Ngorongoro Conservation Area

The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is best known for the Ngorongoro Crater: declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979, it is one of the largest inactive volcanic craters, intact and not covered by water; it is thought to have formed about two and a half million years after an eruption that collapsed the top of the volcano inwards. The crater is a kind of immense natural zoo, an earthly paradise that houses, in a relatively narrow and well-delimited area, an incredible concentration of wildlife including all the big five, including the black rhinoceros. The crater of Ngorongoro is a unique jewel also for the breathtaking views from the rim of the crater towards the valley, a savannah of tall and low grasses dotted with swamps, glades and lakes, surrounded by woods and acacia forests.

The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is much larger than the crater. Rich in historical and cultural attractions, it stretches between the Rift Valley and the Serengeti, whose ecosystem is part. Characterized by a wide variety of habitats, ranging from grassy plains and savannahs, forests and lakes, volcanic mountains and craters, lakes and rivers, has a charm that goes even beyond the incredible wealth of wildlife and the wonder of its landscapes, because here the history of humanity originates, well witnessed by archaeological sites of extraordinary importance: Olduvai Gorge, where remains of hominids from 2.1 million years ago were found, and Laetoli, where hominid traces date back to 3.6 million years ago.

In the area, a Man and Biosphere Reserve since 1971, unique in all Africa for the integration between conservation of natural resources and protection of the local populations traditionally present, also live many masai in their traditional boma, to complete the picture of a territory in which the fascination of the entire African continent seems to be enclosed!


Ngorongoro Conservation Area: 8,292 km²

little less than the island of Cyprus!

Ngorongoro Crater: 264 km²

more than the island of Elba!

Map of the Ngorongoro area

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  • from 1,230 to 3,648 meters (at the top of Mount Lolmalasin)
  • inside the crater (Lake Magadi) about 1,730 meters
  • height difference from the crater bottom 610 meters

day visit

Crater: 1 day – maximum stay 6 hours

1 or 2 days in the Conservation Area in addition to the day of visit to the crater


  • In Karatu district – outside the protected area save accommodation fees in the park  
  • In the Ngorongoro area – for direct access to the crater and if the visiting days are more than one


Ngorongoro Conservation Area Olduvai Gorge

Historical sites

40 km northwest of the crater of Ngorongoro, towards the Serengeti, the unmissable Olduvai Gorge (or Oldupai Gorge), which extends for about 50 km and is deep up to 90 m, is among the most precious and exciting evidence of the human evolution . The finds that have been found there, dating back to about 2 million years ago, range from Australopithecus to Homo Habilis. In addition to the small but amazing museum, from the site you can admire the evocative landscape, characterized by the monolith that dominates the gorge, with the stratification of the different geological eras in the volcanic rocks eroded by the waters that flowed there.
Laetoli’s footprints, 40 km southwest of the Olduvai Gorge, over 3 million years old, are the oldest known footprints of man’s earliest ancestors. At the moment the site, object of studies, cannot be visited because the footprints are covered.

Natural phenomena

To the north of Olduvai Gorge is the spectacular Shifting Sands dune, sacred to the Masai, created by the black and magnetic volcanic ash from the Oldoinyo Lengai. Almost 9 meters high and extended for about 100 meters, isolated in the middle of a wide clearing, in a breathtaking landscape, the dune really has something magical: The impalpable iron sand whose electromagnetism prevents its dispersion forms the dune that for thousands of years moves, slowly but visibly, even under the eyes of visitors. The Masai attribute to the dune the power to give women and land fertility. The dune is pushed slowly by the wind westward at a speed of about 17 meters per year. Near the site there are stones that indicate the movement from year to year.
Ngorongoro Conservation Area Shifting Sands

Great migration

The savannahs to the north of the crater of Ngorongoro are, between December and March, a stage of the great migration of wildebeest and zebras, which in these months give birth to their cubs and wean them, until they are ready to undertake the long journey of 800 kilometers that in a year will bring them back to these same savannahs.

Gol Mountain, in the remote northern end of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, formed millions of years before the formation of the Ngorongoro crater, dominate the wide valleys winding between canyons and spectacular rock formations, arid in the dry season, lush, green and colorful flowers during the rainy season, when from here the animals of the great migration pass to conclude their journey towards south.
Ol Karien Gorge, north of the Gol Mountain, is a deep and narrow gorge, about 8 km long, important for the nesting of the Ruppell’s Vulture. To enjoy the spectacle of the nidification the best period goes from March to April, while from December to March the passage of the great migration offers the usual spectacle of the predators and of their numerous preys.

Michael Grzimek, who together with his father, the German researcher Bernhard Grzimek, discovered and established the Serengeti National Park, whose ecosystem is also part of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, was flying right up this throat when a vulture hit his aircraft causing the crash where he died.

