Ngorongoro Crater and Conservation Area is home to Africa’s Big Five, the world’s biggest complete volcanic crater, amid the continent’s most stunning location. The key features are fantastic cats, big tusker elephants, and a significant population of black rhinos.

The Ngorongoro Crater is one of Africa’s most famous parks, located in northern Tanzania. This ancient volcano, which was once as tall as Kilimanjaro, erupted two to three million years ago, leaving the world’s biggest intact crater, replete with 600m-high walls. The volcanic soil’s richness and year-round water supply have attracted one of Africa’s largest populations of wildlife throughout the years. Today, Ngorongoro is a genuinely magnificent place with some of the greatest wildlife of any safari destination we visit.

  • Ngorongoro Crater is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Africa’s most spectacular natural wonders.
  • The crater is the world’s largest intact volcanic caldera, covering an area of approximately 260 square kilometers (100 square miles).
  • Ngorongoro Conservation Area is home to over 25,000 large animals, including a high concentration of predators.
  • The Maasai people live in the area and coexist with the wildlife, maintaining their traditional way of life.
  • The conservation area offers stunning panoramic views, with the crater floor providing a breathtaking backdrop for wildlife encounters.

Where else can you go on safari with the Big Five on an extinct volcano?!

Africa’s Big 5 animals

One of the greatest spots in Africa to observe the Big Five is in the Ngorongoro Crater (buffalo, lion, leopard, elephant, and rhino). The other fairly difficult Big Five sighting is leopard, which has over 70 lions, big buffalo herds, 40 rhinos, and some of the largest tusker elephants left in Africa today. Leopards are still elusive, however, they may be seen in the Lerai Forest and even observed out in the open on the Crater rim. The Crater has established its own self-contained ecology due to its 600m-high cliffs on all sides.

The great majority of animals dwell in the Ngorongoro all year, relying on the Crater’s extraordinarily lush grazing areas and water supplies rather than migrating. As a result, game viewing is consistently excellent all year.

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Viewing the Ngorongoro wildlife in general

It can host a diverse range of fauna because of its wide plains, soda lake, and acacia woodland. It is renowned as ‘the garden of Eden’ and ‘the birthplace of life’ for a reason! As previously indicated, several prides of lion and leopard prowl the Crater floor, profiting from the inflow of wildebeest, Burchell’s zebra, and other game species into the region during the winter months. In fact, the Crater has the world’s greatest lion population!

Leopards, as previously clarified, like to spend their days on the rim and are frequently observed in the Lerai Forest. Although cheetah numbers are extremely low, the small population is frequently seen. Serval, caracal, and golden cats, on the other hand, are genuine rewards for big cat enthusiasts. The last two are quite rare, but serval is frequently observed on game drives.

The Crater is home to black rhino, Grant’s and Thomson’s gazelles, eland, topi, spotted hyena, hartebeest, jackal, black-faced vervet, baboon, and warthog, in addition to wildebeest and zebra! Hippopotamus, waterbuck, and a variety of other animals frequent the lake and its tributaries, while mountain reedbuck, Cape buffalo, and elephant inhabit the higher highlands.

Although the elephant population is not big, some of the oldest and largest tuskers have made their home here. It’s certainly worth keeping an eye out for these amazing beasts, especially now that their tusks are hitting the ground.

Ngorongoro Conservation Area Birdlife

The Crater’s birdlife is abundant, with over 200 species to keep birdwatchers occupied! The gathering of large numbers of common and dwarf flamingos in the Crater’s soda lake, eating on crustaceans and algae, is an especially beautiful sight. Raptors such as the marsh harrier, augur buzzard, black kite, tawny eagle, and white-backed vulture may be seen in the region. Avocet, hoopoe, black-bellied bustard, cattle egret, ostrich, fan-tailed widow-bird, grey-rumped swallow, tiny grebe, red-billed firefinch, speckled pigeon, and wattled starling are among the other feathered beauties. Don’t forget to bring your binoculars!

