Another of Tanzania's UNESCO World Heritage sites, Ngorongoro Crater offers, arguably, the finest wildlife viewing in Africa. Unlike in the neighboring Serengeti, game does not need to migrate thanks to the permanent supply of water and grass through both the wet and the dry seasons. Its combination of abundant animals and awesome scenery will impress even a seasoned safari traveler.
It was once a huge active volcano and was probably as large as Mount Kilimanjaro. After its last major eruption, as the lava subsided its cone collapsed inwards, leaving the crater. The completely intact rim rises 1,800 ft/600 m above the floor, which is 12 mi/19 km across (102 sq mi/264 sq km). With the passage of time, the floor of the crater has become grassland with a lake in the middle, and it has a high concentration of hippo, elephant, lion, jackal, wildebeest, hyena, zebra, eland, buffalo and a wide assortment of colorful birds, including large flocks of flamingoes.
Because of the number of tourists passing through the area (at times there seem to be more Land Rovers than wildlife), the animals are not timid, and they seldom run away as your vehicle nears. Indeed on one trip there, a pride of very hot lions flopped down in the shade of our Land Rovers and were close enough for us to hear them panting in the heat.
It is mandatory to have a guide to enter the crater (and well worth the price), and most people visit on a half-day safari. Take warm clothing—the elevation at the rim is about 7,800 ft/2,375 m, so you'll need more than a sweater for evening and early-morning animal viewing. Stay at one of the lodges on the crater rim, where you'll have a great view and spot the animals as dots on the crater floor. Or take a camping tour that sets up at the Simba Campsite also on the crater rim—you'll long remember the sound of animals going about their nighttime business just outside your tent.
The crater is 96 mi/154 km west of Arusha.
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