Tanzania > Ngorongoro Crater (and Highlands)

Tanzania

  • Dear Rob, all the arrangements went well. The Serian camp is in an excellent location and very well managed by Roisin who made us very welcome. Our guide, James, was outstanding, one of the best ever. The game viewing exceeded our expectations. In the conservancy we saw lions (lots), cheetahs, hundreds of wildebeest and zebra, elephants, impala and many gazelles. We saw lots of hyena, packs of over 30, out and about in broad daylight, even with cubs, and clearly frightened of no one. On no occasion were there more than a couple of vans at any sighting: we thought it might be very busy but it wasn’t. Katavi, by contrast to the Mara, was a bit quieter in terms of game, although we did see 4 of the big five in one game drive. We saw more hippos in one drive than we have ever seen before and as the pools are drying the smell was just horrible! Mahale was completely different. The Greystoke camp is very well managed by the departing manager Sasha and his replacements Jeff and Kerry who made us very welcome. Our guide, Robert, was also good. Our first chimping was good. They were only about 40 mins away in the forest hills up from another camp so we went to that camp by boat and had a reasonable climb to find them as it was on the tracks all the way. On the second day two chimps decided to visit the camp just before we were about to go out into the forest. They had come to eat some mangoes which were just becoming ripe. We had about 40 mins following them through the undergrowth until they went off up a steep gradient and out of sight. As we were still entitled to a further 20 mins we set off to find some the trackers had located. This was a climb and a half. We were off the tracks for a lot of the one and a half hour climb (and it was a genuine climb up rocky slopes and through dense undergrowth) and in the end we saw only two chimps high up in a tree. We could hear that the others were not far away but they kept on moving and eventually even the trackers couldn’t go any further. It certainly demonstrated chimp sightings are not guaranteed!

    David and Pamela from Surrey travelled to the Masai Mara in Kenya and then Katavi and Mahale in western Tanzania
Ngorongoro Crater aerial view, TanzaniaNgorongoro Crater buffalo head, TanzaniaNgorongoro Crater elephant, TanzaniaNgorongoro Crater from viewpoint, TanzaniaNgorongoro Crater golden jackal, TanzaniaNgorongoro Crater Highlands Masai, TanzaniaNgorongoro Crater Lake Magadi flamingoes, TanzaniaNgorongoro Crater lioness and cubs, TanzaniaNgorongoro Crater Lodge view, TanzaniaNgorongoro Crater masai view, Tanzania

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Ngorongoro Crater (and Highlands)

The Ngorongoro Crater itself lies within the 8,000 sq. km Ngorongoro Conservation Area and it is one of the natural scenic wonders of the world. The magnificent crater is a ‘caldera’ or collapsed crater which is 16-19 km in diameter with an unbroken rim and has a floor area of 168 sq. kms. The altitude of the crater rim is around 7,000ft, the floor some 2000ft below. It forms part of a chain of volcanoes stretching along the western side of the Great Rift Valley which creates the Ngorongoro Highlands.  The only active volcano now is Oldonyo L’Engai, at the southern end of Lake Natron which lies to the north of the highlands.

The Crater contains a large animal population throughout the year, with many impressive black-maned lion, leopard, cheetah, elephant, black rhino, buffalo, hippo, hyaena, eland, zebra, gazelle, ostrich and wildebeest (wildebeest calving occurs around January). The birdlife is prolific too, with flocks of flamingos on the crater lake. Maasai people are encountered here too – some 12,000 pastoralists with 100,000 head of cattle co-existing with the resident game, some of which will descend into the Crater each morning to graze.

Although the Crater should be visited at least once in ones life, game-viewing on the crater floor is no longer an exclusive experience. Whilst there are several commercial lodges on the crater rim, which afford excellent views of the crater, it is not necessary to stay on the rim and there are some lovely accommodation options in the nearby highlands. The market town of Karatu, some 30 minutes drive from the Crater rim, offers a wider range of lodges and an insight into rural life in Tanzania. Cultural interaction with the Hadza hunter gatherers, walking (including fairly tough trails between the Crater and Lake Natron), and horse riding are available in the region too.

To the north-east of Ngorongoro is the beautiful but rarely visited Empakai Crater, with flamingos and other birdlife but little big game, and beyond that the a huge escarpment leads down to the harsh Rift Valley floor around Lake Natron, a major breeding site for lesser flamingo.

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