Empakaai is the second-largest crater in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, with a nearly 8-kilometer-wide floor dominated by a salty crater lake and surrounded by steep 300-meter-high walls that climb to 3,200 meters on the eastern rim. The crater is about 90 minutes northeast of Ngorongoro Crater through the Embulbul Depression, a grassland basin that drops to below 2,350m at the base of the 3,260m Mount Losirua and 3,648m Lolmalasin mountain (the highest point in the Crater Highlands).
Whether looking inward to the emerald green crater lake, whose shallows are frequently tinged pink by thousands of flamingos, or east across the Rift Valley to the ashen slopes and smoking fumaroles of volcanic Ol Doinyo Lengai, a scene that also takes in Lake Natron and snow-capped Kilimanjaro on a clear day, the view from the forested crater rim is spectacular.
With a very steep guided climb to the crater bottom, Empakaai provides a nice respite from the safari routine of twice-daily wildlife drives.
The steep but spectacular descent takes 45-60 minutes down a tolerably well-maintained route, longer if you’re looking for the numerous birds that dwell the wooded crater walls, and there’s a chance of seeing bushbuck, buffalo, blue monkey, and even elephant. It is advised that you wear good walking shoes and have a considerable level of fitness.
Empakaai Crater Hike
There are some fantastic options for breaking up a vehicle-based safari and stretching your legs in the Highlands section of the Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area (NCA). The spectacular but little-known Empakaai Crater is located 40 kilometers northeast of the famed Ngorongoro Crater.
You will be treated to spectacular views of the Empakaai Crater as well as a peek of Tanzania’s most active volcano, Oldoinyo Lengai, from the time you arrive at Empakaai. Then, with the help of an expert guide and an NCA ranger, you’ll begin the 30-45 minute descent into the crater through dense, hilly forest. There’s great birding surrounding the lake on the crater floor, and there’s an opportunity to see flamingos as well as large game like buffalo, hyena, and elephant.
Day trip for Empakaai Crater Walking Tour
An Empakai Crater hiking excursion is a terrific addition to a Ngorongoro safari, but it can be easily included into any itinerary.
The bulk of Ngorongoro hotels are 3-4 hours away from Empakai Crater, making trekking a full-day activity.
The hike from the crater rim to the crater floor takes a little over half an hour after you’ve arrived. A circle of Empakai Lake takes about four hours to complete, yet if you’re short on time, you can spend as little as an hour on the crater bottom.
If you don’t want to camp in the region, you can drive back up to the crater rim in 45 minutes to an hour.
On request, Empakai Crater trekking excursions can be paired with treks to Ol Doinyo Lengai or Olmoti Crater.