In Tanzania, the Ngorongoro Crater is a breathtakingly beautiful setting and the best place in East Africa to see the Big Five. It is a great way to start your African safari adventure.
However, as one of the world’s most astonishing and renowned natural wonders, the Ngorongoro Crater does get busy, and at times very busy. Due to the crowds, we recommend a two-night stay only here, then moving on to the Serengeti for a quieter, more private safari experience.
Any Northern Tanzania Safari should ideally include a visit to Ngorongoro Crater: it is one of the most beautiful natural wildlife safari sites in the world and an exceptional place to interact with people from the Maasai tribe.
The Ngorongoro Crater and surrounding highlands together form one of Africa’s most beautiful regions. Volcanic craters form stunning backdrops to some of the most fertile and richest grazing grounds in Africa.
The most famous such crater is without question Ngorongoro, the world’s largest intact volcanic caldera and home to the highest density of big game in Africa. Ngorongoro is justifiably one of the continent’s most famous safari destinations.
1. Where is Ngorongoro Crater?
Ngorongoro crater conservation area is one of the protected areas in Tanzania and declared as a Heritage site. The Location Of Ngorongoro crater conservation area is found on the Eastern Great Rift Valley arm, Northern part of Tanzania, located on the Western part of the tourists’ city Arusha lying at 120 kilometers 75 miles.
Ngorongoro crater is the largest extinct volcanic caldera in Tanzania and the whole world, measuring 264 square kilometers with dimensions of 16 by 19 kilometers across.
2. How to get to Ngorongoro Crater
Most people will visit the Ngorongoro Conservation Area as part of a bigger package, including visiting the Serengeti. Conveniently, the conservation area lies en route and is only a three-hour drive on a tarred road from the town of Arusha, the starting point of all safaris in northern Tanzania.
From Arusha, you can hop around the northern circuit parks by small aircraft on chartered or scheduled flights, or you can drive and do the whole circuit by safari vehicle. A popular option is to fly into the Serengeti and make your way back by safari vehicle via the Ngorongoro crater or the other way around. In most cases, your tour operator will pick you up from the airport.
In the Seronera area in the Serengeti, the crater’s distance is about 140km/90mi, and the driving time is about three hours. This can obviously take much longer, allowing for wildlife viewing along the way. The 80km/50mi drive from Lake Manyara to the Ngorongoro Crater takes about two hours, and the 180km/110mi drive from Tarangire takes about four hours.
The best option to get to Arusha is to fly into Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO), situated about 46km/29mi from Arusha. It is also possible to fly into Julius Nyerere International Airport (DAR), near Dar es Salaam and fly on to Arusha Airport (ARK) or Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO).
3. Ngorongoro Crater entrance fee
Ngorongoro Crater park fees are the conservation tariffs that all esteem guests like to have a nice wonderful safari in Ngorongoro have to pay. It’s always vital to consider the park fees charged in all parks and conservation areas of Tanzania.
Ngorongoro crater park fees are paid in the bank from any branch, and the guest or the person only goes with the receipt or the serial number of the payment receipt.
It’s a rule in the Ngorongoro Conservation area and Tanzania national parks and Reserves that not direct cash is allowed at the park entrance. Our website gives detailed park fees for all the Northern circuit parks that cover Ngorongoro conservation area, Lake Manyara national park, Tarangire national park, and Serengeti national park.
Like any other park, Ngorongoro conservation area accepts all credit cards like Visa, master card at the gate entry for paying your park fees and attract an extra charge at your card for the processing fees.
Apart from Ngorongoro Crater park fees, one also has to plan and budget for the camping fees charged per 24 hours. All the park fees are valid for 24 hours if one stays inside the conservation area, while for those staying outside, the fees expire as soon as you step out of the park.
4. Safety In Ngorongoro Crater
The Ngorongoro Crater is a very safe destination, in our opinion. Crime is infrequent in Tanzania’s parks and reserves. There is some crime in the cities, so normal safety precautions need to be taken when visiting urban centers, such as Arusha town, the gateway of the Northern safari circuit. Although crime-related issues for visitors are scarce, you should read ‘Cities & Urban Areas: Safety Precautions’ below for more information.
