The Ngorongoro Crater

The Ngorongoro  Crater is the main highlight of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, the world’s largest inactive volcanic caldera & a home of the Big Five(elephant, lion, leopard, buffalo, rhino), which offers unparalleled wildlife viewing opportunities.

The Ngorongoro Crater is one of the most iconic and awe-inspiring natural wonders of the world. Formed millions of years ago, this massive volcanic caldera is renowned for its breathtaking landscapes, diverse ecosystems, and incredible density of wildlife. As the centerpiece of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) in northern Tanzania, the crater offers visitors an unparalleled safari experience.

Location Of The Norongoro Crater

The Ngorongoro Crater is situated in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, which is part of the larger Serengeti ecosystem in northern Tanzania.

The crater lies about 180 kilometers (112 miles) west of Arusha and 60 kilometers (37 miles) south of the Serengeti National Park. It is easily accessible by road from Arusha and nearby towns such as Karatu.

How to Get To The Ngorongoro Crater

The Ngorongoro crater can conveniently be accessible by both road and by flight, depending on your preference and available options.

Getting There By Air

The nearest major airport is Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO), located near Arusha. From Kilimanjaro International Airport, you can take a domestic flight to Lake Manyara Airport or Seronera Airstrip in the Serengeti. These airports are closer to the NCA and offer shorter transfer times to the crater.

Getting There By Road

Driving is a popular option for reaching the Ngorongoro Crater. The road journey from Arusha to the NCA takes approximately 3-4 hours. The route is scenic, passing through rolling hills, Maasai villages, and the Great Rift Valley. A 4×4 vehicle is recommended, especially during the rainy season when some roads can become challenging.

Getting There By Public Transport

Public buses and shuttles operate between Arusha and Karatu, a town near the NCA. From Karatu, you can hire a taxi or arrange for a transfer to the Ngorongoro Crater. This option is more budget-friendly but less convenient than private transport.

Best Time to Visit Ngorongoro Crater

Dry Season (June to October)

The dry season is considered the best time to visit the Ngorongoro Crater. During these months, the weather is generally dry and sunny, making it easier to spot wildlife. The vegetation is less dense, and animals congregate around the few remaining water sources, increasing your chances of seeing a wide variety of species.

Wet Season (November to May)

The wet season is marked by lush green landscapes and abundant birdlife. The period from December to March is particularly good for bird watching, as migratory birds are present. This is also the calving season for many herbivores, which attracts predators and offers exciting wildlife interactions. The wettest months are March and April, when heavy rains can make some roads difficult to navigate.

Top Attractions In The Ngorongoro Crater

The Crater Floor

The Ngorongoro Crater floor spans approximately 260 square kilometers (100 square miles) and is home to a diverse array of habitats, including grasslands, swamps, forests, and lakes. This rich mosaic of environments supports a high density of wildlife, making it one of the best places for game viewing in Africa.

  • Big Five: The crater is one of the few places in Africa where you can see all of the Big Five (lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo, and rhinoceros) in a single game drive.
  • Flamingos and Hippos: Lake Magadi, a soda lake on the crater floor, is often fringed with flamingos and is a favorite spot for hippos.
  • Diverse Herbivores: Large herds of zebras, wildebeests, gazelles, and warthogs graze on the crater floor, providing ample food for predators.


The Ngorongoro Crater is renowned for its incredible wildlife diversity and density. The crater’s enclosed ecosystem supports approximately 25,000 large animals, making it one of the best places for safari enthusiasts.

Attractions in Ngorongoro Crater

  • Lions: The crater has one of the highest densities of lions in Africa, and seeing these majestic predators is almost guaranteed.
  • Elephants: Large bull elephants are often seen in the Lerai Forest on the crater floor, while cow elephants and calves are more elusive.
  • Rhinos: The crater is one of the few places in Tanzania where you can see the endangered black rhinoceros in the wild.
  • Predators: In addition to lions, the crater is home to cheetahs, leopards, hyenas, and jackals, offering frequent predator-prey interactions.


The Ngorongoro Crater offers some of the most spectacular landscapes in Africa. The crater rim, standing at an elevation of about 2,286 meters (7,500 feet), provides breathtaking panoramic views of the caldera below.

  • Sunrises and Sunsets: The sunrise and sunset views from the crater rim are truly magical, with the light casting a golden glow over the expansive landscape.
  • Diverse Habitats: The varied ecosystems within the crater, from grassy plains to dense forests, create a visually stunning environment.

Ngorongoro Crater Rim

The crater rim offers several vantage points with stunning views of the caldera. The rim is also home to a number of lodges and campsites, providing a base for visitors exploring the area.

  • Viewpoints: There are several viewpoints along the rim where you can stop and take in the breathtaking scenery.
  • Lodges and Campsites: Accommodations on the rim range from luxury lodges to budget-friendly campsites, all offering easy access to the crater floor.

6 best Things/Activities To Do In The Ngorongoro Crater

Game Drives

Game drives are the most popular activity in the Ngorongoro Crater. These guided tours take visitors into the crater floor, where they can observe the rich wildlife and diverse landscapes. Both half-day and full-day game drives are available, offering different experiences and sightings.

Walking Safaris

While the crater floor itself is generally not open for walking safaris due to the presence of dangerous wildlife, the surrounding areas of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area offer excellent opportunities for guided walking safaris. These walks provide a more intimate connection with nature and allow visitors to explore the smaller details of the ecosystem.

Bird Watching

With over 500 bird species recorded in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area , bird watching is a popular activity, particularly during the wet season when migratory birds are present. Some notable species include flamingos, crowned cranes, and various raptors.

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.

Hiking and Trekking

The NCA 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.


There are designated picnic sites within the crater where visitors can enjoy a meal while surrounded by nature. These sites offer safe areas to relax and take in the scenery.

Accommodations In The Ngorongoro Conservation Area

The Ngorongoro Conservation Area offers a range of accommodations to suit all preferences and budgets. Staying on the crater rim provides easy access to the crater floor and stunning views.

Ngorongoro Luxury Lodges

  • Ngorongoro Crater Lodge: Known for its opulent design and exceptional service, this lodge offers stunning views of the crater from its suites and public areas.
  • Elewana The Manor at Ngorongoro: A luxurious lodge set in a coffee plantation, offering elegant accommodations and a range of activities.

Mid-Range Lodges and Camps

  • Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge: Located on the eastern rim of the crater, this lodge offers comfortable accommodations and panoramic views.
  • Rhino Lodge: A mid-range option located close to the crater rim, offering cozy rooms and a rustic atmosphere.

Ngorongoro Budget Campsites

  • Simba Campsite: A public campsite located on the crater rim, providing basic facilities and stunning views.

Tips for a Great Experience

  • Start Early: Game drives are most productive early in the morning when animals are most active.
  • Hire Knowledgeable Guides: Experienced guides can significantly enhance your safari experience by providing insights into animal behavior and the ecosystem.
  • Pack Essentials: Bring warm clothing for the cooler nights on the crater rim, as well as sun protection and binoculars for wildlife viewing.
  • Be Respectful: Follow park regulations and respect the wildlife and environment to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone.