The jewel in Ngorongoro's crown is a deep, volcanic crater, the largest un flooded and unbroken caldera in the world. About 20kms across, 600 meters deep and 300 sq kms in area, the Ngorongoro Crater is a breathtaking natural wonder. The Ngorongoro Conservation Area covers 8,292 square kilometers. It is one of the three divisions that comprise Ngorongoro District in Arusha Region.
NCA was established in 1959 by the NCA Ordinance No 413 of 1959 as a multiple land use area, designated to promote the conservation of natural resources, safeguard the interests of NCA indigenous residents and promote tourism. NCA is a unique protected area in the whole of Africa where conservation of natural resources in integrated with human development.
The main feature of the NCA include the Ngorongoro Crater, The Serengeti Plains that support about 2.0 millions migratory wildlife species of the Serengeti Mara-ecosystem (TAWIRI, 2003) and the catchment forest; the Northern Highland Forest Reserve (NHFR) known as 'Entim Olturot' in Maa language. Other important features found in the NCA are the archaeological and palaeontological site located at Oldupai Gorge and the early human foot-prints that were discovered at Alaitole in Ngarusi area. Because of these particular features and the harmonious co-existence between wildlife and people that has existed for many years, NCA was accorded the status of a World Heritage Site and listed as one of the International Biosphere Reserve by the UNESCO's Man and Biosphere Reserve Programme.
Flora and Fauna: Vegetation cover
Ngorongoro is home to lush green, rain-watered vegetation, as well as desert plants. The area has uncultivated lowland vegetation, arid and semi-arid plant communities, abundant short grass used for grazing, and highland forests.
Flora and Fauna: Wildlife
The area contains over 25,000 large animals including 26 black rhinoceros. There are 7,000 wildebeests, 4,000 zebras, 3,000 eland and 3,000 Grant's and Thomson's gazelles. The crater also has the densest known population of lions, numbering 62. Higher up, in the rainforests of the crater rim, are leopards, about 30 large elephants, mountain reedbuck and more than 4,000 buffalos, spotted hyenas, jackals, rare wild dogs, cheetahs, and other felines.
The legendary annual wildebeest and zebra migration also passes through Ngorongoro, when the 1.7 million ungulates move south into the area in December then move out heading north in June. The migrants passing through the plains of the reserve include 1.7 million wildebeest, 260,000 zebra, and 470,000 gazelles. The Lake Ndutu area to the west has significant cheetah and lion populations. Over 500 species of bird have been recorded within the NCA. These include ostrich, white pelican, and greater and lesser flamingo on Lake Magadi within the crater, Lake Ndutu, and in the Empakaai Crater Lake, where a vast bird population can be observed.
Flamingos are very common at lakes in the NCA, all of which are saline. Flamingos are filter feeders and feed on plankton. Plankton is a collective name for microscopic plants and animals that occur in the mud and on the surface of shallow, saline lakes.
The mixture of forest, canyons, grassland plains, Lakes and marshes provide habitats for a wide range of bird life. The wet months see the arrival of the Eurasian migrants at the pools. White storks, yellow wagtails and swallows mingle with the local inhabitants: stilts, saddle-bill storks, ibis, ruff and various species of duck. Lesser flamingos fly in to feed from their breeding grounds at Lake Natron. Distinctive grassland birds - ostrich, kori bustards and crowned cranes-abound. The rest of the NCA also has areas which will reward the keen ornithologist.
Ngorongoro Crater Camps, lodges and hotels:
Ngorongoro Serena Lodge
This luxury lodge, constructed from local ivy covered stone, has been built into the northern crater rim. From each of the 75 rooms the view into the crater is breathtaking. Activities include game drives in the Ngorongoro Crater where visitors can easily see all of the "Big Five."
Ngorongoro Crater Lodge
Perched on the rim of the crater, guests are accommodated in 30 private cottages separated into three camps, North, South and Tree camp. The African design is complimented with en suite facilities, each with a deck offering dazzling views of the crater floor 500 meters below, grand chandeliers, magnificent hand carved four poster beds and a fireplace. Conservation Corporation's most spectacular lodge in Tanzania.
Nogorongoro Sopa Lodge
Perched on the very edge of the Ngorongoro World Heritage Site, each rondavel-style suite has stunning views into the Crater as well as a luxury bathroom, a private lounge and an enclosed veranda. As in all Sopa lodges, each room is a suite with two Queen-sized beds. Main areas enjoy magnificent views through double story windows. There is open fire places in the bar, lounge, and dining room as well as a swimming pool and gift shop. Satellite TV and video is available.
Ngorongoro Wildlife Lodge
The lodge is perched on the rim of the crater at 2,286 metres above sea level, offering a breathtaking view of the crater. 75 ensuite bedrooms with central heating, a lounge with panoramic windows and an observation deck provide good quality comfort.
A small and intimate hotel situated on the slopes of the Ngorongoro Crater Highlands. It is a charming stopover between Lake Manyara National Park and Ngorongoro Crater surrounded by coffee plantations and lush gardens. The main facilities - lounge, dining room, shop - are all situated in the old farmhouse, while sleeping accommodation is in 15 double rooms.