Ngorongoro Crater

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A picturesque overhead plane view of the expansive green plainlands of the interior of the Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania view larger image

Within the walls of the world’s largest unbroken volcanic caldera is the densest concentration of wildlife in Africa. The crater floor, 12 miles across, is a wonder of the natural world. More than 30,000 animals live in this primeval Eden, including huge herds of gazelle and the lion and hyena that prey upon them. Wildebeest, zebra, eland and giraffe are abundant, with leopard and cheetah in pursuit. The very fortunate may also spot the endangered black rhino.

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A beautiful young woman trains her binoculars on wildlife from inside the safe confines of a safari vehicle  in Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania view image gallery

The Safari Experience

The main focus within the Ngorongoro Conservation Area is viewing wildlife from the safety of closed 4x4 vehicles on either half- or full-day game drives within the 100-square mile floor of the Ngorongoro Crater. This 2,000-feet deep caldera remains an iconic stop on any African safari, and while it can be crowded in high season, one wildlife drive typically showcases a long list of predators, large mammals, ungulates and birds. Outside of the crater itself, visit Olduvai Gorge, considered the “seat of humanity” where the earliest hominid specimens were found, and an area of key importance for prehistoric research. Visit a local village and school, take guided walks on the crater’s forested slopes or hike to the magnificent elephant caves where these massive creatures have dug up rich soils that also attract bushbuck, buffalo, baboons and more. Day trips to Lake Manyara are also possible from this area.

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A fully grown, prideful male lion dolefully looks at the camera with his gorgeous full orange main in Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania view image gallery


The Ngorongoro Crater is one of the world’s premier wildlife meccas. The crater floor, 12 miles in diameter, is home to approximately 30,000 large mammals, largely ungulates that include wildebeest, zebra, eland, Grant’s and Thomson’s gazelle, with mountain reedbuck and buffalo grazing near the crater rim. Though considered an enclosure, about 20% of the wildebeest and 50% of the zebra migrate out of the crater during the wet season. The abundant plains game sustains the highest density of mammal predators in Africa, with especially plentiful lion as well as leopard, cheetah, serval, spotted hyena and jackal in abundance. Also resident here are black rhinoceros and hippo, though found in limited numbers, and plenty of elephant often found drinking from the caldera’s major water source, a swamp-fed spring. On the crater floor, huge flocks of pink flamingoes nest by the hundreds on the soda lake seasonally.

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A large male African elephant walks among the grasses with a grove of small acacia tree directly behind him in the Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania view image gallery

How to Include the Ngorongoro Crater in Your Safari Itinerary

Recommended Number of Nights

Nature Travelers: 2 nights with one full day in the crater
Photographers: 2-3 nights split between the crater and Karatu
Families: 2 nights with one full day in the crater
Active Travelers: 2-3 nights split between the crater and Karatu

Other Regions to Include

As a classic part of any northern Tanzania safari, the Ngorongoro Crater fits seamlessly in the center of a multitude of neighboring destinations. One option is to begin your safari in the town of Arusha, then travel by road to Tarangire, which is best during the dry season for its large herds of elephants, and famed for its magnificent baobab trees. Next on the route is Lake Manyara, noted for its famous pink flamingos covering the lake when water levels allow. A visit to the Ngorongoro Crater fits perfectly after one or both of these areas, and can be followed with the famed plains of the Serengeti. The Swahili island of Zanzibar is an idyllic way to end any Tanzania safari, with a rich history, glorious beaches, clear aquamarine water, and unique small wildlife in the forests as well as marine life to entice snorkelers.

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