A Ngorongoro Crater safari is an experience like no other!
Your Ngorongoro Crater safari in Tanzania will take you on a journey to a spectacular “wildlife-filled bowl”.
Ngorongoro Crater Safari
A Ngorongoro Crater safari promises maximum wildlife viewing all year round. Explore the trails of the ancient Ngorongoro Crater in search of the fabled Big Five, a group of five animal species that include the lion, elephant, rhinoceros, buffalo, and leopard. Visit two native tribes to gain an understanding of the local culture, observe their simple customs and traditions, and take in the wild landscapes where their settlements are situated.
The Ngorongoro Conservation Area was founded on a vision to promote conservation, protect the interests of local communities and encourage tourism by combining nature conservation and human development uniquely. The Ngorongoro Conservation Area and the Ngorongoro Crater are UNESCO World Heritage Sites and home to approximately 30,000 large mammals and a huge variety of smaller species. The wondrous Ngorongoro Crater was formed when a giant volcano erupted three million years ago.
The Ngorongoro Crater is the largest un-flooded and unbroken caldera in the world. At approximately 20 km across and 600 m deep, this cavernous volcanic crater is a breathtaking natural wonder that will leave you speechless.
The crater is 2,000 ft deep, and its floor covers 260 sq km. Together, it forms a natural enclosure for wildlife and breathtaking landscapes. The crater rim provides varied habitats, including grassland, swamps, and montane forests, and in the center, you will find a salt lake called Lake Makat (Maasai for “salt”). The beauty of this area attracts species of all kinds, which you can only gaze at in wonder.
Explore the beauty of the Ngorongoro Caldera
A safari in Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Crater gives you one of the best chances of seeing the endangered black rhinos in the wild because this protected idyll is one of the few places where they continue to breed and thrive. Standing on the rocky rim and looking down at the crater floor, you have the highest density of wildlife in Africa at your feet. Additionally, you may also be lucky enough to see leopards, majestic black-maned lions, and flocks of flamingos.
Experience a Ngorongoro Crater Safari in Tanzania with Local Maasai Guide
Unlike your typical safari on the crater floor, a private-guided walk on the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater is a privilege to experience your safari in Tanzania from a different perspective. Escorted by a local Maasai guide and an armed park ranger, you will explore this beautiful caldera on foot.
Known for its dramatic landscapes and flourishing wildlife, you can hope to see lions, leopards, zebras, hyenas, olive baboons, vervet monkeys, jackals, gazelles, impala and monitor lizards during your Ngorongoro Crater safari in Tanzania. Your reward for the grueling ascent is an unbroken view of Lake Natron, a salt and soda lake whose striking red waters throng with flamingos, pelicans and geese.
There’s more to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area than just the crater. This unique shared eco-system consists of the Ngorongoro Crater, Ndutu, Olduvai Gorge, Empakaai, Olmoti Crater and Oldonyo Lengai Mountain.
Ready to start planning a tailor-made safari to the Ngorongoro Crater? Our experts make planning your Tanzania safari experience a walk in the park. To help you with trip planning, browse our travel guide to find expert advice on safari in Ngorongoro. Get inspired with our sample itineraries and let our Wito experts customize a dream trip just for you!
Want to experience a breathtaking wildlife safari in Ngorongoro Crater? Here are the best months to go.
A Ngorongoro Crater safari offers an all-year-round wildlife viewing experience. The best time to enjoy unparalleled wildlife viewing in Ngorongoro Crater is during the dry season, from June to October, and even early November. During this time, excellent weather conditions can be expected across the country, and wildlife viewing should be spectacular. December to March and late May are also amazing months to visit the crater.
Some of the roads in Ngorongoro Crater may become inaccessible during the heavy rainy season, so many camps stay closed in April. We do not recommend travelling to the Ngorongoro Crater during the wet season.
This is what your typical safari in Ngorongoro Crater would look like:
Depending on where you’re staying a night before your trip, a Wito Africa private safari guide will meet and greet you at your accommodation and transfer you to the Ngorongoro Crater, where you’ll begin your safari.
