The crater floor offers a good variety of terrain and landscape. With grasslands, swamp and areas of acacia forest, it provides habitats for a good variety of different animal and even a small soda lake. With springs feeding the fertile soil, the grazing is good which encourages the animals to stay put rather than migrate in search of new pastures. This in turn keeps the carnivores happy! It is also a haven for the endangered Black Rhino, attracted by the lush grazing and thick forest in which to live. Add to this the backdrop of the crater rim and you get an idea as to why it is known as the eighth wonder of the world.
Access to the crater is restricted to between 7 am and 4 pm in an attempt to control the volume of traffic that enters. As it is a comparatively small area, it is busier that the wide open spaces of the Serengeti, but still offers a unique safari experience. It is a good idea to stay as close to the crater as possible, if budget allows, for instance at Lemala Ngorongoro or the Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge. This way you can descend at first light, being on the crater floor well before the crowds who will journey in from Lake Manyara lodges and Karatu.
The crater itself is but a small area of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, a protected zone that covers some 8,300 square kilometres. Only the indigenous people, the Maasai, are allowed to live within it and they grant concessions to the lodges to operate on their lands. Soda lakes, volcanic peaks, rich forest all add to the diversity of the area and you can add to the list the world-famous Olduvai Gorge. It was here that the Anthropologist family the Leakeys discovered some of the oldest remains of early man, dating from some 1.8 million years ago. Subsequent excavation have increased these discoveries and include footprints dating back an estimated 3.7 million years.
The Crater and conservation areas offer some of the most beautiful landscapes in the whole of Tanzania. Beautiful lodges offer breath-taking views and excellent service. No safari to Tanzania would be complete without a visit to one of the most famous safari destinations on earth.