Ngorongoro Crater Safari Ideas
The Ngorongoro Crater is a wildlife haven in Tanzania. It is both a breathtaking sight and an extraordinary place. But the unique appeal of an Ngorongoro safari is the sheer abundance of wildlife. Thus, at times it can be too well-loved and well-visited.
The great buttressed slopes of the Ngorongoro Crater lies at the south-eastern edge of the Serengeti. Nearly 3 million years ago, Ngorongoro towered alongside Kilimanjaro as one of the highest peaks in Africa. Now all that remains is the largest intact volcanic caldera in the world, at 18km wide. A steep wall of thick atmospheric forest surrounds the rim of the crater. And from this rim you look down onto a natural amphitheatre, 260 sq km in size. The mineral-rich crater floor is host to an unbelievably high concentration of game, with water being provided by Lake Magadi. So naturally most of the game have no reason to leave.
Within the Ngorongoro Crater is a complete eco-system comprising of nutritious grasslands, swamps, lakes, rivers, woodlands and forest. This variety can sustain a vast resident population of game. Lions stalk the grasslands in search of vulnerable herds of zebra, wildebeest or other plains game. Whilst flamingos grace the shallow soda lake. And giant-tusked elephants wander in its shade-giving forests of fever trees and figs.
Choosing between Ngorongoro Crater Lodges
The lodges perched on the edge of the Ngorongoro Crater are the most popular, of course. The top choice, with a sizeable price tag to match, is the andbeyond Ngorongoro Crater Lodge. But there are also older lodges such as Ngorongoro Serena Lodge and Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge. These were built in the 1970s and 80s at a time when large lodges were permitted. And the decor hasnt changed much since. They offer good hospitality and wonderful views, but also a step back in time.
Other lodges close to the crater are Ngorongoro Rhino Lodge, Lemala Ngorongoro. and Neptune Ngorongoro Lodge right by the park gates. These lodges don’t overlook the crater. But they have the advantage of being close to the route down. (So you can get a jump on the crowds).
However the other alternative is to choose one of the lodge in or near the Ngorongoro conservancy area, either close to Karatu or in the more remote highlands.
Just outside the conservation area, there are several good coffee estate lodges including The Manor at Ngorongoro, Kitela Lodge and Gibbs Farm. Other options include the Ngorongoro Farm House or Ngorongoro Oldeani Lodge. You can use these lodges as a base to visit not only the Crater (25 to 40 minutes depending on their exact location) but also to visit Lake Manyara, or perhaps visit the Bushmen people of Lake Nyasi. You can also tour a coffee plantation or have some time to relax at the lodge.
Others like The Highlands at Ngorongoro and the more seasonal walking camps around the Empakai crater are in a more remote area, The appealof the Ngorongoro Conservation area is as much about preserving the pastoralist way of life of the Masaai people as it is about the wildlife. A stay in the Ngorongoro highlands is a great way to mix with the local people. Here the Masai co-exist with the migratory and resident wildlife of the Ngorongoro crater. There are boundless opportunities to walk in these dramatic volcanic landscapes.
Is the Ngorongoro Crater too crowded?
It is understandable that an Ngorongoro safari remains virtually a ‘must’ on anyone’s first safari to Tanzania. However this popularity has naturally brought its own problems. The vast number of safari vehicles daily descending into the crater in peak season can destroy the very sense of wilderness that you seek. Some how the lions continue to hunt in complete disregard for the safari vehicles following them. But it is more difficult for you, the visitor, to ignore the dust and the relative crowds.
The Tanzania wildlife authorities have tried to limited access to the Ngorongoro Crater by increasing park fees, but this has not had much effect. You will have excellent game-viewing on your Ngorongoro safari. But it will not be an exclusive experience. So, at Cedarberg, we aim to combine a visit to the Ngorongoro crater with a greater focus on untrammelled wilderness elsewhere on your Tanzania safari.