The Ngorongoro Conservation Area’s History.

The Ngorongoro Conservation Area Ordinance, which includes Ngorongoro Crater, was passed in 1959 to safeguard the Conservation Area. The property was set aside for varied uses, and animals wandered the floor alongside the semi-nomadic Maasai farmers’ livestock. The Ordinance continues to preserve species today, with the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority in charge of conservation. Poaching prevention, invasive species monitoring, tourist management, and infrastructure control are among its interests.

The Ngorongoro Crater is merely a small section of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, which encompasses a much broader ecosystem.

The Crater is undoubtedly the main draw, but the Conservation Area also includes off-the-beaten-path destinations like Empakai Crater (a smaller, water-filled Ngorongoro) and the woodlands that lead to the active volcano of Oldoinyo Lengai (see our Lake Natron page for this remarkable area). Without a question, these distant locations are among Tanzania’s hidden beauties.

Best time to visit Ngorongoro for wildlife viewing?

You can expect a spectacular spectacle at any time of year due to the large concentrations of a variety of species. Because the animals do not leave the Crater floor, you may go on fantastic game drives at any time of year.

The main issue with Ngorongoro is how crowded it can get, which has a negative impact on the quality of wildlife watching available. July and August, as well as Christmas and part of February, are extremely busy months. The fact of Ngorongoro, however, is that wildlife watching should be considered a bonus; the sheer magnificence of being on safari in an extinct volcano should be your primary motivation for visiting.

How much does it cost to visit the Ngorongoro Crater?

Because of the recent increase in park fees, Ngorongoro is now Africa’s most costly safari location.

The cost of driving a car into the Ngorongoro’s floor is $300, while the park fee is $60 – and this is before you pay for your night’s lodging! To summarize, this is not a cheap safari destination – far from it. Travel in November, as well as April and May, and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area’s usual low season rates apply to all properties. This is the cheapest time of year to visit the park.

The Ngorongoro Crater’s Safaris

Game drives are the only activities available in the Ngorongoro Crater. It is not possible to go on a walking safari or a night safari.

The Crater floor has picnic sites, but the major activity is daylight game drive. There are a few resorts on the rim of the Crater that provide short treks, but you’ll need to go farther into the Ngorongoro Conservation Area to locate genuine walking areas or communities to visit.

Accommodations off the rim of the Crater (particularly in adjacent Karatu) can provide a much greater range of activities. The town of Mto wa Mbu, where Maasai settlements are available for visitation, walking grounds are boundless, and there is a true bustle of tribal life, is accessible to lodges.

Game drives in Lake Manyara or up and down the Great Rift Valley are available from the homes in this area. Some of these places offer horseback riding.

What are the best lodges to stay in the Ngorongoro Crater?

In terms of lodging in this location, you have two choices. You have the option of staying on the rim of the Crater or in one of the boutique homes in the surrounding hills. The majority of camping on the Crater Rim is not recommended in general. The majority of these establishments are large business hotels with up to a hundred rooms. There are a few exceptions: the wonderful &Beyond Crater Lodge and Lemala Ngorongoro Crater Camp are both excellent tented alternatives.

The highlands are where we would recommend staying, and there are a variety of excellent boutique homes to choose from. Rhotia Valley and Plantation Lodge are both inexpensive, whereas Gibb’s Farm and The Manor are slightly more expensive.

Ngorongoro Crater Travel Tips

Unless you can afford Crater Lodge, stay away from the Crater rim! The nearby town of Karatu is approximately an hour away and has lodges that are far more attractive and cheap than those on the Crater rim.
Although the Ngorongoro Crater is not a zoo, it may get rather crowded. You will not be the only one visiting Ngorongoro, as is the case with many of the world’s most beautiful sites!

