The Ngorongoro Crater was once part of the enormous Serengeti National Park. However, thanks to the unique eco-system created by the dominating geological feature the separate and present Ngorongoro Conservation Area encompasses a large area of short-grass plains on the southern side of the Serengeti Plain as well as a range of largely extinct ancient volcanoes on the west side of the Great Rift Valley known as the Ngorongoro Highlands.
The Ngorongoro Crater itself is a large volcanic caldera: a remnant of a three million year old explosion that saw a volcano collapse upon itself. It is the largest untouched caldera in the word, measuring up to 19km in diameter and walled in by slopes up to 600m high. The coincidence of the crater’s location amid the cradle of life and its unique size make Ngorongoro host to one of the densest populations of large mammals and game to be found anywhere in anywhere in the world.
Safari tours in the Ngorongoro Crater regularly get to see the “big five”: Lion, Elephant, buffalo, leopard, and rhino. The only surprising absentees from the Crater are Impala and Giraffe; it is thought this is perhaps because of the lack of open woodlands and browsing species of trees which these two tend to thrive on.
Alongside the wildlife, the Conservation Area is stunning in its beauty, featuring the Empakaai and Olmoti craters as well as Ngorongoro itself. The forested crater rim of the Ngorongoro crater is in stark contrast with the crater floor, which consists mostly of grassland. Another feature on the crater floor is Lerai forest full of beautiful yellow fever trees.
A special highlight in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area is the Olduvai Gorge. Ngorongoro is critically important to the study of human origins and at Olduvai Gorge, countless fossil digs have revealed that Hominid species thrived there for over 3.5 million years. The 30 mile long Gorge is a steep ravine in the Great Rift Valley and perhaps the most important prehistoric site in the world.
Perhaps the only negative about Ngorongoro Crater is that its small size and popularity draw a sometimes over crowded safari population of humans. This can spoil the wildlife experience of those looking for quieter and more personal safari but it mitigated by the sheer abundance of flora and fauna.
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