How to get to Ngorongoro Crater
Most people will visit the Ngorongoro Conservation Area as part of a bigger package, including a visit to the Serengeti. Conveniently, the conservation area lies en route and is only a three-hour drive on tarred road from the town of Arusha, the starting point of all safaris in northern Tanzania.
From Arusha, you can hop around the parks of the northern circuit 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.
Coming from the Seronera area in the Serengeti, the distance to the crater 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), which is 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).
2 ways to go to Ngorongoro Crater
Difference between fly and go by a car is 50 km.
Ngorongoro Crater FAQ's
The Ngorongoro Conservation Area has a mild, temperate climate. However, the altitude within its boundaries varies from 1,027m (3,369ft) to 3,522m (11,555ft), so there are variations in the climate depending on the lay of the land.
The temperature on the rim of the caldera, where many of the accommodation options are, is always cooler than that found elsewhere in the conservation area. This is because it stands at around 2,300m (8,530ft) above sea level.
Ngorongoro experiences two wet seasons throughout the year. The ‘short’ rains typically fall between October and November, while the ‘long’ rains (heavier monsoon rains) occur between March and May.
The crater itself never becomes very hot during the day, so you shouldn’t feel uncomfortable. Because of the altitude, you may experience freezing conditions at night and on early-morning game drives.
Located in northern Tanzania, the Ngorongoro Crater was formed around two to three million years ago.
A large volcano erupted before collapsing in on itself. This activity created the stunning natural amphitheatre you can visit today.
The crater is part of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, holds status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is the world’s largest inactive and unfilled volcanic caldera.
The Ngorongoro Crater was also named one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa.
And as for the name Ngorongoro — it is derived from the indigenous Maasai people, the area’s original inhabitants. It translates into English as “the gift of life”.
The consensus among historians is that this is due to the area being a natural habitat for so many animals, not to mention its striking appearance.
Absolutely! In fact, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area is the best place to see the Big Five in Tanzania.
The Big Five of Ngorongoro Crater are:
- African Elephants
- Cape Buffalos
And there are plenty more animals to see in and around the crater too, including:
You can also see giraffes in the conservation area, but not the crater as they can’t negotiate the steep descent.
Yes, this area is a birder’s paradise! With over 500 recorded bird species, birding in Ngorongoro Conservation Area is one of the most popular activities to do here.
Of course, we can’t list even a quarter of the birds you can find in the area in this blog. However, some of the most popular species include:
- Black Kites
- Black-winged Lapwings
- Hildebrandt’s Spurfowls
- Kenya Rufous Sparrows
- Verreaux’s Eagles
- Egyptian Vultures
- Augur Buzzards
- African Spoonbills
Combining Lake Manyara with other Northern Tanzania Safari Parks
Because of Lake Manyara National Park’s ideal location on the northern safari circuit of Tanzania, it can easily be combined with other destinations along this circuit such as the popular Serengeti National Park, the Ngorongoro Crater as well as Tarangire National Park
|Distance: 190.5||Time: 4 hrs|
The Ngorongoro Crater (NCAA) is a well-established wildlife management entity under the Tanzanian government, dedicated to managing the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (also known as NCA) and conserving its stately-natural splendor while striving to make it the world’s top tourism destination – Your best option for a future holiday is the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.
Serengeti Trips Tanzania
Find all the transport options for your trip from Arusha to Ngorongoro Crater right here. We displays up to date schedules, route maps, journey times and estimated fares from relevant transport operators, ensuring you can make an informed decision about which option will suit you best.
Where to stay in Nyerere Ngorongoro Crater
Lake Manyara Kilimamoja Lodge / karatu Tented Lodge / Lake Manyara Wildlife Lodge / Morona Hill Lodge / Africa Safari Camping Mto wa Mbu / Manyara Lake View / Escarpment Luxury Lodge / Migunga Tented Camp / Burudika Manyara Lodge / Mzuri Lodge Ltd / Milele Camp / Lulimac Lake Manyara Lodge / Eco Boma Camp / Crater Forest Tented Camp / The Retreat at Ngorongoro / Ngorongoro Lions Paw / Neptune Ngorongoro Luxury Lodge / Ancestors Lodge / Ngorongoro Marera Mountain View Lodge / Acacia Farm Lodge / Karatu Simba Lodge / Ngorongoro Oldeani Mountain Lodge / Elewana The Manor Ngorongoro / Farm of Dreams Lodge / Octagon Lodge / Acacia Tarangire Luxury Camp / Frina Buffalo Lodge /Ngorongoro Forest Tented Lodge / Pakulala Safari Camp – East Africa Camps / Highview Hotel / Roika Tarangire Tented Lodge / Tarangire Osupuko Lodge/ Lemala Mpingo Ridge / Ngorongoro Tented Camp / Ecoscience Center & Luxury Lodge / Lemala Ngorongoro / Castle Lodge / St. Catherine Monastery / Flamingo Safari Lodge / Ngorongoro Front Safari Lodge / Enyati Lodge / Ganako Luxury Lodge / Karibu Camps and Lodges Lions Paw Ngorongoro / Kasi Tembo Rest House / Green Hills Lodge / Eco Hostel Karatu / Whistling Thorn Tented Camp / Corfield Camp Tarangire / Ngorongoro Villa & Restaurant /Sumawe Suites Karatu
Things to do in Ngorongoro Crater
Game drives are without doubt the best way to view wildlife in the Ngorongoro Crater. Game drives are done with a standard tour van and are organized in two shifts – morning and afternoon. By 4:30 pm, all tour vans must be out of the crater. You need at least three days to explore each and every part of the crater. On every safari, expect to see all the big 5 mammals, birds, lakes, lush forests and savanna vegetation to marvel at.