There’s no disputing that the safari at the Ngorongoro isn’t as real as it might be – there are just too many guests – but remember that all of the animals are there of their own free choice, and you’re on safari in an extinct volcano! This is a wonderful safari spot that can’t be found anywhere else in Africa.
Make the most of your stay in Ngorongoro by visiting at different times of the day. If you can get to the Crater floor first, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime event – but if you’re 30 minutes late, it’ll be a nightmare.

Best Time to Visit Ngorongoro:

The best time to visit Ngorongoro Conservation Area is during the dry season from June to October. During this time, the weather is generally pleasant, and the wildlife congregates around the water sources, offering excellent game-viewing opportunities. However, Ngorongoro can be visited year-round, and each season offers its own unique experiences.

Wildlife to See in the Ngorongoro Crater:

Ngorongoro is renowned for its diverse wildlife population. Visitors can expect to see large herds of wildebeest, zebras, gazelles, and buffalo, as well as predators like lions, cheetahs, and hyenas. The area is also home to elephants, black rhinos, and various antelope species. Ngorongoro Crater is especially known for its high concentration of wildlife, offering unforgettable game drives.


Ngorongoro boasts a varied landscape with grassy plains, acacia woodlands, and dense forests. The crater’s fertile soil supports a rich diversity of vegetation, including grasses, shrubs, and scattered trees. This lush environment provides food and shelter for the abundant wildlife.

Location of Ngorongoro Crater:

Ngorongoro Conservation Area is located in northern Tanzania, bordering the Serengeti National Park. It is approximately 180 kilometers (110 miles) west of Arusha, making it easily accessible for visitors.


There are several accommodation options available in and around Ngorongoro, ranging from luxury lodges to tented camps. Some popular choices include Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge, Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge, and Lemala Ngorongoro Camp. These accommodations offer comfort, breathtaking views, and proximity to the wildlife-rich areas.

  1. Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge: This lodge offers stunning views of the Ngorongoro Crater and provides a luxurious stay with comfortable rooms and excellent amenities.
  2. Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge: Situated on the eastern rim of the crater, this lodge offers panoramic views and well-appointed rooms, making it an ideal base for safari adventures.
  3. Ngorongoro Farm House: Located on a coffee plantation, this lodge offers a unique and serene experience, blending African charm with modern comforts.
  4. Ngorongoro Wildlife Lodge: Perched on the crater’s rim, this lodge provides breathtaking views and easy access to game drives within the Ngorongoro Crater.
  5. Neptune Ngorongoro Luxury Lodge: Offering a more exclusive experience, this lodge features elegant chalets and personalized services for a memorable stay.
  6. Lemala Ngorongoro Tented Camp: This tented camp provides a more authentic safari experience, with spacious tents equipped with en-suite bathrooms and a warm atmosphere.
  7. The Manor at Ngorongoro: This luxurious lodge offers an English countryside vibe and features elegant cottages set amidst beautiful gardens.
  8. Gibb’s Farm: Located in the nearby Karatu town, this eco-lodge is known for its sustainability efforts and offers a tranquil retreat surrounded by lush gardens.
  9. Rhino Lodge: Situated on the crater’s rim, this lodge offers budget-friendly accommodation without compromising on the incredible views and wildlife experience.
  10. Ndutu Safari Lodge: Although outside the official Ngorongoro Conservation Area, this lodge is close to the southern part of the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Crater, making it an excellent option for exploring both areas.

Please note that availability and offerings may vary, so it’s essential to check with each lodge for specific details and reservation options. These accommodations provide various levels of luxury, from high-end lodges to comfortable tented camps, ensuring a memorable and enjoyable stay while exploring the stunning Ngorongoro Crater and its surroundings.

Resident Rhino and Wildlife in Ngorongoro:

Ngorongoro Conservation Area is one of the few places in East Africa where you can find a significant population of black rhinos. The crater is home to around 30 resident rhinos, making it an important sanctuary for their conservation. In addition to rhinos, visitors can spot an array of other wildlife, including elephants, lions, leopards, buffalos, and a wide variety of bird species.

