Ngorongoro Crater and Conservation Park
More than 2 million years ago the Ngorongoro volcano collapsed, leaving behind the breathtaking Ngorongoro Crater, one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World. Encompassing more than 5,700 sq. miles, including the present Serengeti, as well as the adjacent Crater Highlands and the Ngorongoro, the Serengeti National Park was declared in the early 1950’s. During this time most of the southern side was being used by the Massai, a tribe of warriors and herders. As a result, there was a split between the current Serengeti National Park and the present day Ngorongoro Conservation Area.
Currently, the conservation area covers the Ngorongoro Highlands, a range of primarily extinct ancient volcanoes located on the Great Rift Valley’s western side and a large part of the short grass plains located on the Serengeti Plain’s left side.
Without a doubt, the focus of conservation area is the Ngorongoro Crater. As the world’s largest inactive, yet intact volcanic caldera, it was acknowledged as a World Heritage Site in 1978. With a mean diameter of 19 to 19 km, a crater floor of 26,400 ha, and a rim that soars 400 to 610 m above the crater floor, it is easy to see why this Crater is listed among the 7 Natural Wonders of the World.
More than 25,000 animals live within this amazing bowl, including herds of wildebeest and zebras that graze among the mineral rich floor that is covered in nutritious grasses. You will also find herds of topi, Thomson’s gazelles, Grant’s gazelles, and buffalo wandering the wide open plains. Within the crater, the critically endangered black rhinoceros live primarily in the open grasslands. Although it’s rare, herds of breeding elephants occasionally pass though the Crater, along with several old bulls, including some of Africa’s biggest remaining tuskers.
All Ngorongoro safaris include the predators that are primarily seen on the Crater’s floor. The lion population varies wildly over time. However, they have completely adapted to the safari vehicles. In fact, they can be seen hunting nearby and using the vehicles for shade after a long and tiring hunt. Often competing with the lions are the more common spotted hyenas and a growing number of cheetahs. Close to the Lerai Forest, a small forest that includes fever trees known for their yellow bark, you can often see leopards. On occasion you may even spot a bat eared fox, as well as the gorgeous, side striped golden jackal.