Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Crater has been part of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) since 1973. Aside from boasting a fertile floor and thus an abundance of wildlife (notably the Big 5), the crater is also the only intact caldera left in the world. Fun fact: many speculate—before Ngorongoro erupted—it would have been higher than the mighty Kilimanjaro.
Located 1,800 metres above sea level in the Ngorongoro Highlands, the crater’s vegetation ranges from forest on one slope and grassland on the other, to a floor consisting largely of grassland renowned for leopard spotting. The crater is densely populated with other wildlife, including a thriving lion population, endangered black rhino, elephants, and an impressive number of resident wildebeest reaching an estimated 6,000. Cheetahs are known for slipping in and out of Ngorongoro throughout the year.
The Maasai graze their cattle alongside the rest of the wildlife in the crater. Visitors to the area can organise cultural visits to nearby Maasai villages through the number of lodges located on the crater’s rim or in the nearby town of Karatu which offers more budget-friendly accommodation.
We've taken the liberty to answer everything you may need to know about visiting Ngorongoro Crater
The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is conveniently close to Arusha, the most popular starting point for most safaris in northern Tanzania.
Arusha has two airports – Kilimanjaro Airport and Arusha Airport. Arusha Airport is mainly used for regional (internal) flights and is about 10 minutes from the city centre. Kilimanjaro Airport is used for international flights and is about an hour from the city.
From Arusha, you can "lodge hop" in a small light aircraft to your lodge's respective airstrips. Alternatively, those with more time can opt for a road transfer to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, which is only a three-hour drive on a tarred road from the town of Arusha.
The best option to get to Arusha is to fly into Kilimanjaro International Airport, located about 46 kilometres from Arusha. It's also possible to fly into Julius Nyerere International Airport, near Dar es Salaam and fly on to Arusha Airport or Kilimanjaro International Airport.
KLM is the best connection to Tanzania for passengers worldwide from North and South America, Asia, Europe, Middle East and Australia. This flight is perfect if you want to combine your Tanzanian safari getaway with a beach holiday on the Zanzibar Archipelago.
KLM is the only long-haul flight directly into Kilimanjaro Airport for a Northern Circuit safari to destinations such as Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro Crater, the Serengeti and Tarangire National Park. The return flight can be booked from Dar es Salaam and does not have to return from Kilimanjaro Airport. This is useful as Zanzibar is a mere 15-minute hop away from Dar es Salaam by air. Emirates and Qatar Airlines also fly directly into Dar es Salaam, as does Swiss Air via Zurich and South African Airways from Johannesburg. British Airways no longer flies directly to Tanzania.
The Ngorongoro Conservation Area offers superb wildlife viewing year-round. However, June to September marks the region’s “dry season”, where vegetation is more sparse, making it easier to spot wildlife.
On the other hand, if you are looking for lush scenery, stark contrasting colours, crisp, clear mornings, dramatic afternoon skies and spectacular sunsets, the wet season – from November to May – is an excellent time to go.
Whichever season you chose, our Rhino Africa Travel Experts will ensure you are in the best area to maximise your desired experience.
KiSwahili is the official language, although most people in commercial areas, such as major tourist destinations, generally speak English.
The terms Swahili and KiSwahili are used interchangeably, though the term Swahili commonly refers to the people while Kiswahili refers to the language. All the guides and transfer drivers generally speak English and are always eager to give information. But most of the population speak KiSwahili and very little English.
KiSwahili is a fairly easy language where you say it as you spell it, so it's easy to pick up phrases to help get you by. Here are some to get you started:
Jambo – Hello
Karibu – You’re welcome
Sante – Thank you
From around December through to March, large herds of wildebeest congregate in the Serengeti and Ngorongoro areas of northern Tanzania, now green and lush thanks to the annual rain. Newborn animals also make their debut and this calving season is when big cat sightings (and kills) are common.
From April through to May, the animals migrate west and north to the flourishing Serengeti’s Western Corridor plains. The seasonal rains make it tricky to keep track of the animals during this stage of their migration. In fact, many of Tanzania’s smaller camps shut down due to impassable roads.
The currency is the Tanzanian Shilling. However, US dollars are widely accepted, as long as the print run is past 2007. Most places will generally give you change in USD if you pay in USD, and TZ Shilling if you pay in Shilling, even when shopping at those smaller shops and vendors.
All tourism services will accept USD, and the guides usually welcome tips in USD. If possible, travel with smaller notes. They also generally accept credit cards at most properties with telecommunications signal. However, it's usually better to use USD for tipping and purchases from markets, etc. Many vendors do not accept American Express, and it will be a good idea to travel with either Visa or MasterCard.
The highlight of any safari in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area is exploring the bush and the wildlife by enjoying a game drive or bush walk. It is an incredible experience to see unique wildlife in their natural habitat. Still, we do urge you to note the guidelines below that will assist in ensuring the long-term survival of Tanzania's protected wildlife areas.
Some Safari Etiquette Guidelines
- Take back photographs and memories only! Do not remove natural objects (rocks, flowers, plants, etc.) from the Ngorongoro Conservation Area or any reserves. - It disrupts the ecology of the area.
- Do not try to attract the animals' attention by imitating their sounds, clapping, throwing objects, or other means.
- Never tease or corner wild animals, as this may cause an unpredictable response and a potentially dangerous reaction.
- The vegetation in the area is very sensitive, and off-road driving causes erosion. Only go off-road with a ranger and never on your own.
- Remember that you are a visitor to the animals' natural habitat, so observe the animals silently and with a minimum disturbance to their natural activities. Loud talking on game drives will frighten the animals away.
- Don't litter! Besides being distasteful, litter thrown on the ground can choke or poison animals and birds.
- The African bush is arid, ignites easily, and fires can kill many animals. So PLEASE abstain from smoking on game drives.
- Respect your driver's/guide's judgment about your proximity to certain wild animals. Don't insist that he take the vehicle closer so you can get a better photograph. A vehicle driven too close can hinder a hunt or cause animals to abandon a well-deserved meal.
- Always follow your guide's advice – he/she is the expert! Don't be afraid to ask him/her questions if you are unsure of anything.
- Never attempt to approach a wild animal on foot, especially near your lodge or campsite where the animals have become accustomed to humans.
Yes. The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is a malaria area. Please note that we are not doctors, so please always speak to your doctor about malaria prevention before travelling. However, on that note, it is entirely possible to have a safe, malaria-free holiday in Africa by using prophylactic drugs.
Tip 1: Repel the Mosquitoes
The female mosquito responsible for transmitting malaria is a silent mossy, so you will have to ensure you repel them. They can strike at any time of day but are most active at dusk as well as dawn. Always wear repellent as well as long-sleeved shirts and long trousers in the evenings and mornings. Please note that clothes alone won't protect you, as they can bite through the material. Most of our lodges will have screened windows and doors, air conditioning systems, and mosquito nets to protect you further.
Tip 2: ALWAYS Take Anti-Malaria Tablets
The most important thing you can do to protect yourself against malaria is taking Prophylactic tablets. Please note that you have to speak to your doctor before taking these tablets to ensure that you take the right one and the correct dosage when entering the malaria area.
Tip 3: Keep an Eye Out for Symptoms and Finish Your Course of Meds
If you start to notice any flu-like symptoms, you must get a malaria test to be safe and catch it early because malaria reacts well to early treatment. Also, don't stop taking your meds until the course is complete!