November 14

Why Ngorongoro Crater Safaris Stand Out

November 14, 2023

The Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania is a magnificent testament to Mother Nature's finest work. As a standout attraction within the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, this Crater promises an exceptional safari experience. And, with our seasoned Travel Experts at the helm, your Ngorongoro Crater safari will be primed for many mind-blowing moments!

Lion cubs playing with lioness

The Crater is recognised as one of the most beautiful wildlife havens on the planet

What Exactly is the Ngorongoro Crater?

The Ngorongoro Crater is what remains of a volcano and currently stands as the largest intact caldera in the world. Legend has it that its towering height once surpassed Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa's tallest mountain.

Today, with its ancient walls weathered by time, this 600-metre-deep basin boasts a fertile ecosystem brimming with life! In other words, it's a natural sanctuary that was nearly three million years in the making.

Wide open landscapes of the Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

Wide open landscapes of the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania

Ngorongoro Crater vs. Conservation Area

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area unfurls as a pristine wilderness, alive with one of the world's densest concentrations of wildlife. Coupled with this rich biodiversity, the area is also home to one of Africa's Seven Natural Wonders – the famed Ngorongoro Crater.

Game drive with elephant sighting in a forest

Explore diverse terrains on a Ngorongoro Crater safari, Image Credit: Ngorongoro Crater Lodge

No doubt, the Crater remains the undisputed centrepiece of the Conservation Area. However, for a truly enriching Ngorongoro Crater safari, we highly recommend that you venture beyond into the region's multifaceted terrains. Trust us – with each game drive or nature walk, you'll discover layers upon layers of raw beauty.

A Ngorongoro Crater safari is not limited to the crater itself

The Ngorongoro Crater is only one part of a much greater thriving ecosystem

Paradise of Peaks, Craters, Valleys and Lakes

Within the walls of the Crater, you may find yourself spending hours wandering its fertile floors in wonder – perhaps even extending your exploration to the tranquil waters of Ndutu Lake to the west.

But, beyond this main spectacle, there's still the vast expanse of the entire Conservation Area to uncover. Journey through a patchwork of terrains, from highland plains to sweeping savannahs, dense bushveld and forests. Plus, there's also the allure of two smaller craters, namely Empakai and Olmoti, both awaiting your discovery.

Gnus, Zebras und Flamingos im Ngorongorokrater, wunderbar kombinierbar mit der Great Migration

Savour a contrasting panorama of peaks during your Ngorongoro Crater safari

And, for a touch of ancient history, the remarkable Olduvai Gorge beckons. Here, revelations of a 1.75-million-year-old hominin skull and a trail of preserved footprints stand as silent witnesses to bygone eras, inviting you to literally walk in the steps of early man.

Walking Ngorongoro Crater Safari

Some of mankind’s earliest ancestors are known to have lived in the Ngorongoro area, Image Credit: Sanctuary Retreats

Abundant Life Within the Crater

Yet, it's not just the panoramas that captivate. Lions stride with authority, rhinos showcase their timeless presence, and elephants traverse age-old routes. And those enigmatic cheetahs? They add an unexpected dash of wonder. Boasting the Big 5 and 25,000 other large mammals, the Crater's animal ensemble is nothing short of astonishing!

Cheetah begins running

Cheetahs are known for slipping in and out of Ngorongoro throughout the year

Does the Great Migration Cross into the Crater?

For those who don't know, the Great Migration is an annual, circular journey of over a million wildebeest, joined by zebra and various plains game, traversing through the vast Serengeti-Mara ecosystem in East Africa.

Notably, around January, this massive procession meanders through the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (although not really into the Crater itself). By late January or early February, a remarkable phenomenon unfolds here; within around two to three weeks, approximately 400,000 calves are birthed – that's nearly 8,000 new calves every day!

Wildebeest and calf

The area provides wildebeest herds with the best conditions for raising their newborn calves

Ngorongoro Crater Safari Activities

The Ngorongoro Crater teems with diverse experiences, although the specifics can often hinge on your lodge choice. Most visitors come prepared for game drives and nature walks on the Crater floor and within the Conservation Area, but there's much more on offer. 

Ngorongoro Crater safari on foot

Gain a closer perspective of nature on a walking safari, Image Credit: Lemala Ngorongoro Tented Camp

Some lodges on the Crater rim offer unique dining experiences, including early-access bush breakfasts on the Crater floor. Many travellers also relish the scenic lunches, ranging from picnics to full-cooked meals.

If history tickles your fancy, the area is dotted with remarkable archaeological sites, including the Olduvai Gorge, the Laetoli and Engare Sero Footprints, the Mumba Caves, and the Engaruka Ruins. Alternatively, if culture is more your vibe, dive into the rich traditions of the Hadzabe, Datoga, and the famed Maasai on a village visit.

Maasai warrior

Guests can enjoy cultural activities in a nearby Masai village, Image Credit: Sanctuary Retreats

Luxury Ngorongoro Camps and Lodges

For an immersive Ngorongoro Crater safari coupled with vistas that inspire deep reflection, the lodges on the Crater's rim are our top-tier choices. Their vantage points not only offer the best views but also position you perfectly for an early morning descent into the Crater, ensuring an undisturbed game drive.

Lodges Located on the Crater Rim

Ngorongoro Crater safari on the edge of the caldera

Opt for lodges located right on the edge of the caldera, Image Credit: Ngorongoro Crater Lodge

Should you prefer a more intimate setting, there are other cosy lodges and guest houses located in the surrounding area. However, keep in mind that you'll travel for around an hour before reaching the caldera if you stay in the nearby town of Karatu. Here are our top picks to make the most of your Ngorongoro Crater safari.

Lodges Located in the Surrounding Area

Woman sitting on her private deck

Some lodges and camps are within short distance of the access road to the crater, Image Credit: Sanctuary Retreats

Your Adventure Awaits

Are you eager to experience one of Africa's most unique natural wonders where contrasting landscapes, history, culture and wildlife combine? Start planning your Ngorongoro Crater safari today!

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Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Ngorongoro Crater, UNESCO World Heritage Site

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About the author 

Michelle Welvering

Growing up, Michelle always wanted to become a world-renowned artist, a kickboxing-champion and an eccentric explorer – aka a Kickboxing Exploring Artist! After pursuing an education in Fine Arts and opening her own Kickboxing gym in Pretoria, an unexpected twist led her to a six-year stint as a travel consultant in South African tourism. She believes that all things happen for a reason and, driven by adventure, she was eager to find a more “wild” and cultural space to call home. This led her to wander the Western Cape coastline, fall in love with the city of Cape Town and, of course, her workplace, Rhino Africa.

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