Related Post: Safety and Security in Tanzania
Malaria & Vaccinations
It is important to take precautions against malaria. A DEET-based mosquito repellent (which is the most effective) and antimalarial medicine is recommended. It also helps to cover up exposed skin in the evening. Before you travel, seek advice from a doctor regarding appropriate vaccinations.
Wildlife Viewing Safety in Ngorongoro Crater
Wildlife viewing is very safe as long as you follow your tour guide’s instructions and follow the rules of the park. Also, take note of our ‘Wildlife Viewing Safety Precautions’ below.
5. Big Five in Ngorongoro Crater
Buffalo in Ngorongoro Crater
Cape buffalo or African buffalo is the commonest and widely distributed among all the African big 5 across Africa, and their population is the highest due to little deadly predators for them except only lions, which even attack them occasionally due to their mode of staying in large groups which scares away the predators.
African buffalo is one of the most dangerous animals in the big 5. It takes longer to charge like an elephant, but it can kill once it charges, so guests are advised to give enough space no matter how simple or humble it looks. Among the wildlife, in Ngorongoro crater, they are estimated to be around 4,000 buffalos leaving here, making it the most easily sighted among the big 5
Black Rhino in Ngorongoro Crater
The Rhino family’s rarest species, the black Rhinos, is the smallest of all the two African rhino species. Black Rhinos, like any other Rhinos species, like browsing around their habitat, and they stay in cool places near water areas, and most times in Ngorongoro crater, you find them near Lake Magadi grazing around there.
Black Rhinos are very shy compared to other Rhino species, which makes them hide and leave in Thick vegetation areas that cannot easily be accessed publicly. The Black rhinos are some of the endangered species of animals among all the African big 5. Still, the Ngorongoro conservation crater Authority has done more to protect these animals from poachers and lions, and this has made the number to be increasing dramatically. And therefore, the wildlife in the Ngorongoro crater is being conserved.
Elephants in Ngorongoro Crater
The Elephants are the most majestic creatures you will encounter in every successful and experiential African Safari. The African Bush Elephants are rare to sight nowadays, but this is not the case among the wildlife in Ngorongoro crater as it’s more like a must-see while on your safari in Ngorongoro.
Even if the weather is bad, still the guest will see them at the nearby swamp. African Elephant populations have been dramatically decreasing due to the high level of poaching in most African countries. Still, the Ngorongoro crater conservation Area Authority has done its best to protect and conserve these Elephants from poachers.
It’s estimated that around 30 elephants live in Ngorongoro crater with more hopes to see numbers increase soon.
Lions in Ngorongoro Crater
Wildlife in Ngorongoro crater has a worldly record of the lion pride per capita, making it one of the few places that home many predators in a small area. A large group of pride roams throughout the crater as they enjoy an impressive and powerful sight of the crater.
Leopards in Ngorongoro Crater
They are tough to see, and Leopards are in the big cats’ family with a rare behavior that makes them unique on their own. It’s considered to be vulnerable by IUCN red list due to the high threat to their natural habitat.
In Ngorongoro, you can see it on the grass during early morning times or late in the evening, but most times, stay at the crater rim on top of the trees where it’s both its hideout for hunting or dining place.
The number of leopards in Ngorongoro crater is not clearly known through the authority is trying to a certain the number but still gives them high challenge because leopards are always unpredictable; in fact, they are active throughout the day.
6. Other Wildlife in Ngorongoro crater
The most common and famous wildebeest are known for the migration across the Northern circuit of Tanzania. The wildebeest are grazers who leave in groups and move in groups with no leader, but everyone is a leader. These animals know all the climatic calendar of Tanzania; when the rains start, they know where to be and systematically reach that point.
Zebras are mesmerizing creatures, one of the most common and easily sited during animals safari to your Ngorongoro crater and other national parks of Tanzania. Zebras belong to the horse family, highly social members that live in groups of 1000’s and most times stick to each other looking the opposite directions for self-defense and protection from the predators.
Wildlife in Ngorongoro crater includes over 6 different Antelopes species; this includes Gazelles, Eland, impala, and many more. Africa is known to be the home of over 72 different types of antelopes.
