Ngorongoro Crater, Ngorongoro Conservation Area – Tanzania.
Nearly three million years ago Ngorongoro towered alongside Mount Kilimanjaro as one of the highest peaks in Africa. Forged during the tumultuous birth of the Rift Valley, its volcanic top erupted at the time that ancient man first walked the plains.
The Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) covers some 8,300 square kilometers. It boasts the finest blend of landscapes, wildlife, people and archaeological sites in Africa. It is also a pioneering experiment in multiple land use. The concept of multiple land use in conservation perspective is a deviation from a traditional approach of regarding conservation as complete absenteeism of human interference.
Rifts and volcanoes shape the landscape of Ngorongoro. A rift is a disturbance in the earth crust, which causes rise or falls of its borders. Rifts also causes lava or melted rock to penetrate to the surface where it hardens. If lava emerges from the same penetration for a long period, it builds up into a volcano.
In the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, the main rifts are north of Lake Eyasi and east of Lakes Manyara and Lake Natron, where the nine volcanoes of Ngorongoro highlands were formed during the past four million years. Of these, only volcano Oldonyo Lengai is still active. The ash and dust from the eruptions was carried by the wind to form the fertile soils of the Serengeti plains.
Today, Ngorongoro’s caldera shelters the most beautiful wildlife haven on earth. Ngorongoro has over 20,000 large animals including some of Tanzania’s last remaining black rhino, protected within its rim. Black-manned lions stalk the grasslands, flamingoes crowd the soda lakes and giant-tusked elephants wander the forests. Towering euphorbias cling to the crater walls and on the floor, Fever tree and Fig tree forests give shade to an awe-inspiring array of creatures.
Animals are free to leave or enter the crater but most of them stay because of the plentiful water and food available on the crater floor throughout the year. For the best viewing and photography, approach the animals slowly and quietly and stay on the official tracks. Some of the other species are mainly Wildebeest, Zebra, Buffalo and Gazelles. All these animals in turn support large predators such as Lion and Leopard, and scavengers such as Hyena and Jackals.
The Ngorongoro Crater Floor
Interpretive game drives through the emerald plains and forests of the crater floor engender guests with a respect for the people and wildlife of this world wonder.
A sheer dirt road descends from Malanja Depression on the crater rim to the crater floor. At the top of the road, Maasai women and children allow you to photograph them for a small fee. The Malanja depression is grassy and open and is a good place to spot typical highland antelope such as mountain reedbuck and Kirks dik-dik, and birds such as the striking auger buzzard and Schalows wheatear.
The dominant feature of the crater floor is Lake Magadi, a shallow soda lake that supports large flocks of flamingo. Much of the crater floor is open grassland, making animal spotting relatively easy: black rhino, lion, hyena, gazelle, wildebeest and zebra are all commonly seen. The hippo pool near Mandusi Swamp is a popular picnic spot.