Our game drives are flexible depending on your preferences, so feel free to start your daily safari anytime you want. If you prefer to do a full-day game drive, we will provide you with a packed lunch so you can break whenever you would like to enjoy a classic safari picnic lunch made with locally sourced, fresh ingredients.
You will also have a chance to do a private guided walking safari on the crater rim (optional), where you will encounter a variety of birds and animals, big and small. After a full-day safari in Ngorongoro Crater, you will be taken to your departure point or handpicked safari camp or lodge, where you will unwind and savour some delicious food and sundowners.
How to get to Ngorongoro Crater?
Ngorongoro Conservation Area is easy to access by road transfer from Arusha, Serengeti, Tarangire, Lake Manyara and Kilimanjaro. Below are approximate driving times:
- Arusha to Ngorongoro Conservation: 3 hours drive
- Kilimanjaro International Airport to Ngorongoro Conservation Area: 4 hours drive
- Central Serengeti or Ngorongoro Crater: 2.5-3 hours drive (maximize your wildlife viewing in the crater by taking a direct flight from the northern Serengeti)
- Lake Manyara to Ngorongoro Conservation Area: 1-hour drive
- Tarangire National Park to Ngorongoro Conservation Area: 2 hours drive
Since Zanzibar, Mikumi, Ruaha & Selous are a bit far away from Ngorongoro Crater, we recommend you take a quick flight if you wish to combine the crater tour, south and Zanzibar.
Ready to start planning? Select your preferred time to travel, then let a Wito Africa safari expert create an itinerary that meets your needs for a safari and incorporates the highlights of that season. We can save you time, money, headaches and heartache by helping you plan your dream safari. To start planning your safari in Ngorongoro Crater, please call us at 1-315.805.4040 or send our safari experts a message via email.
How to Plan Your Wildlife Safari in Ngorongoro Crater Like a Pro
There are many factors to consider when planning a safari to the Ngorongoro Crater, one of the best places to spot the Big Five animals (lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos and cape buffalos) in Tanzania. Gather enough information to help you decide the best time to visit.
Depending on your itinerary, you can start your Ngorongoro Crater safari from Arusha, Serengeti, Tarangire, Lake Manyara, Zanzibar or Kilimanjaro. It’s possible to combine the Ngorongoro Crater safari with a great migration trip in Serengeti, a beach vacation in Zanzibar, gorilla trekking in Rwanda/Uganda and south parks on a ten-to-fourteen-day trip thanks to safari flights’ quick and direct connections.
If you want to fly from Ngorongoro Crater to all parks in the northern Tanzania, such as the Serengeti, or if you are flying in from the southern safari circuit, Lake Manyara Airport (LMN) is the best airport to use. Another gateway to consider if you want to combine a safari in Ngorongoro Crater with time spent in Zanzibar or other east African nations is Arusha Airport (ARK) or Kilimanjaro International Airport [JRO].
Deciding which reliable tour operator (s) to use for your dream African safari experience is not an easy task. With a sea of general online tour operators, it is hard to find the ONE that truly speaks to your discerning tastes and genuinely understands your travel needs and expectations.
During dry and green season months, Ngorongoro Conservation Area has so much to offer. While the Ngorongoro Crater may be explored in one full day, we suggest you spend at least two nights in this region, especially if you wish to visit the nearby parks. To get the most out of your wildlife-filled safari adventure, we recommend combining your visit with the nearby Serengeti and Lake Manyara or Tarangire (you’ll get a very different safari experience in terms of scenery).
You may need to consider spending three days or more in one or more Serengeti lodges and camps. Give yourself at least two full days for each of the added parks. By doing so, you will be able to maximize your wildlife viewing whilst minimizing the long drives between the parks.
Similarly to many other national parks in Tanzania, Ngorongoro Crater offers a unique setting for safari-goers to stay inside or outside the conservation area. You’ll stay in some of the most charming safari camps and lodges, where you will unwind and enjoy delicious food and sundowners.
With several accommodation options to choose from, we can guarantee that your safari experience will be meticulously created just for you with your specific interests, travel style and schedule. Everything will be tailored to your preference, allowing you to enjoy a perfect balance of comfort, adventure and maximum wildlife viewing. We will only recommend the places we have stayed in and inspected thoroughly, and we can guarantee you will be safe.
