Wildlife Safari at the Ngorongoro Crater
You would taste the excitement in the air as we had our breakfast at the Mountain Green Hotel in Arusha as talked about our anxieties and expectations for the trip. After breakfast, we set out for the Ngorongoro Crater, we drove past several small towns including the main entrance to the Lake Manyara National Park. We finally arrived at the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority main entrance; our driver Humphery facilitated and cleared our entry payments at the headquarters office and we proceed in for our safari. The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is set in Northern Tanzania; it shares its border with the Serengeti plains to the north-west, Naswa Controlled Area, Loliondo Area amongst others.
We drove along the slopes of the crater rim on the main truck; we made a brief stopover at the viewpoint. When we alighted from our landcruiser is was very cold, cloudy and misty; we had agreed to stop for about five minutes however, within minutes the skies cleared up and we would feel the sun rays and enjoy the panoramic view of the crater floor. We spent about ten minutes at the viewpoint and as headed back to our safari vehicle; we were directed to read a plague that is by the side that lists some of the people who had lost their lives in the line of service through the hands of poachers, bandits or tragic accidents.
Ngorongoro Crater is one of the world’s greatest spectacles that forms part of the unique Serengeti ecosystem and is a case study that shows pastoralism, conservation and tourism does co-exist. We were all amazed to find Maasai manyattas, schools, clinics and even a police station within the conservation area. As we drove down the steep crater wall, we could stop a few wildlife species in the distance and were welcomed by sooty chats that led the way. According to our guide Humphrey, during the formation of the crater there was a geological rift that run through the area. There were nine volcanoes in the Ngorongoro highlands that were formed; one is still active Oldonyo Lengai, ‘Mountain of God’. He further explained that the fertile plains of the Serengeti were formed from ash and dust from the eruption of the volcanoes.
During our descend, we spotted a few flowering euphoria trees and a male yellow bishop zoomed across our landcruiser’s windscreen and perched on an acacia tree. The terrain embraces several distinct habitats from open grasslands to mountain forests and from scrub bushland to highland heath. We saw herds of wildebeests, warthog, zebras, thompson gazelles and heard a crowned plover call, probably we were approaching its nest. We proceed on the truck that led to Engitati Hill meaning ’round table’ and spotted a blacksmith plover and a white stork on a marshy area; we saw lots of grant’s gazelles and buffaloes browsing on the vast grassland. A black-headed heron was awaiting an opportunity at riverine area while a flock of cattle egrets were grooming themselves, immediately our guide pointed out something in the distance and saw two male lions looking out in the plains and later laid down to rest on the grass. We came across a large herd of buffaloes, they must have been over 80; a spotted hyena saw us and got hot on his heels and disappeared into the distance.
Our guide took a turn to the swamp and we found hippos enjoying a mid-afternoon swim and on the furthest corner were two hyenas feasting on a dead carcass of a wildebeest almost on the edge of the swamp. Our first sighting of an elephant occurred as we drove away from the swamp, at the foothills of the crater floor on the edge of Lerai forest. The big bull was massive and we enjoyed watching him stroll, eat and go about business. Further on, we found about 10 safari vehicles and we immediately knew there was something exciting to see; a pride of lions were having a meal and it offered an amazing photography opportunity. There were lots of wildebeest, lazily resting alongside the main truck.
We arrived just in time to see a lioness with two cubs disappear into the bushes; we also found three lionesses having an afternoon nap while a fourth feasting on a kill. We alighted from our safari vehicle and stopped at the restrooms and also take photos against the backdrop of a fig tree and further into the distance the crater walls. As we headed back we saw two zebra stallions fighting and stopped to enjoy the match along with the other female zebras to see who would become victorious.
As we began our ascend, we quickly noticed how the climate changed, we grabbed our sweaters and scarfs as it was getting chilly quite fast. The evergreen Lerai Forest offered amazing fresh air and we would occasionally ask our driver to stop and catch a glimpse of the vast area of the crater and also bid farewell to the crater floor and its majestic views. The road leading up was narrow and meandering and we came across several signs indicating ridges ahead.
We finally joined the main truck we had previously used and drove along the slopes of the crater rim on the main truck; we made a brief stopover at the commemorative plague that remembers Dr. Bernard Grzimek and his son Michael who worked tirelessly to ensure that the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) was established in 1959.
We stopped at the main entrance again to clear out, once our driver disappeared into the office, a troop of baboons marched out from the bushes and headed towards our vehicle. We could sense that they were up to no good, we quickly closed the roof – hatch, windows and doors and looked outside as a sign of relieve filled all our faces. As we drove out our driver narrated stories of how the baboons have become notorious and harass clients, drivers and workers by grabbing anything that they can get hold off when a vehicle pulls over to clear to use the restrooms. We left the Conservation area as we reminisced the magical and enchanting setting of the crater, its abundant wildlife and knowledgeable guide made sure we had a memorable visit.
Where to Stay while visiting Ngorongoro Crater:
There are different lodges and camps you can stay while visiting the crater, our most preferred accommodation facilities include:
Within the Ngorongoro Conservation Area
- andBeyond Ngorongoro Crater Lodge
- Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge
- Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge
- Neptune Ngorongoro Luxury Lodge
- The Manor at Ngorongoro
- Ngorongoro Wildlife Lodge
- Crater Forest Tented Camp
- Gibb’s Farm
- The Highlands Ngorongoro
- Ngorongoro Rhino Lodge
- Lemala Ngorongoro
- Sanctuary Ngorongoro Crater Camp