Ngorongoro Conservation Area Tanzania

Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA), a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is located in Northern Tanzania, and occupies a total area of about 8,292 square kilometers.The Ngorongoro crater is the major highlight of Ngorongoro Conservation Area, but also a home to “big 5” game (elephant, lion, leopard, buffalo, rhino), stunning geological features, rich biodiversity, and Livestock belonging to the semi-nomadic Maasai tribe graze alongside wild animals.

Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA), a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of Africa’s most remarkable wildlife conservation areas. Situated in northern Tanzania, this vast and diverse landscape is known for its stunning geological features, rich biodiversity, and significant archaeological sites. The highlight of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area is the Ngorongoro Crater, the world’s largest inactive volcanic caldera, which offers unparalleled wildlife viewing opportunities.

This guide provides a detailed look at the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, covering its location, how to get there, the best time to visit, main attractions, and activities to engage in.

Location Of Ngorongoro Conservation Area

The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is located in the northern part of Tanzania, bordering the Serengeti National Park to the northwest and the Great Rift Valley to the east.

It spans approximately 8,292 square kilometers (3,202 square miles) and includes highland plains, savannas, woodlands, and forests. The most famous feature within the Ngorongoro Conservation Area is the Ngorongoro Crater, a breathtaking caldera formed by the collapse of a large volcano about two to three million years ago.

Ngorongoro Conservation Area

How To get to Ngorongoro Conservation Area

Getting to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Tanzania can either be by Road or by flight. Whichever technique you need to utilize will rely upon your own level as well as comfort.

By Air

The closest major airport to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area is Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO), located near Arusha, about 190 kilometers (118 miles) away. From the airport, you can take a domestic flight to Lake Manyara Airport, which is closer to the NCA. Several airlines operate regular flights between these airports.

By Road

From Arusha, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area is accessible via a well-maintained road network. The drive from Arusha to the main entrance gate of the NCA takes approximately 3-4 hours. The journey offers scenic views of the Tanzanian countryside and passes through small towns and villages. A 4×4 vehicle is recommended, especially during the rainy season when some roads can become challenging.

Getting To Ngorongoro Conservation Area

How To get to Ngorongoro Conservation Area

The best time to visit the Ngorongoro Conservation Area depends on your interests and what you wish to experience.

Dry Season (June to October)

The dry season(June,  July,  August, September, October) is considered the best time for wildlife viewing in the Ngorongoro Crater. During these months, the vegetation is sparse, and animals gather around water sources, making them easier to spot. The weather is also more predictable, with sunny days and cooler nights.

Wet Season (November to May)

The wet season, particularly from December to March, is ideal for bird watching and witnessing the calving season. The landscape is lush and green, and the presence of newborn animals attracts predators, offering dramatic wildlife interactions. The wettest months are March and April, when some roads may become difficult to navigate.

Best time to visit Ngorongoro Conservation Area

Best Attractions In Ngoromgoro Conservation Area(What to see)

Ngorongoro Crater

The Ngorongoro Crater, a massive volcanic caldera, is the main attraction of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. It measures about 20 kilometers (12 miles) in diameter and covers an area of 260 square kilometers (100 square miles).

The crater floor is home to a diverse range of wildlife, including the Big Five (lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo, and rhino). The crater’s enclosed ecosystem supports dense populations of animals, making it one of the best places for game viewing in Africa.

ngorongoro crater in the Ngorongoro conservation area

Olduvai Gorge

Olduvai Gorge is one of the most important paleo anthropological sites in the world. It is located within the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and has yielded some of the earliest evidence of human ancestors. Excavations have uncovered fossils and stone tools dating back millions of years.

The Olduvai Gorge Museum provides insights into the history and significance of the site, displaying artifacts and fossils discovered in the area.

The Olduvai Gorge in Ngorongoro Conservation Area

Empakaai Crater

Empakaai Crater is a smaller and less visited caldera within the NCA, offering stunning scenery and excellent hiking opportunities. The crater is about 6 kilometers (4 miles) in diameter, with a large alkaline lake at its center.

The lake attracts flamingos and other bird species, making it a great spot for bird watching. Hiking down to the crater floor provides a chance to explore its unique environment up close.

Empakai crater in Ngorongoro

Olmoti Crater

Olmoti Crater is another beautiful, lesser-known crater within the NCA. It features lush vegetation and a seasonal waterfall, the Munge Waterfall, which flows down to the Ngorongoro Crater.

A guided hike to the rim and down to the crater floor offers spectacular views and the chance to see various wildlife and bird species.

Olmoti Crater

6 Best Activities/Things To Do In Ngorongoro Conservation Area

Game Drives

Game drives are the most popular activity in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Guided by experienced safari guides, these drives take visitors into the Ngorongoro Crater and other parts of the NCA to observe its incredible wildlife. Both morning and afternoon drives are available, each offering unique sightings and experiences.

Walking Safaris

Walking safaris, led by knowledgeable guides and armed rangers, allow visitors to explore the Ngorongoro Conservation Area on foot. These safaris provide a more intimate connection with nature, as visitors learn about the flora, fauna, and smaller creatures that are often overlooked during game drives. Walking safaris are particularly popular in areas like the Empakaai and Olmoti Craters.

Cultural Visits

The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is home to the Maasai people, who have coexisted with wildlife for centuries. Cultural visits to Maasai villages offer insights into their traditional way of life, customs, and ceremonies. Visitors can interact with the Maasai, learn about their livestock-keeping practices, and even purchase handcrafted souvenirs.

Bird Watching

With over 500 bird species recorded in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, it is a paradise for bird watchers. The diverse habitats support a variety of birds, including raptors, waterfowl, and migratory species. Guided birding tours can help enthusiasts spot and identify different species.

Hiking and Trekking

The Ngorongoro Conservation Area offers excellent hiking and trekking opportunities, particularly in the highland areas. Popular hikes include the descent into the Empakaai Crater and the trek up to the rim of the Olmoti Crater. These hikes offer spectacular views, unique geological features, and the chance to see wildlife and birds.

Archaeological Tours

For those interested in human history, guided tours of Olduvai Gorge provide a fascinating glimpse into our ancient past. Visitors can explore the excavation sites, view fossils and artifacts in the museum, and learn about the significance of the discoveries made in the area.