If you want to explore the beauty of the Ngorongoro Crater on game drives, we highly recommend using qualified local safari guides. With our personalized trips, you will have control over your experience and enjoy all the flexibility you need to plan your daily game drives with your private safari guide.
You can decide when to start your trip and how long your daily game drives should last, as long as it is within the time set by the national park authorities (the park gates usually open at 06h00 and close at 18h30). Ultimately, you will have an opportunity to choose what you would like to do, when you would like to start your private safari trip, and where you would like to go.
At Wito Africa, we do not limit game drives by restricting drivers on the mileage they can travel per day. Therefore, we are happy to offer you an extensive all-day private game drive with a picnic lunch break between your game drives.
As a standard offering for all our experiences, we provide all meals, bottled drinking water, tea/coffee and juices at breakfast for the duration of your safari. We can accommodate all kinds of dietary requirements such as vegetarian, vegan, halal, and kosher to pescatarian.
Moreover, bottled drinking water and soft drinks will be readily available throughout your safari experience with us. We have a stocked mini-fridge in the vehicle that will cool drinks whilst you enjoy your uninterrupted wildlife viewing from the comfort of your customized safari jeep.
Our unique approach to offering a stress-free safari experience starts with ensuring that you are well-informed about the specific requirements of the country you visit in hopes that you’ll know exactly what to expect. Understanding how a safari operates, what is involved before and during, and what key points to consider when booking ensures an unforgettable safari adventure. Topics like when to visit, how to get there, and what to pack are addressed by safari experts.
Ngorongoro Crater History
Interestingly, the name ‘Ngorongoro’ is onomatopoeic in origin. Maasai cattle herders reportedly gave the crater its name inspired by the sound of the cowbells, ‘ngoro ngoro’. Due to the establishment of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA), these cows and their Maasai herder can still be seen in the crater making their descent to greener fields or grazing amongst the herds of wildlife.
Maasai People, shared Ecosystem and Culture
While Ngorongoro’s past stretches back to ancient times, the historical backdrop of the Maasai goes back around 200 years, when these African pastoralists colonized the region in considerable numbers. Their traditional lifestyle of subsistence farming and cattle farming enables them to live close to wildlife and in harmony with nature.
This secured area is one-of-a-kind due to its efforts to protect the way of life for both humankind and wildlife. Inside the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, you will find that only the Maasai people are permitted to march their cattle alongside wild animals, including antelope, buffalo, wildebeest, and zebra. No photo could do it justice – some things only have to be enjoyed at the moment and live on in the memory.
Discover Lake Natron & Mount Oldoinyo Lengai
Translated in the Maasai language as the Mountain of God – Mount Oldoinyo Lengai is revered as sacred by the local Maasai communities. It is apt, then, that as you stand on the highest peak of Oldoinyo Lengai, you could almost be said to be looking directly into the fires of hell, as it overlooks the caldera of Tanzania’s only officially certified active volcano and the world’s only carbonatite volcano. With an eruption every seven years, smoke billows from the crater as locals are reminded of Lengai’s formidable power.
Climbing Oldoinyo Lengai is a demanding challenge as the rocky, ash-covered slopes are crumbly and unstable, and the ascent is steep. Additionally, the heat can be crippling, so it is best to set out early in the morning and aim to reach the summit at sunrise.
Learn more about the rich history of Olduvai Gorge & Laetoli
If you’re a budding archaeologist or paleoanthropologist, you will find that the Olduvai Gorge is a treasure trove. Located in the Great Rift Valley, between the Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti National Park, it was formed about 30,000 years ago and is the site of some of the earliest human remains.
At Laetoli, west of Ngorongoro Crater, hominid footprints are preserved in volcanic rock that is believed to be 3.6 million years old, representing some of the earliest signs of humankind in the world. Three distinct tracks of a small-brained, upright, walking early hominid have been discovered. Presently, you can see the imprints for yourself at the Olduvai museum.
