Adjacent to the Serengeti National Park and bordered by the Great Rift Valley lays one of Africa’s densest wildlife areas and a treasure trove of prehistoric human history. The major draw of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area is the Ngorongoro Crater – one of the world’s largest volcanic calderas brimming with wildlife. About 25 000 large animals inhabit the 260 km² crater that is bordered by a 600 metre tall rim. The density of big game and mammalian predators makes the crater one of Africa’s most popular game viewing destinations.
Ngorongoro is unique as it protects an important part of the Serengeti ecosystem and yet allows Maasai herders to live on the land in their traditional lifestyle. The statuesque pastoralists can be seen grazing their cattle and goats on the crater rim. Easily recognized by their bright red dress and tall physique, the Maasai live in perfect harmony with this beautiful environment and its fearsome animals.
The Olduvai Gorge along with the Laetoli Site, Lake Ndutu Site and the Nasera Rock Shelter contain valuable traces of the developing stages of mankind. Fossil bones and animal remains have been found especially in Olduvai Gorge. The wealth of paleontological and archaeological sites along with the great migration passing through the plains below the crater and the wealth of vulnerable species made the Ngorongoro Conservation Area a World Heritage Site in 1979.
The Ngorongoro Crater is famed for its concentrations of wildlife. The grassland of the crater basin supports large numbers of wildebeest, zebra and gazelle. Abundant prey led to the world’s highest density of mammalian predators in the crater. Especially the lions of Ngorongoro are impressive in size and in numbers. The vulnerable cheetah inhabits the Ngorongoro Conservation Area in healthy numbers and black rhinoceros can be seen grazing in the crater plains in the early morning.
The crater rim is vegetated by thick woodlands where the elusive leopard can be found. Large mammals like elephant and buffalo also prefer the thicker vegetation of the crater rim. A large lake covers the middle of the crater and attracts hundreds of flamingos.
The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is part of the Serengeti ecosystem and the summers are dominated by the great migration. Well over a million wildebeest come to graze and calve on the plains blow the crater. Accompanied by several thousand zebra and gazelle the annual wildebeest migration for fresh pastures is one of the big spectacles of nature.
The concentration of big game in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area makes game viewing particularly rewarding. Specialized safari vehicles take visitors to popular sites such as the Ngorongoro Crater, the surrounding plains of the Serengeti or Olduvai Gorge. While Olduvai Gorge is of incredible archaeological and paleontological interest, visitors can also experience living culture at one of the Maasai cultural villages.
Walking safaris and hikes in the Ngorongoro Conservation area are becoming an increasingly popular way to explore this wilderness with World Heritage status. View Tanzania’s big game on foot, explore the traces of early humanoids or walk with a Maasai guide for a unique cultural experience.
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