The volcanic crater is the largest unflooded caldera in the world, approximately 20 km (12 miles) across, 600 meters (1,968 ft) deep and 300 sq km (186 sq miles) in area. It is a breathtaking natural wonder.
The multiple land use philosophy in the area is to maintain the peaceful co-existence of human and wildlife in a natural and traditional setting, and pastoralism, conservation of natural resources, and tourism. The NCA aims through careful research, wise policy shaping decisions, and continued close management, to ensure that the fragile balance between man and nature these will be successfully maintained.
Ngorongoro’s Crater floor supports a resident population of over 25,000 large animals, including 26 black rhinoceros, 4,000 zebras, 3,000 elands and 3,000 Grant’s and Thomson’s gazelles. It is also known for the densest population of lions, numbering 62. Higher up in the rainforests are leopards, large elephants, mountain reedbuck, more than 4,000 buffalo, spotted hyena, jackal, wild dogs, cheetah, and other feline.
The legendary annual wildebeest and zebra migration pass through Ngorongoro in December and move out heading north in June. The caldera will be filled with 1.7 million wildebeest, 260,000 zebras, and 470,000 gazelles. Over 500 species of birds have been recorded, including the ostrich, white pelican, and greater and lesser flamingo on Lake Magadi within the crater.
Birdlife depends greatly on the season you visit, because of resident and migrant birds. Ostriches, bustards, and plovers are all seen year round. In the wet season they share the Crater with their European migrant visitors such as the white storks, yellow wagtails, and swallows.
Local migrants also come along, such as the flamingo, stork, and duck. Other birds you might see while visiting the Crater are stonechat, anteater chat, Schalow’s wheatear, fiscal shrike, augur buzzard, and Verreaux’s eagle.
Just Beyond The Crater
- Lake Ndutu and Lake Masek form shallow basins where water accumulates from the nearby areas of slightly higher altitude.
- Lake Ndutu becomes alive with animals during the migration because it is surrounded by the Ndutu woodlands and the Short Grass Plains which provide ample cover and food.
- Located just outside the NCA, to the north-east near Lake Natron, this Volcano, whose Maasai name means ‘Mountain of God’, rises 183 meters (600 ft) above the valley floor.
- Its ash has blown westwards onto the plains and shaped the landscape and ecology today. It is the only active volcano in the area, having erupted most recently in 2007.
The Shifting Sands
- This remarkable black dune is composed of volcanic ash from Oldonyo Lengai and is being blown slowly westwards across the plains at the rate of about 17 meters per year.
- Some 9 meters high and 100 meters long in its curve, it can be found to the north of Olduvai Gorge.
- Olkarien Gorge is ecologically important because it is a vital nesting site of Ruppell’s Griffon Vulture. The best time to visit Olkarien Gorge is from March to April when the vultures are breeding, which coincides with the migration.