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Overview

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) comprises the eastern part of the vast Serengeti migratory ecosystem, including the volcanically-formed Ngorongoro Highlands, which rise to an altitude of almost 12,000 feet from the Rift Valley floor. The NCA’s centerpiece is the unique Ngorongoro Crater, the world’s largest intact caldera, a relict of a volcano that once stood taller than Kilimanjaro does today. Scenically spectacular, especially as seen from the forested rim, the crater is also the ultimate East African "Big Five" destination, offering a good chance of spotting its characteristically heavily-tusked ...

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) comprises the eastern part of the vast Serengeti migratory ecosystem, including the volcanically-formed Ngorongoro Highlands, which rise to an altitude of almost 12,000 feet from the Rift Valley floor. The NCA’s centerpiece is the unique Ngorongoro Crater, the world’s largest intact caldera, a relict of a volcano that once stood taller than Kilimanjaro does today. Scenically spectacular, especially as seen from the forested rim, the crater is also the ultimate East African "Big Five" destination, offering a good chance of spotting its characteristically heavily-tusked elephant, rare black rhino, numerous lion and buffalo, and even a secretive leopard, in the course of one game drive. Within the crater, large flocks of flamingos are resident on Lake Magadi, while the open grassland is home to outsized crowned cranes and kori bustards. Unfortunately, the relatively confined area of the crater floor means it tends to support a lot of tourist traffic, but this is compensated for by the exceptionally habituated wildlife and opportunity to observe plenty of animal behavior. Ngorongoro crater accounts for only a small part of the NCA’s total area. Other relatively undersubscribed attractions include the world-famous paleontological site and museum dedicated to human evolution at Oldupai Gorge, and the more northerly Empakaai Crater, whose verdant floor, complete with a large lake, can be reached on foot accompanied by an armed guide. Unlike national parks, the NCA is a biosphere reserve, and inhabited by large numbers of red-robed Maasai, traditional pastoralists who are often seen walking their cattle across meadows where zebra, buffalo and other wildlife still roam wild.

Philip Briggs
About the Expert

Philip Briggs has written or contributed to 50-plus editions of Bradt, Insight, AA and Berlitz guidebooks to African destinations.

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Philip Briggs for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

  • Location: The Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) is a conservation area and a UNESCO World Heritage Site situated 180 km (110 mi) west of Arusha in the Crater Highlands area of Tanzania.
  • Language: Kiswahili or Swahili, English and Arabic
  • Currency: Tanzanian Shilling
  • Research: Wikipedia | Wikitravel

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    The crater offers superb game viewing at all times. There is a lot to be said for visiting in the rainy season (March-June) as the traffic density is far lower and the scenery and birdlife are at their most spectacular.