The Ngorongoro Crater, situated in Tanzania is the world’s largest, inactive, intact and unfilled caldera and one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa. Formed over 3 million years ago, the crater was formed after a giant volcano erupted and collapsed in itself. It is 19km across, 600m deep from floor to rim, and comes with a total floor area of 260 square kilometres.

The crater is home to over 25,000 large animals, from black rhinos, Cape buffalo, hippos and Grant’s zebra. Also living in the crater and the general conservation area is the East African wild dog, Tanzania cheetah, the African leopard, the African lion, making it the best place to catch a glimpse of the Big Five.

Within the crater is Lake Magadi, a shallow lake fed by two rivers: Munge and Lonyoike. Since the lake has no outlet, it is very salty due to evaporation resulting into the deep blue colour. Flamingos, brine shrimp and algae consider the lake a home. Hippos and rhinos take a dip in the marshes next to the lake.

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Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania. Photo: Grahampurse/Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

The beauty of the crater is the changing colours in relation to the weather. From December to April/May, the grass is green, accentuating the colours of the various flowers. When the dry season comes, from May to November, the colour shifts from green to yellow and then to brown.

The NCA also protects the Olduvai Gorge, where early human footprints were discovered and is considered one the most important prehistoric sites in the world. Named after the Maasai name for wild sisal plant, the gorge is one of the driest parts of the northern Tanzania. Located east of Serengeti plains, it lies in the shadow of the Ngorongoro highlands. 

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The NCA was inscribed to the World Heritage List in 1979 for its contribution to the human evolution and human-environment dynamics.  The stunning landscape of the crater with the concentration of wildlife also contributed to its inscription with UNESCO calling it the ‘truly superb natural phenomenon’.

The view from the bottom of the Ngorongoro Crater towards the southern rim. Clouds are hanging over the rim all the way around the crater, adding to the feeling of the crater being some kind of lost world, disconnected from the rest of the planet. Photo: Bjørn Christian Tørrissen/Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

Notably, the NCA has a multiple land-use philosophy, which helps in maintaining the co-existence of human and wildlife in a traditional setting. The main components of the philosophy are pastoralism, conservation of natural resources and tourism.

Some of the great activities in the NCA include game drive, lunch on the floor of the caldera and visit the Ngorongoro National Park.