Buried in the layers of the Olduvai Gorge, archaeologists have found evidence of some more advanced descendants of Laetoli’s hominids, revealing a gradual increase in brain size and the complexity of their tools. The first skull of Zinjanthropus, commonly known as “Nutcracker Man”, who lived about 1.75 million years ago, was found here. If history and heritage are what you’re after, it doesn’t get much better than Olduvai Gorge.
Is a safari in Ngorongoro Crater Tanzania worth it?
Yes, a safari in Ngorongoro Crater is a must-do! With more than 25,000 animals, the Ngorongoro crater is one of Africa’s densely populated areas of mammalian predators. Experiencing a safari in the Crater is an adventure like no other – you will be able to see all of the famous Big Five animals in just a few hours.
Elephants and zebras will be seen walking in a long single line as you make your way down into an oasis. Get up close and personal to admire some of the biggest elephant bulls in Africa with tusks curled upward. As you venture further into the forest, you will look for leopards and come across all kinds of antelopes. The trail will curve as it continues, passing wildebeests, rhinos, and a sizable herd of buffalo. Hippos will fill a small pool, and lions will lounge in the open, soaking up the sun and grunting. There could be close to 10,000 animals and more than a dozen different species in one panorama.
There is no better way to introduce yourself to the beauty of animals of Africa, and Ngorongoro is an excellent option because of its enormous variety.
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WHY TRAVELERS CHOOSE US
At Wito Africa Safaris, giving our customers unbiased advice and exceptional safari experiences is what we live and breathe. Our Africa safari experts are well-traveled and have in-depth first-hand knowledge of the places they suggest. To make sure these offerings live up to the expectations of our guests, the experts at Wito Africa routinely inspect new lodges, experiences, and activities. Nothing beats current, pertinent travel advice obtained directly from a local expert. The Wito Africa 'dream team' will be there for you every step of the way to ensure that even your smallest needs are met and no detail is overlooked, so you can embrace your experience with complete peace of mind.
WHERE TO STAY IN NGORONGORO CRATER
Just for you, we have hunted out the very best lodges, villas, camps and even treehouses in Tanzania to suit every budget, itinerary and personal preference. Trust us – you’re going to be spoilt for choice! An awe-inspiring setting is just the beginning… Every one of our recommended accommodation options will blow you away with personal service, attention to detail and various levels of luxury.
Entamanu Ngorongoro Crater
Set high on the crater rim, Entamanu Ngorongoro Crater is a well-positioned property for the Ngorongoro safari. We like that its elevated vantage point gives you a sense of the iconic crater within its wider surroundings. Combining the dramatic landscape of volcanic hills and the day-to-day rhythms of Maasai pastoralist life, these canvas rooms and tents take you off the beaten tourist track and give you a fresh perspective.
We especially recommend Entamanu to groups and families because it offers six spacious en suite canvas rooms and two family tents. The high altitude does mean that it can get quite cold and windy at night, but the tents come well-equipped with chunky textured wool furnishings, down duvets and heaters.
The Manor at Ngorongoro
If you want to make your African adventure extra lavish, The Manor at Ngorongoro is one of our most extravagant recommendations. With premium cottages, manicured gardens, and the grandeur of a stately Manor House, this place is all about old-world luxury, fine dining, brandy and smoke. We recommend The Manor to clients who want the most high-end and indulgent safari experience, and it is particularly suited to honeymooning couples.
After a day out on safari, you can return to your majestic suite and spacious bathroom for a long, hot bubble bath, and there’s also a swimming pool and full spa, so it’s ideal for some couples pampering and time to enjoy each other’s company.
The location is perfect, too, within a coffee plantation near the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater and very close to the entrance to the Ngorongoro conservation area. If you’ve got the budget for it, it won’t disappoint.
Ngorongoro Farm House
Ngorongoro Farm House is a 500-acre coffee farm located in a beautiful woodland area and 4 km from the Lolduare entrance to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. The property has eco-friendly electric power supplied by solar panels, with a generator as a backup. The nearest airstrip, Lake Manyara Airport, is only approximately 40 minutes drive.
