There is nowhere else in Africa that’s quite like the Ngorongoro Crater. Almost three million years ago, it once stood as an active volcano – soaring above the open plains, dominating the skyline. However, as a result of a volcanic eruption, the volcano collapsed inwards, creating a huge, unique caldera. Today, as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it’s actually the largest inactive caldera in the world, and one that attracts thousands every year.

The shape of the Ngorongoro Crater is so unique because no part of the crater wall has been broken. When you are driving along the crater floor, you will see panoramic views of the impressive walls that tower around you, standing at a height of over 600 meters. The experience of a Ngorongoro Crater safari is so memorable, and one we recommend for our clients. One of the main draws of visiting the Ngorongoro Crater is the morning drive, descending down into the crater. As you drive down under the layer of clouds, you’ll feel the temperature start to rise and the mist disappear. It’s a truly unique experience, and there are plenty of viewpoints along the way to capture them on your camera.

Aside from the incredible landscape, the Ngorongoro Crater – with a diameter of around 20 kilometers – is actually a fantastic safari destination too. It actually houses the big five – elephant, lion, leopard, rhino and buffalo – but, as always with safaris, there is no guarantee you will see them all. Elephants are often seen on the roads down into the crater, sometimes holding up traffic. The elephants in the Ngorongoro Crater are some of the largest ‘tuskers’ of East Africa, with enormous ivory tusks on display.

Most Tanzania safaris include one or two nights in the Ngorongoro Crater, with a descent game drive included. While it may seem short, a day’s game drive is ample enough. This is because most Tanzania safari itineraries combine the Ngorongoro Crater with the Serengeti National Park, so maximizing your time on safari in the Serengeti is always preferable. The Ngorongoro Crater can often be quite busy as vehicles stick to the same roads down and along the crater floor.

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Best safari camps in the Ngorongoro Crater

There are two main options when it comes to choosing accommodation for the Ngorongoro Crater. The first option, and the more commonly-chosen, is to stay in a safari camp or hotel along the crater rim. There are several options for accommodation – from smaller, canvassed camps like Entamanu Camp, to larger hotels such as the Serena or Sopa Lodge. The benefits of these properties is that you are close to the entry gates down into the crater. Another is that you often get stunning views across the Ngorongoro Crater which really give you a sense of its true size.

The other option is to stay in a safari camp or lodge further out, in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. This is a large area that connects the Ngorongoro Crater, the Serengeti National Park and the Great Rift Valley, compassing landscapes of forests, woodlands, highland plains and open savannahs. Properties like the Highlands Camp are much further from the Ngorongoro Crater gate, but they offer a different experience – a more secluded and intimate one, with cultural and hiking opportunities.

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When to visit the Ngorongoro Crater

Tanzania is a year-round destination but there are some months that are better than others. The June to October period is a great time to go on a Ngorongoro Crater safari, as it’s the long and dry season. This also works well if you combine other safari destinations in Tanzania, like the Serengeti, Lake Manyara or Tarangire National Parks. The months of April, May and November are rainy seasons so, while they offer dramatic landscapes and photographic opportunities, it’s best to avoid these times.

No matter what time of year you visit the Ngorongoro Crater, the temperatures will fluctuate throughout the day. Early mornings and evenings are cooler up in the highlands because of the altitude. With that in mind, make sure to pack layers and warm clothing. As you make the descent down into the Ngorongoro Crater, the temperature gets much warmer. On the crater floor, the skies are often clear and the temperature hot.

Gemma NEW Q&A

Gemma our African Specialist

Is the Ngorongoro Crater worth visiting?

Definitely. I would argue that the most exciting part of a Ngorongoro safari is the descent down the crater walls. There is no place quite as dramatic or unique as it in all of Tanzania – if not, all of Africa. The views you’ll experience are unparalleled – from the crater rim looking across to the Great Rift Valley, or from the bottom of the crater floor, looking up at the 600-metre crater walls. It’s a spectacular landscape, and one I’d argue is a must for first-time safaris to Tanzania.

Which is better, Serengeti or Ngorongoro?

Both destinations are very different in terms of the landscape and safari experience. The Ngorongoro Crater is often a bucket-list destination that needs no longer than two days to enjoy. The Serengeti is a completely different experience, offering the desirable open-sided vehicle game drives, and a more communal feel. Because of their differences, we often recommend combining the two together in a northern Tanzania itinerary.

How much does a safari cost in the Ngorongoro Crater?

This completely depends on which accommodation you stay in, and which destinations you are combining with it. Because of its proximity to Arusha and Kilimanjaro town, it’s possible to do a driving itinerary. This means you will have a private 4×4 safari vehicle and a driver/guide, and often works out more cost-effective as there are no internal flights involved. Flying into Lake Manyara airstrip will save you time, but often becomes more expensive as you include several internal flights. Our specialists can advise which safari option and accommodation choice is best for you, and curate a trip within your budget.

Is the Ngorongoro Crater busy?

This is certainly one of the most frequently asked questions about a Ngorongoro Crater safari but yes, it can get busy inside the crater. The reason being is that – aside from being one of the most desirable places to see in Tanzania – there are only a couple of roads that take you down into the crater, and along the crater floor. As off-roading is not permitted, all vehicles share the same paths and roads, which is why it can feel congested at times. That said, the safari guides and drivers are professional and respectful, so they will make sure that there are equal and fair opportunities to spend time with sightings.


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