The Best Safari in East Africa: Ngorongoro Crater

You’ve heard of the Masai Mara and Serengeti National Park but what about Ngorongoro Crater? I used to work as a tour leader in East Africa and when asked for their advice, many of the guides would recommend their guests take a Safari at Ngorongoro Crater. This is because Ngorongoro Crater offers a truly unique safari inside the largest unbroken caldera in the world and the plethora of wildlife down there is unreal.

Let’s take a closer look at what I am talking about.

Ngorongoro Crater Safari: 7 Things You Should Know Before You Go

1. How was the Ngorongoro Crater formed?

Approximately 2.5 million years ago, the Ngorongoro Crater took shape when a volcanic cone experienced a colossal eruption, causing its structure to collapse inward. The expansive and unbroken caldera that exists today is the primary remnant of this implosion.

2.What defines a Caldera?

A caldera, derived from the Spanish word for ‘cauldron,’ refers to a bowl-shaped volcanic cavity typically exceeding one kilometer (0.6 miles) in diameter. It features steep slopes forming its outer edge. Calderas generally develop when the summit of a volcanic cone or a group of cones collapses due to insufficient support from an underlying magma chamber. Once the major eruptions conclude, the summit of the volcanic mountain disappears, leaving behind a colossal void. Minor eruptions may occur subsequent to the significant collapse, giving rise to smaller cones on the floor of the caldera. Over time, these cones can accumulate water, forming lakes.

3.What makes the Ngorongoro Crater unique?

Beyond being the largest intact volcanic caldera on Earth, the Ngorongoro Crater also serves as a natural sanctuary hosting some of Africa’s densest populations of large mammals. The enclosed nature of the Ngorongoro Crater has effectively created its own self-contained ecosystem.

4.How old is the Ngorongoro Crater?

The Ngorongoro Crater is estimated to be between two and three million years old.

5.What is the significance of the Ngorongoro Crater?

The Ngorongoro Crater is renowned for its remarkable geological features and the remarkable diversity of wildlife and plant life thriving within a remarkably compact area. A game drive in the Ngorongoro Crater guarantees sightings of high concentrations of animals. Moreover, it offers one of the most dependable opportunities to observe the “Big 5” (elephant, buffalo, rhino, lion, and leopard) in East Africa.

6. What is the English translation of “Ngorongoro”?

“Ngorongoro” is believed to be an onomatopoeic term coined by the Maasai people residing in the region. It describes the sound produced by the bell attached to the lead cow’s neck in a herd. The resonating “ngor ngor” sound prompted the local pastoralists to name the area Ngorongoro.

7. When is the best time to visit the Ngorongoro Crater?

Since the wildlife remains within the steep-walled caldera throughout the year, the ideal time to visit the Ngorongoro Crater depends less on optimizing game viewing and more on the number of people and vehicles you prefer to encounter in the area. The dry season, spanning from June to October, offers cooler temperatures and excellent animal sightings. During this time, animals are easily spotted along the barren plains as they tend to remain near watering holes. However, this period coincides with peak safari season when lots of tourists flock to the region.

Either way, I highly recommend taking a safari at Ngorongoro and you might consider the Tanzania Safari Experience by G Adventures which includes both the crater and a multi day safari in Serengeti National Park.

Derek Cullen
Derek Cullen
Derek Cullen is an experienced overland tour leader in Africa. He is best known for cycling across Africa and writing about travel in Africa for many online media publications. If you would like advice or information for your trip to Africa, you can speak with him directly through the LiveChat box!

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The Author - Derek Cullen

I worked as an overland tour leader in Africa for many years. I now want to help you book the trip of a lifetime and find out everything you need to know about taking an overland tour in Africa.

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