The Maasai are one of Africa’s most intriguing tribes. Although they live outside the crater itself, they are allowed to graze their animals around the crater rim or bring them down the crater for water during the dry months of the year.
While visiting the Ngorongoro Conservation area, an arrangement can be made for tourists to visit one of their homes or cultural centers to learn about their traditions and culture.
It is more rewarding to visit villages/families that are less visited so that you have a more enriching experience instead of stage-managed tours. Visiting the Maasai people involves attending traditional dance performances, taking photos, buying souvenirs and meeting the elders.
After completing activities down the crater and getting back to your lodge for a shower, you might want to take a stroll along the edges or rim of the crater. The western edge of the crater offers great views of the woodlands, open grasslands and acacia forests. You can also watch as the Maasai take their cattle for grazing or back to the kraals.
The Gol Mountains are found within Serengeti National Park. The slopes are excellent for wildlife viewing and cultural encounters with the resident Maasai Herdsmen.
At the base of the Gol Mountains is the famous Nasera Rock where tourists can spot a variety of birds and hundreds of baboons. The Leakey family excavated remains of humans who lived there during the stone age period.
The Gol Mountains will capture your imagination if your dream is to explore the remote African wilderness. After exploring the Gol Mountains, you can also choose to conquer an active volcano known as Oldoinyo Lengai.
This is the smaller sibling of the Ngorongoro Crater. The Empakaai Crater was also formed when a volcano collapsed into a 6-kilometer-wide caldera. It is a lesser known crater but with a lot to offer.
Much of it is covered by a deep alkaline lake that is 85 meters deep. The lake changes color depending on the time of the day and attracts thousands of flamingos because of abundant algae.
The rims of the crater are home to pink flamingos, blue monkeys, water bucks, bush bucks, buffaloes, elephants and hyenas. Beyond the crater are stunning views of Mount Kilimanjaro and Ol Doniyo Lengai.
Among the Maasai, Olmoti means cooking pot. The shallow crater is found within the Ngorongoro conservation area highlands and stands at 3080 meters above sea level. The grassy hollows of the crater are excellent for hiking and nature walks.
It is where most of the Maasai herdsmen take their domestic animals for grazing alongside buffaloes, bushbucks, eland and reedbuck. You can crown your tour of the Crater by visiting a nearby waterfall (100 meter) that feeds into Lake Magadi.
This forest is one of the best attractions within the Ngorongoro Crater. It contains rare acacia trees that are slim, tall and with yellow colors. The distinctive look and ability to attract wildlife is what fascinates tourists. The trees thrive here but can also be seen in small numbers when you visit some water bodies in Africa. The Lerai Fever Tree Forest is the best place to spot black rhinos. They are attracted to the vegetation in the forest. The acacia trees also attract hyrax, bushbucks, elephants and countless birds.
If you have already taken a game drive at the Ngorongoro crater before and liked what you saw, you can organize another safari with the sole purpose of taking amazing wildlife photos. A photographic safari should not only be about the animals but also birds, lakes and savanna vegetation. There are Maasai tribesmen living close to the crater who may be open to being part of your photography expedition.
When the Maasai arrived in the Serengeti area about 300 years ago, they drive out the Hadzabe Tribe and other bushmen to remote areas of the park. Less than 2000 of these Bushmen still live in the area. Unlike the Maasai who have embraced modern ways of living, these Bushmen remain primitive and still live off hunting and gathering. A tour of their remote habitats will allow you discover their culture and secret ways of living.
The Ngorongoro crater is one of the best places for birding in Tanzania. The species to look out for are the flamingos, Kori bustards and crowned cranes. From the crater rims, one can observe species like the African cytrill sights, forest buzzard, golden winged sunbirds and white eyes slaty.
This is an expensive but very adventurous way to explore the vast crater and surrounding areas. Hot air ballooning is highly recommended especially during the migration – when the wildebeest are roaming or calving outside the crater and the nearby Serengeti. The great thing about hot air ballooning is that it allows tourists to appreciate and enjoy the beautiful scenery within the crater.
The Olduvai Gorge is known as the “Cradle of Mankind”. It is where the oldest archaeological discoveries where made by Richard Leakey and his family. The Leakey’s discovered the remains of the very first hominids in Olduvai Gorge in the early 20th Century.
They went on to make some groundbreaking discoveries with most of them older than 2 million years ago. The fossils include that of extinct animals that roamed the area and the more recent stone age man. You can register to be taken for a guided walk within the gorge.
Do not forget to check out the hominid footprints in Laetoli. These footprints where discovered on a volcanic rock and are over 3 million years old. There is a small museum that was built for public viewing and contains excavated remains and artifacts for tourists to see.
If you are fascinated by beautiful scenery, nature and birds, then the shallow lake Magadi will not disappoint. This paradise attracts wading birds like pelicans and flamingos in the thousands.
Lake Magadi is one of the best places for birding in Tanzania. Thousands of tourists visit Tanzania specifically to watch flamingos forage for green algae in the alkaline lake.
As we noted earlier, the Ngorongoro Crater was once part of the Serengeti and to this day, most tourists choose to visit both wildlife conservation areas for a more complete safari.
The safari can be extended to include visiting other national parks within the Northern circuit like Tarangire, Manyara and Mount Kilimanjaro.