Ngorongoro crater also has other permanent habitats like black-spotted Jackals and others. Not Hyenas, forgetting different bird species with the most common birds, permanently leaves here while other migratory birds come between April and November for only breeding. The most sited birds are Secretary bird, Martial Eagle, Ostriches, Great White pelican, crown crested crane, Flamingo, Love birds, and many more.
7. Climate at Ngorongoro Conservation
Area Ngorongoro CA, has a mild, temperate climate. The area experiences two Wet seasons. From October to November are the ‘short’ rains, followed by the long rains’ from March to May.
Rainfall is usually experienced in the form of short showers. The crater never gets very hot during the day, but the crater rim gets cold, and it can freeze at night. Warm clothing for early morning game drives is a necessity.
The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is a vast area with altitude ranging from 1,027 to 3,522m (3,369-11,555ft). Most people only visit the Ngorongoro Crater. They spend the night in a lodge or campsite on the crater rim and visit the crater floor for wildlife viewing.
The rim (about 2,300m/8,530ft) and floor (about 1,700m/5,577ft) are at higher altitudes and are colder than the overall conservation area. Temperatures drop by about 6.5°C for every 1,000m you climb (or 3.5°F per 1,000ft). The difference is more noticeable during the night. Afternoons on the crater floor will be pleasant, but it can freeze on the crater rim at night. The rim also receives quite a lot of rain.
Dry season –June to October
June, July, August, September & October Afternoon temperatures are usually around 19°C/66°F on the crater floor. Sunny, cloudless skies are normal, but if the ‘short rains’ arrive early, they could begin in October. It gets cold at night, and it can freeze on the crater rim.
Wet season –November to May
It gets warmer during the day when compared to the Dry season, but mornings are still cold. Afternoon temperatures are usually around 23°C/73°F on the crater floor, while night temperatures are around 6°C/43°F on the crater rim.
November & December – ‘Short rains.’
These rains are highly unlikely to impact your safari as it won’t rain all day. Showers usually happen in the afternoon. The ‘short rains’ last about one month and can occur anytime between October and December.
January & February
It isn’t possible to guess when it will happen with accuracy, but there is usually a dry weather time between the Wet seasons.
March, April & May – ‘Long rains.’
It often rains, but it rarely lasts the entire day. April and May could experience very chilly conditions due to cold fronts.
8. Best time To visit Ngorongoro Crater
Wildlife viewing inside the Ngorongoro Crater is superb at all times. However, grass on the crater floor is short in the Dry season (June through September), making animal spotting easier. The scenery is lush and spectacular in the Wet season months (from November to May).
- June to September (General wildlife viewing is best)
- Most of the year – July to March (The Ngorongoro Crater will have crowds of visitors)
- April and May (The only time when the crater has few crowds)
- June to October (Rainfall is little to none)
- March and April (Peak of Wet season)
June to October – Dry Season
Wildlife is easier to spot since the grass is shorter in the Dry season, Rain is little to none, and sunshine is abundant Chances of contracting malaria are slimmer, as there are fewer mosquitoes. The Ngorongoro crater gets very crowded Mornings and nights get very cold.
November to May – Wet Season
Ngorongoro Crater offers excellent wildlife viewing, even in the Wet season. The scenery is green and beautiful.
The low season occurs in April and May; tourists are fewer, and there may be better rates.
Birding is in its prime due to the presence of migratory birds. Except for March and April, rains are mostly short afternoon storms and seldom interfere with your trip. March to April is the peak of the Wet season. It is cold during the nights and mornings, so it is important to pack warm clothing.
9. Accommodation in Ngorongoro Crater
As one of the highlights on many East African itineraries, the Ngorongoro Crater is exceptionally popular. When deciding which Ngorongoro Crater accommodation to book, it pays to be aware not only of the availability of accommodation but also accessibility to the crater itself as well as your budget.
The lodges set on the rim of the crater are exclusive and luxurious. Their views are perhaps among the most spectacular globally, the service world-class, and they make for a perfect Ngorongoro honeymoon. You’ll also be first in the queue to descend into the crater in the morning for your game drive.
However, although visitors who stay close to the crater in the nearby town of Karatu will travel for around an hour before reaching the caldera, the accommodation here is more affordable, smaller, and more intimate. Moreover, many lodges and guest houses offer additional activities such as local walking tours and horse riding.