Top 10 Interesting Facts About The Ngorongoro Crater : The Ngorongoro Crater is formed by 264 square kilometers (102 square miles) of wetlands, forests, and grasslands. This world-renowned safari destination provides visitors with exceptional game viewing in a truly unique setting. Nothing can fully prepare you for the moment you gaze down into the Ngorongoro Crater for the first time.

The Crater is part of Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Conservation Area, which includes a large portion of the southern Serengeti’s short-grass plains as well as the Ngorongoro Highlands, a range of ancient volcanoes on the west side of the Great Rift Valley. The Ngorongoro Crater has a legendary reputation as one of Africa’s most extraordinary natural wonders, with a remarkable concentration of animals living in a variety of habitats.

But how did the Ngorongoro Crater form? And what makes Ngorongoro Crater so special? In this handy guide, we answer these questions and share our favorite facts about Ngorongoro Crater.


Consider the Ngorongoro Crater to be hyper-condensed action, similar to bringing the best of safari to a boil. Everything gets closer, tighter, and louder here. When you look inside this primordial caldera, you’ll see a petri dish density of wildlife, with more predator-prey interactions per capita than almost anywhere else on the planet.

 Human footprints dating back as far as 2–3 million years have been discovered in and around Ngorongoro. Following the arrival of the first scattered bands of hunter-gatherers, Mbulu pastoralists arrived, followed by the Datoga and, most recently, the Maasai.

The first European explorers arrived at the crater in 1892, and Ngorongoro saw its first waves of foreign visitors a few decades later. The Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area was established in 1959, and by 1979, it had been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Ngorongoro Conservation Area now receives over 500,000 visitors per year.

Here are the top 10 facts you didn’t know about the Ngorongoro crater:

1.      The Ngorongoro Crater was formed by the collapse of a large volcano. Around two and a half million years ago, an explosion formed a caldera.


2.      It is thought that when it was a volcano, it was roughly the size of Mount Kilimanjaro, one of the world’s highest mountains. The original height of the volcano is estimated to be between 4,500 and 5,800 meters. The crater is approximately 610 meters deep and 260 kilometers square.


3.      The conservation area is home to approximately 40,000 people. They share the land with an abundance of wildlife. There are approximately 30,000 animals, including leopards, cheetahs, elephants, and hyenas, as well as warthogs, buffalo, and impalas. It’s also one of the best places in the world to see the endangered black rhino and male black-maned lions.


4.      There are no giraffes in the crater. They are unable to enter because the sides are too steep for them to walk down. However, you can still find them around the crater. 


5.      In 1979, the Ngorongoro Crater, along with two others in the region (Olmoti and Empakai), was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is also one of Africa’s Seven Natural Wonders.


6.      The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is one of the world’s most important prehistoric sites. The conservation area includes Olduvai Gorge, which was the site of a major archaeological discovery in the 1950s. The fossils discovered here are thought to be the earliest known evidence of the human species, and they have significantly advanced our understanding of evolution.


7.      Tourism is important for economic growth, but visitor numbers are being monitored to avoid environmental damage. Every year, approximately 450,000 people visit the Ngorongoro Crater and Gorge, and all must obtain a permit to enter the crater and gorge.


8.      The region has hosted a number of celebrities, including Prince William, Bill Clinton, and the Queen of Denmark. Visitors to Ngorongoro account for roughly 60% of the 770,000 people who visit Tanzania each year.


9.      Part of the Oscar-winning film Out of Africa was shot in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. When Denys takes off from the Olkurruk airstrip and flies over the Masai Mara and Ngorongoro, you can see the crater.


10.  The Ngorongoro Crater is also known as “the Garden of Eden” due to its dazzling beauty and animal paradise.


How was the Ngorongoro Crater created?

The Ngorongoro Crater is thought to have formed approximately 2.5 million years ago when the cone of an active volcano collapsed inward following a massive eruption. The massive, unbroken caldera that we see today is the main relic of this implosion.

What is a caldera?

A caldera, which means ‘cauldron’ in Spanish, is a bowl-shaped volcanic cavity that is usually more than one kilometer (0.62 miles) in diameter and has a steep outer edge. A caldera is formed when the top of a volcanic cone (or group of cones) collapses due to a lack of support from an underlying body of magma.

 When all of the major eruptions finished, the top of the volcanic mountain vanished, leaving a massive hole in its place. Minor eruptions could occur after the major implosion, resulting in smaller cones on the caldera floor. These may eventually fill with water to form lakes.

 What is unique about Ngorongoro Crater?

Aside from being the largest intact (unbroken) volcanic caldera on the planet, the Ngorongoro Crater is also a natural sanctuary for some of Africa’s densest populations of large mammals. The Ngorongoro Crater has effectively formed its own ecosystem due to its enclosed nature.

How old is Ngorongoro Crater?

It is estimated to be two to three million years old.

Top 10 Interesting Facts About The Ngorongoro Crater
Ngorongoro Crater Wildlife

 What is the Ngorongoro Crater famous for?

It is famous for its geological splendor and the diversity of fauna and flora found in such a small area. A game drive in the Ngorongoro Crater guarantees you will see large concentrations of animals. The Crater also provides some of the most consistent Big 5 (elephant, buffalo, rhino, lion, and leopard) sightings in East Africa.

What does “Ngorongoro” mean in English?

Ngorongoro is thought to be an onomatopoeic term used by the region’s Maasai people to describe the sound of the bell that hangs around the neck of the lead cow in a herd. The bell produces an echoing “ngor ngor” sound, prompting local pastoralists to name the area Ngorongoro.


Because the wildlife remains within the steep-walled caldera all year, the question of when to visit Ngorongoro Crater is more about how many other people and vehicles you want to share the crater with. The dry season lasts from June to October, when temperatures are cooler and animal sightings are excellent; they are easy to spot along the barren plains and don’t wander far from watering holes. However, this is also peak safari season, when tourists from all over the world flock here.

Tanzania has two rainy seasons: April–May and November–December. Temperatures are high, and the roads surrounding the caldera can become muddy. During the wet seasons, however, there are far fewer visitors, and the Ngorongoro Crater transforms into a wonderfully lush, emerald “Garden of Eden.”


For good reason, Tanzania is best known for the Serengeti. But something shifts in the air the moment you start descending into the Ngorongoro Crater. Your hair is standing on end. Prepare to have your head on a swivel for the entire day, from the first minute to the last, as wildlife interactions will shuffle all around you. Contact us today to add Ngorongoro to your Africa Travel bucket-list itinerary.

Getting you there: Want to visit a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Tanzania? As you explore this conservation area, you will be in awe of the Ngorongoro Crater. For over 5 years, Focus East Africa Tours has provided tours to explore the Ngorongoro Crater and created a variety of safari experiences suitable for all types of adventures. Interested in joining us on a tour to the Ngorongoro Crater? Or do you want to create your own tailor-made tour? To get started, please contact us today.

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