Absence of Giraffes:

One interesting fact about Ngorongoro is the absence of giraffes within the crater itself. It is believed that the steep slopes and limited vegetation make it challenging for giraffes to navigate and find sufficient food. However, giraffes can be seen in the surrounding areas of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.

Ngorongoro Safari Tips:

  1. Plan your visit during the dry season for optimal wildlife viewing.
  2. Book your accommodation well in advance, especially during the peak season.
  3. Pack layers of clothing as temperatures can vary throughout the day.
  4. Bring binoculars and a good camera to capture the wildlife and scenic beauty.
  5. Follow the instructions of your experienced guide and adhere to park regulations for a safe and responsible safari experience.
  6. Take the opportunity to interact with the Maasai people and learn about their culture and traditions.
  7. Don’t forget sunscreen, insect repellent, and drinking water during your game drives.
  8. Be patient and observant, as wildlife sightings can require some time and luck.

Embarking on a safari in Ngorongoro Conservation Area promises an unforgettable adventure, allowing you to witness the remarkable wildlife, stunning landscapes, and the unique ecological wonders of this exceptional destination.

Top Attractions in the Ngorongoro Crater

The Ngorongoro Crater is a captivating natural wonder that offers a plethora of attractions for visitors to explore. Here are some of the top attractions within the Ngorongoro Crater:

  1. Abundant Wildlife: The crater is home to an incredible array of wildlife, including elephants, lions, leopards, cheetahs, hyenas, wildebeest, zebras, buffalos, and various antelope species. The concentrated diversity of animals makes game drives in the crater an exceptional experience.
  2. Resident Rhinos: One of the highlights of the Ngorongoro Crater is its resident population of endangered black rhinos. Spotting these majestic creatures in their natural habitat is a rare and thrilling encounter.
  3. Flamingo Lake: The shallow Lake Magadi in the crater attracts flocks of flamingos, creating a mesmerizing sight with their vibrant pink plumage. Watching these graceful birds wading through the lake’s shallow waters is a visual treat.
  4. Lerai Forest: The Lerai Forest is a picturesque woodland within the crater, characterized by tall yellow fever trees. It provides a stark contrast to the open grasslands and serves as a habitat for various bird species and monkeys.
  5. Hippo Pools: Several pools and water bodies within the crater are inhabited by hippopotamuses. Observing these massive mammals as they wallow in the water or interact with each other is both entertaining and awe-inspiring.
  6. Maasai Culture: The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is also home to the Maasai people, who have lived in harmony with wildlife for centuries. Exploring their villages, learning about their traditional customs, and interacting with the Maasai provides a unique cultural experience.
  7. Scenic Landscapes: The Ngorongoro Crater offers breathtaking landscapes that combine open grasslands, acacia woodlands, freshwater springs, and the dramatic crater walls. The panoramic views from the rim of the crater are simply awe-inspiring.
  8. Birdlife: The crater is a haven for birdwatching enthusiasts, with over 500 bird species recorded in the area. From vibrant flamingos and elegant raptors to colorful bee-eaters and weaver birds, the diversity of avian life is astounding.
  9. Olduvai Gorge: Located on the eastern side of the Ngorongoro Crater, the Olduvai Gorge is an archaeological site of immense significance. It is known as the “Cradle of Mankind,” as it has yielded numerous fossils and artifacts that provide insights into human evolution.
  10. Panoramic Views: The sheer size and depth of the Ngorongoro Crater create breathtaking vistas from various viewpoints along the crater rim. Taking in the sweeping panoramas of the crater floor and surrounding landscapes is a memorable experience.

Exploring the Ngorongoro Crater is a truly remarkable adventure, allowing you to witness the diverse wildlife, stunning landscapes, and cultural heritage that make this area a must-visit destination for nature enthusiasts and safari lovers.