The Ngorongoro Crater


This is the second of my Top Ten African safari destinations, and one which seems to divide opinion these days!  Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Crater is frequently cited as the one place you’d go to if you had just one day to spend on safari in Africa; in many ways this is true: the Crater has phenomenal scenery, fascinating geology and you are virtually guaranteed to see perhaps four of the ‘Big Five’ along with great herds of wildebeest and zebra, good jackal and hyena, hippo and great birdlife in a single day at virtually any time of the year.

But this wealth of treasures has brought its drawbacks:  too many vehicles on too restricted a road network and a, necessarily, much higher level of stringent park regulations has made the Crater a less satisfying safari destination than in the past for experienced safari travellers.   I well remember camping on the floor of the Crater in the 1980’s and had some of my most dramatic wildlife experiences in camp there, but now I recommend just one day on the Crater floor and leaving as early as possible to stay ahead of most other visitors.   Even now, the Crater leaves an inspiring impression on virtually all who go there.


Where: Located in northern Tanzania, between the city of Arusha and the Serengeti National Park.

Why:  Some of the highest concentrations of lion, hyena and jackal in Africa, easily seen during the day, with great herds of wildebeest, zebra, buffalo and gazelle.  The backdrop of the 2000 ft Crater wall make a stunning backdrop to every picture and the scenery is surprisingly varied with lakes, marshes, woods and plains.  The wildlife is very habituated to vehicles which makes this the place for wildlife portraits.

The Crater is also the best place in Tanzania for seeing the endangered black rhino and the Conservation Area as a whole is home to the Masai people; having time to get just off the main road around the Crater rim will lead you to some wonderfully pristine Masai communities and countryside.

When: Most of the wildlife in the Crater does not migrate so game viewing is pretty consistent throughout the year.  Heavy rainfall during the ‘long rains’ of April and early May can make access to certain areas of the Crater more difficult, but you’re less likely to run into more visitors then, a definite advantage!

Where: The Crater is small enough that a full day of perhaps 6 to 8 hours game driving will allow you to see virtually all of the Crater floor.   If you have time for a second day, you can visit one of the less seen regions of the Conservation Area:: the beautiful extinct volcanoes of Olmoti or Embagai and take a hike with an armed ranger.  Further, longer hikes with Masai and donkeys are also possible for the more adventurous.

How long: You need a two night stay with one game drive on the Crater floor, and a third night if you want a longer hike in the surrounding areas.  Good safari accommodation is more of a problem at the Crater and most times I use the rather large and impersonal lodges which have a great view and access to the Crater floor.  My view is that you need to be close enough to the Crater to get down there early – it makes a big difference to the wildife experience, so I avoid the small lodges around the town of Karatu which have become more popular.

What to do: Game drives are the only option on the Crater floor with escorted hikes in the surrounding areas of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, and visits to Masai villages and schools.  Just south of the Conservation Area is the Lake Eyasi region where hunting with the Hadza hunter-gatherers is possible.


For more information on the Ngorongoro Crater and Tanzania’s other safari destinations visit: Or contact us on :

Next on the Top Ten – Kenya’s Masai Mara!

About ajourneyintoafrica

I’ve both lived and worked in Africa in the safari industry and now have over 32 years of safari experience. I first visited Africa as an 18 year old, when I developed a huge interest and love for the continent. I led my first safari in 1986, after gaining an environmental science degree from London University, and have always been captivated by Africa’s animal and bird-life, by its huge horizons and wide open spaces, and by its people and cultures.

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