million years ago.
Today, the Ngorongoro Crater is the largest unfilled, intact, and inactive volcano in the whole world. This impressive crater is over 600 meters (2000 feet) deep deep, with high walls towering around the crater edge and a whopping area of 259 km2.
The best time to visit Ngorongoro is between May and October, during Tanzania’s dry season. Animals are known to gather around water sources, so you will have the best opportunity to see the big five and more.
During the rainy season (November-March) some animals are hidden away in the short grass plains, bringing up their young.
You can visit the Ngorongoro crater by flying into Kilimanjaro International Airport, which is 50km from Arusha.
Here are 12 amazing Ngorongoro Crater facts to get you started on planning your perfect trip:
1. One of the famous discoverers of the area was Doctor Leakey
The British Archaeologist, Dr LouisLeakey, studied the evolution of humans and animals in natural habitats. The nearby Olduvai Gorge was where Dr Leakey discovered an essential milestone in human evolution - the Homo Hablis skeleton, which shows the initial stages in human evolution.
Visitors to Ngorongoro Conservation Area can visit Olduvai Gorge and see the museum for themselves. Some areas of the Gorge are present-day archeological sites, where active ‘digs’ are on-going.
2. The Ngorongoro Conservation Area Was Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979
The Ngorongoro Area has gone through a huge range of conservation laws over the past 100 years. In 1959, the Ngorongoro Area was declared a zone of multiple land use where wildlife and humans live in harmony.
In 1979, the area was declared a World Heritage Site - this is a recognized landmark of natural and cultural significance, awarded by UNESCO, with particular emphasis on preservation. Places like the Ngorongoro Crater have universal value to humanity in both the present and the future. The site both protects wildlife and allows human habitation.
3. The Ngorongoro Crater Features a 7- Mile Lake
One of the things you cannot miss when visiting the Ngorongoro crater is the amazing seasonal Salt Lake spanning over 7 miles in the centre of the Crater, known as 'Makat' and also by the name of 'Magadi'.
People visit the lake because of its fascinating appearance and ample opportunities to spot wildlife with a pristine backdrop. Many species congregate at the lake, from a range of bird species (including flamingos) to large predators such as lions. The special habitat is formed from unique species of algae which the flamingos feed on to obtain their vivid pink color. You may even have the chance to see a hippo in the Gorigor swamp area of the lake.
4. There are some exceedingly rare animals in the Ngorongoro Crater Area, including the Black Rhinoceros
The Ngorongoro Crater is the best chance you will get at spotting the black rhino - a globally threatened species. Remember that you will not have completed your Big 5 until you see a rhino!
By 1995, the black rhino population had decreased by 98%, with only 2500 remaining in the world. With much effort, there are now over 5600 black rhinos, mainly in the south and east of Africa. Over 20 rhinos around today live in the protected Ngorongoro Crater area.
5. Some of the most luxurious accommodation in the whole of Africa can be found around the Ngorongoro Crater
When planning a trip to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, there is a huge range of fantastic places to stay just outside of the park.
Options include Lake Ndutu Tented Lodge which features an outdoor pool with stunning views towards the surrounding wilderness. You will be able to see wildlife from the comfort of your lodge, as well as during safaris.
Another fantastic place to stay is at the Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge, which features stunning rooms looking out onto the vast crater from a bedside view.
98% of people living in the area are Massai - the indigenous people of Ngorongoro. The main inhabitants used to be the Barabaig and Datooga people. Still, they were pushed off the land by the Massai and they are now a minority population concentrated towards the south and east of the area.
The Massai people used to be nomadic to the land and practice traditional livestock grazing. Recently, the Massai have become more settled, and they are now obligated to go to school.
7. Each year, the spectacular Great Migration happens in the Ngorongoro Crater Area
Many animal species pass through Ngorongoro during the Great Migration each year. The animals move seasonally between the Serengeti Plains and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, with most gathering in the Ngorongoro Crater.
The dry season is the best time to see the Great Migration, this is when millions of animals pass through or arrive in the Crater. There is a good chance you will see a huge array of animals in big groups including an estimated 1.7 million wildebeest and zebras.
8. Over 600,000 People visit the Ngorongoro Conservation Area each year
The Ngorongoro Crater is one of the most visited tourist attractions on the whole of Africa. Twenty years from when the first European explorers arrived at the Crater the first wave of foreign travellers started to visit as tourists
A huge number of visitors come to the Crater because it is one of the ten wonders of the world and seven wonders of Africa and the River Nile, the Sahara Desert, and the Okavango Delta.
Tourism accounts for 17.5% of Tanzania's (GDP) and employs more than 2 million people.
9. The Ngorongoro Crater is an important place for human archaeological research
One of the lesser known facts about the Ngorongoro Crater is that the Ngorongoro Area is one of the most important places for learning about the history of human evolution. Many significant archaeological findings have been found in Ngorongoro, including fossilized footprints dating back 2-3 million years.
Other findings date back a whopping 4 million years. Findings also suggest that humans have inhabited the area for over 3 million years.
10. The beauty of The Ngorongoro Crater is so unique that the area has been used as the location for many fiction and non-fiction films
The Ngorongoro Crater has been featured in many wildlife documentaries, including Great Natural Wonders of the World (2002) and Living Earth (2013). The Massai of Ngorongoro were featured in the documentary The Amazing Race (2012). Also, the film 'Out of Africa' (1985) was shot in the Ngorongoro Crater.
11. There Are 30,000 Animal Species Living in The Ngorongoro Conservation Area
Need some Ngorongoro Crater facts for kids? Kids and adults alike will be amazed at the number of different animals living in the Ngorongoro Crater. The Crater has a multitude of wildlife including buffalo, hyenas, elephants, zebra, and lions and is considered to have the highest density of animals per square meter of any place on earth. The Crater even has the biggest pride of lions per capita in the world.
However, you will not see any giraffes, as the Crater's sides are too steep for them to walk down.
12. There is a huge array of bird species to spot
There are over 500 species of birds in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Look out for the Livingstone Turaco and the black kite. There is also a huge variety of grassland birds, including the flamingo and the ostrich - the largest bird on earth.
Although harder to spot, there are also lots of hummingbirds - the smallest birds in the world.
So, when you are travelling around the Ngorongoro Crater, do not just look for animals on the ground because there are plenty to be seen in the sky too.
The Ngorongoro Crater is a sight that cannot be missed. Altezza Travel offers various tours, including the Ngorongoro Crater with a 2-day safari of the Crater and nearby Tarangire National Park. Book a tour today with Altezza Travel.