Ngorongoro Crater National Park
The Ngorongoro Crater is a breathtakingly beautiful setting and the best place in Tanzania to see the Big Five. However, as one of the world's most astonishing and renowned natural wonders, the Ngorongoro Crater does get busy, and at times very busy. Due to the crowds we recommend a two-night stay only here, then moving on to the Serengeti for a quieter, more private safari experience.
Any trip to Northern Tanzania has to include the Ngorongoro Crater: it is one of the most beautiful natural wildlife safari sites in the world and an exceptional place to interact with people from the Masaai tribe.
The Ngorongoro Crater and surrounding highlands together form one of Africa's most beautiful regions. Volcanic craters form stunning backdrops to some of the most fertile and richest grazing grounds in Africa. The most famous such crater is without question the Ngorongoro Crater, the world’s largest intact volcanic caldera and home to the highest density of big game in Africa, including all the big five and plenty of predators. The Ngorongoro is justifiably one of the continent's most famous safari destinations.
The choice is whether to stay at a hotel on the Crater rim for the phenomenal view, or a little way away from the Crater in nearby Karatu. The advantages of Karatu include the comparative lack of crowds, and better-value, smaller and more intimate lodges which offer a range of activities such as walking and mountain biking.
The Ngorongoro is the best place in Tanzania to see the big five. A healthy population of black rhino and some of the largest tusker elephants left in Africa today are the prize spots, but the Crater is also home to strong populations of lion, leopard and hyena along with good herds of wildebeest, buffalo and zebra. Other game in the Ngorongoro includes serval cat, cheetah, jackal, Grant's and Thompson's gazelle, flamingo and bat eared foxes along with approximately 400 species of bird.
Activities on offer
Activities inside the Ngorongoro Crater itself are limited to game driving only. There are also picnic spots in the park. A full range of activities is however on offer in the wider Ngorongoro Conservation Area, including walking, trekking, excursions to Olduvai Gorge and visiting the Masai and other tribes.
When to go
Since the game stays in the crater all year round, there is really no good or bad time to visit. However given that the crater floor does get busy with vehicles, it can be more pleasant to visit during low season. Higher water levels in Lake Magadi (in the center of the Crater) also result in higher concentrations of flamingoes. Whenever you travel to Ngorongoro, you will be guaranteed excellent game viewing.
where to stay
The question here is whether to stay right on the Crater rim or a little way away, in the Ngorongoro highlands. On the rim, the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge is by far the best hotel and is absolutely world class, but at approximately $3,000 a night it probably should be! The Serena and the Sopa have equally stunning views of the Crater floor and are much more affordable options, but they are large and fairly old hotels.