The property offers spacious cottage-style rooms, swimming pools and a lounge area. Several in-house activities are provided with your stay. From a guided walk around the coffee plantation, a relaxing massage, and village and school visits to a coffee bean roasting experience, Ngorongoro Farm House is a great spot to spend a night or two en route to Ngorongoro or Serengeti.
O'ldeani Ngorongoro Mountain Lodge
O’ldeani Ngorongoro Mountain Lodge is a colonial lodge situated on a picturesque hill with spectacular views of Oldeani Mountain and the Ngorongoro Crater Rim. Being elevated, the property features some breathtaking views of the remote areas of Lake Eyasi and Lake Manyara.
Ngorongoro Farm House
The lodge is situated on the same 500-acre coffee farm as the sister property, Ngorongoro Farm House, the Farm House Valley is the newest addition to TWC properties. With its independent facilities, the Farm House Valley consists of 30 luxury rooms with views of Oldeani volcano in the Rift Valley.
A cozy main house tent is located in the center of the where meals are served. The campfire is ready every evening for appetizers and snacks before dinner. Sunlit breakfasts and candlelit dinners are eaten at the lovely restaurant or on the veranda, and there is also a generous lounge for relaxing after a long day in the bush.
andBeyond Ngorongoro Crater Lodge
What we love most about this lodge is the floor-to-ceiling views directly into the crater. The mud and thatch of the suites make a striking contrast to the chandeliers, antiques and African ornaments that adorn the interiors, but the full-length windows are the icing on the cake. This lodge is for guests who want to experience something authentic and tactile without sacrificing comfort and hints of luxury.
Your personal butler will bring you drinks, stoke the fire, and cater to your every need, and the magnificent domed dining room is a grand setting for every meal.
Ngorongoro Lion’s Paw Camp
Situated on the Eastern Rim of the Ngorongoro Crater, visited quite often by the residents of the area such as the buffalo and wildebeest, not to mention leopards and the odd elephant is our eccentric Ngorongoro Lion’s Paw Camp. Build without harming any of the trees and extensive vegetation in the area, the eco-friendly camp consists of 15 luxury suites strategically positioned to show off the majestic view of the Ngorongoro Crater from the balcony, where you can use your binoculars to feast your eyes on the action happening in the caldera itself from the comfort of your luxury suite.
Our bar and lounge present a unique calming ambience in the dense forest of the rim, and our barbeque grill evenings under the starry night play a memorable role in your experience.
We are a few minutes away from several Maasai bomas, allowing you to visit them and learn more about this indigenous tribe that has lived close to these beautiful beasts for generations.
The Highlands at Ngorongoro
The Highlands offers our clients something a little different. The Highlands at Ngorongoro is for those who want a taste of the authentic wilderness experience while enjoying a high-end retreat. The setting gives you easy access to the Ngorongoro Crater but also invites you to explore the rugged highlands of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.
You will have a chance to see leopards, buffalo and elephants and the rich bounty that the crater floor has to deliver. If you’re also interested in visiting a local Maasai community and getting a snapshot into their way of life, this camp is a good choice for combining both elements in one short stay.
Kitela Lodge is located on the foothills of the famous Ngorongoro Highlands. Framed by majestic mountain scenery, this luxury lodge is set amongst beautiful gardens and a working coffee farm. All 20 rooms have impressive views over the farm plantation and dramatic backdrop of the Ngorongoro Crater forests.
Guests can combine luxurious country living with activities offered by Ngorongoro Conservation Area or relax by the pool and enjoy the hospitality of our friendly and welcoming staff.
Acacia Farm Lodge
Acacia Farm Lodge is a romantic Country Lodge nestled in an active mixed farm located high on the spectacular Great Rift’s escarpment area with commanding panoramic views of the unique Karatu farmlands and the nearby Ngorongoro forest area. The elegant lodge finely complements the unrivalled area’s natural beauty. A timeless tranquillity emanates from the exuberance of birdsong, mature trees and lovely coffee plants.
Acacia Farm Lodge is strategically located between the Tarangire and Lake Manyara National Parks on one side and Ngorongoro Conservation Area and Serengeti National Park on the other; this is a perfect base from which to explore these world-famous reserves as well as enjoy many other adventurous activities and impressive cultural experiences found in the local area.