Ngorongoro Crater & Highlands
Ngorongoro derives its name from the Maasai tribe who are the native peoples of the area. Referred to as the “crown jewel” of the Serengeti, Ngorongoro’s breathtaking views overlook a 2,000-foot drop to its volcanic caldera crater floor formed over 3 million years ago. A caldera forms when the land collapse following a volcanic eruption. Ngorongoro Crater’s caldera is unique. It is the world’s largest caldera with its high elevation at its rim of 10,000 ft elevation and its floor at 5,400 ft elevation Ngorongoro Crater is one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
The eruption of the crater deposited volcanic ash throughout the Serengeti which, created mineral rich fertile soil with high concentrations of phosphorous that grows short grasses the wildebeest thrive on, as every cell of their body contains phosphorous. The short grasses that grow on the southern Serengeti Plain during the rainy calving season help the young wildebeest grow strong grazing on them, which prepares them for the migration season ahead.
Ngorongoro’s unique ecosystem is defined by the rim of the Great Rift Valley wall escarpment that makes it difficult for animals to migrate easily from the crater’s natural enclosure. Its unique 100 square mile caldera floor’s eco-culture is home to most of the animal species found in East Africa. The cool breezes at its rim create ideal conditions within the crater to keep it cool during hot days, which encourages animals to enter it. It is inhabited by 25,000 animals. Its diverse species of wildlife drink from Lake Magadi that is on the floor of the crater formed by other water sources in the crater that flow into it. There is a high probability of seeing the endangered black rhinos drinking from its waters. Ngorongoro has 5 different prides of lion in the crater and 3 prides along its rim. There are 7 clans of hyena in the crater of which 3 hunt mainly at night. The hyenas provide 80% of the lions’ food.
The Ngorongoro Crater is an especially good place for photographic safari expeditions, as the animals get close enough to the jeeps for the photographer to click excellent close-ups of the wildlife.
The Ngorongoro ConservationArea includes Ngorongoro Crater and the Ngorongoro Highlands. The Ngorongoro Highlands is a vast expanse of verdant grasses with great areas for walking safaris and hiking. It is 3,088 meters above sea level. It is home to Maasai who whose boma’s are scattered through this lush panaramic expanse where they graze cattle among the wildlife that live there.
The Ngorongoro Highlands include the world famous Ngorongoro Crater, the Empakaai Crater and the Olmoti Crater able-bodied visitors can hike into. It has a major concentration of Maasai who relocated there when the Serengeti became a World Heritage site.
Nainokanoka village is the central location where the Maasai exchange goods and conversations. It is located near the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater. Visiting this village is a unique Maasai cultural experience. A surreal visual feature you will see from Nainokanoka village is a view of the Ngorongoro crater rim from its eastern side where the moist warm air from the Indian Ocean meets the warm dry air of the Serengeti, creating a fascinating cloud formation that curls into the western side of the crater’s rim.
Empakaai Crater is arguably the most beautiful place within the Ngorongoro Crater area. It is 2 hours drive from Lemala Gate. From its rim you can see the active volcanic mountain, Oldonyo Lengai. Looking down into the crater it appears pink from the vast number of flamingos drinking from the lake on the crater floor. Along the walls of the crater are a variety of colorful flowers. Hiking to the floor of the crater takes about half an hour while the hike back up takes about an hour. Hikers are always accompanied by armed guards.
The Ngorongoro Conservation Area includes Olmoti Crater. It is a medium size crater visitors can hike into by foot. The climb to the crater floor is uphill and armed guards accompany visitors. En route to the crater floor are spectacular flowering plants. At the base of the crater is a waterfall tourists can visit and is often inhabited by eland and buffalo.
It a small pristine caldera of Ngorongoro Highlands with different water springs combining to form Munge River. A visit to Olmoti is only possible by foot with the escort of an armed ranger. It takes about 35 minutes to walk to the rim of this shallow crater. Many different species of antelope, land reedbuck buffalo bushbuck along with Maasai livestock can be found here. A walk to the waterfalls of the Munge River is quite interesting.