One of the most visited and extraordinarily impressive attractions in Tanzania is Ngorongoro Conservation Area. It is listed as an International Biosphere Reserve and inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site boasting a remarkable blend of wildlife, archaeology, geography and people. So what makes it so in demand? Here are the top 8 surreal facts about Ngorongoro — all are great reasons as to why a visit to this magical land is a highlight to any trip!
#1 Home of the world’s largest unbroken caldera and eighth wonder of the world, Ngorongoro Crater
A caldera is a large bowl-shaped depression formed after a powerful volcanic explosion which causes a volcano to cave in like a sinkhole. On earth, there are only a couple of calderas present and about 20 super volcanoes recognized. What makes Ngorongoro Crater special is that it is the world’s largest fully intact caldera that hasn’t yet turned into a lake making it the eighth wonder of the world. Covering 100 sq. mi (260 sq. km), Ngorongoro Crater features lush landscapes and impressive wildlife viewing which accounts for its moniker as Africa’s Garden of Eden.
#2 It was once the “Roof of Africa”
Everyone knows that the highest peak in Africa is Mount Kilimanjaro. But did you know that about three million years ago, Ngorongoro Crater was once a massive supervolcano that stood higher and mightier than its neighbor, Mount Kilimanjaro? The mountain’s slopes were so vast that they had their own water flow and weather patterns. One day, it erupted violently, enraged. Its ferocious eruption made an implosion, creating a vast caldera that’s 2,000 feet deep.
After a million years, the caldera began to procure life. Water filled its cavity, but not to the point of creating a lake or some sort. It caused vegetation to develop and prosper over the years and as time passed by, wildlife discovered its glory. Abundant water and grasses attracted countless of species and due to its enclosed terrain plus its sheer sustenance, many animals would never leave.
#3 More than 25,000 wild creatures in the caldera alone
Ngorongoro Conservation Area features almost every animal species present in East Africa. Most of these animals are concentrated in the Crater as it is home to at least 25,000 large animals including ungulates, buffalo, warthog, hippo and elephants; and an amazing population of predators – lions, hyenas, jackals, cheetahs and the elusive leopard.
The area also hosts a wide range of endangered species such as black rhinos, wild dogs and golden cats. In fact, Ngorongoro is deemed the best place to see black rhinos. When it comes to birdlife, the conservation area never disappoints. It supports over 500 bird species including ostriches, kori bustards, secretary birds, and many more.
#4 Our earliest human ancestors lived here
The wonder of Ngorongoro Conservation Area does not limit to Ngorongoro Crater. Another amazing area in the conservation area is Olduvai Gorge (sometimes called Olduvai Gorge). It is a spectacular steep ravine in the Great Rift Valley, known to hold the earliest evidence of the existence of human ancestors when paleoanthropologists Louis and Mark Leakey famously discovered traces of homo habilis, our first known human species, reaching back 2 million years. Other important evidences found in Olduvai Gorge include fossilized footprints at Laetoli, early form of Homo sapiens at Lake Ndutu, and remains that document the development of stone technology and the transition to the use of iron. A recognized UNESCO site, Olduvai Gorge is considered one of the most important fossil sites in the world and forms part of a World Heritage Site. It is also often called the “Cradle of Humankind”.
#5 The Crater is one of Africa’s Seven Natural Wonders
The seven natural wonders of Africa was carefully selected by experts including conservationists such as members of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. With Africa being a treasure trove of wonders, we can only imagine how hard it must be to nitpick the best of the best. One of the seven natural wonders is Ngorongoro Crater, and for good reason.
#6 The iconic Wildebeest Migration passes through the conservation area
Have you heard about the Great Wildebeest Migration which occurs around the Serengeti ecosystem? Every year, about 2 million wildebeests, 200,000 zebras, a scattering 500,000 Grant’s and Thomson’s gazelles, and thousands of kudus and impalas traverse the Serengeti plains in search of fresh grazing and water. Along with them are opportunistic predators like lions, hyenas, and many more. This wildlife event is deemed one of the most spectacular natural events on the planet. Around December through March, the migratory animals pass through Ngorongoro Conservation Area, particularly in the Ndutu region. During this time, the wildebeests experience their calving season and so many baby wildebeests are being born each day. As expected, the numbers of active predators rise as they smell feeble youngsters and vulnerable mothers. Visitors who get lucky to come around this time get excellent opportunities for game including prey versus predator interactions and predator versus predator drama.
#7 It is part of the Serengeti ecosystem
Ngorongoro Conservation Area is part of the magnificent – not to mention iconic – Serengeti ecosystem. The conservation area sits very close to Serengeti National Park, one of the world’s best safari parks, and in fact shares borders with it in Ndutu area. Hence, a combination of both renowned parks really make the ultimate African safari experience.
Recommended combo safari: 6-day Serengeti and Ngorongoro Adventure
#8 Accommodation in Ngorongoro is unreal
It wouldn’t be surprising if someone says their Ngorongoro accommodation is their favorite. Why? The variety of options is incredible, the views are guaranteed to be phenomenal (most are on the crater rim!), and the amenities are topnotch. Plus it gives each guest an unrivaled access to the crater floor!
Ngorongoro Conservation Area is definitely a Tanzanian attraction that should not be missed. Wildlife is spectacular all year round, and if you want to see wildlife congregating in certain spots, May to October is best as it’s drier and grasses aren’t as abundant. To witness the wildebeest migration, December to March is the best time to catch them around the conservation area particularly in Lake Ndutu. Check this 8-day Incredible Calving Migration Safari to witness the unbelievable wildlife event or this 4-day Tanzania Safari to visit Ngorongoro Crater along with other northern Tanzanian parks.
Watch the video and see the beauty that awaits you in Ngorongoro!