Masek Lake is a shallow alkaline lake on the border with the Serengeti, which shares the same basin as Ndutu Lake. The area around the two lakes is surrounded by woods and prairies, pasture land rich in essential mineral salts during the breastfeeding of the cubs of wildebeest and zebras, who here stop with the usual following of predators before starting the great migration.


Wonderfully wild and solitary landscapes appear as they penetrate the eastern highlands that extend from Olmoti Crater to Mount Lolmalasin, at Empakaai Crater, up to the active volcano Oldoinyo Lengai, beyond the border of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, towards Lake Natron. Among the excursions practicable, the trekking not too challenging towards the bottom of the Empakaai Crater or, always accompanied by an armed ranger, the walk near the Olmoti Crater, from which flows the river Munge, that pours towards Ngorongoro Crater in a spectacular waterfall: from Nainokanoka a nice walk through the forest to the top of the waterfall. From Nainokanoka, and always accompanied by an armed ranger, the daily excursion to the top of Mount Lolmalasin, the highest crater in the area and the third highest mountain in Tanzania, with its 3,700 meters of altitude.
South of the area, from Irmisigiyo, always accompanied by an armed ranger, you can venture on foot to the escarpment of the Rift Valley with an easy walk of about 3 hours (round trip), to be dazzled by the unforgettable top view of Lake Eyasi.

For the more experienced trekkers, it is possible to climb, in 7 hours between round trip, up to the top of the nearby Mount Lemakarot (or Mount Lemagarut), at 3,167 meters above sea level, from which you can admire the incredible view of the surrounding plains, from Lake Eyasi to the Serengeti at the same crater as Ngorongoro.

Ngorongoro Conservation Area Boma Masai

Local population

In the Ngorongoro Conservation Area the presence of many traditional tribes is integrated with the conservation of wildlife. Intelligent initiatives to support integration are carried out successfully, with the result of encouraging the repopulation of predators in the area with the help of the Masai, who have always been able to live with the local fauna. The tradition of lion hunting, Masai initiation rite, has been skillfully replaced by incentives to trace predators, aimed at the protection and conservation of endangered species.

In the area there are many traditional boma where tourists can approach the traditional life of the Masai of the place, both with organized visits, both with random meetings (but in this case it is forbidden to approach and disturb the Masai). In both cases, the authenticity of the Masai who live according to a millenary tradition allows tourists real encounters and not staged for the benefit of foreigners!

distances and entrances

  • Lodoare Gate: from Karatu half an hour, from Arusha 4 hours
    (entrance to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area)
  • Lodoare Gate – Seneto Gate: 1 hour
    (Conservation Area entrance – access to Crater Descent)
  • Lodoare Gate – Lemala Gate: 1 hour
    (Conservation Area entrance – access to Crater Descent/Ascent)
  • Lodoare Gate – Lerai Gate: 40 minutes
    (Conservation Area entrance – exit from Crater Ascent)
  • Lerai Gate – Oldupai Gorge: 1 hour and a half
  • Oldupai Gorge – Naabi Hill Gate: 1 hour
  • Lerai Gate – Naabi Hill Gate: 2 hours
  • Naabi Hill Gate – Seneto Gate: 2 hours

Map of Ngorongoro crater

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visit to the crater

Access to the crater is allowed by two routes: Seneto, to the south-west, towards the Serengeti, and Lemala, to the north-east. Access from Seneto is preferential not only for those who stay in the surrounding structures, but also for those arriving from Karatu or at least from Lodoare Gate. Lemala is instead the privileged access for those staying in the facilities north of the crater and is a little less crowded.

The presence of many tourists and therefore many safari cars, especially in high season, is inevitable, but does not affect the beauty and richness of the park. As in all safari itineraries, the presence of many guides, always in radio contact, facilitates the sightings and does not detract from the authenticity of the park, where there is the highest concentration of predators in all of Africa. The wildebeests and zebras living in the Ngorongoro crater do not take part in the great migration, which also passes through the Ngorongoro Area, but not from the crater.

The crater lacks two species abundantly present in the other parks: the giraffes, presumably because they would have difficulty going down the steep walls of the crater and, without being able to suppose the reason, impales them.

During the maximum 6 hours allowed to visit there is time and way to explore all areas of the crater bottom and to stop for sightings. The spectacular Ngoitoktok area, with its pool of hippopotamuses and a breathtaking view, is the ideal place to stop.

The exit from the crater is allowed via Lemala road, indicated for those staying in the structures north of the crater and heading towards the Northern Highlands of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, while Lerai road is the way out for those who head towards the Serengeti or return to Karatu.

Predators in Ngorongoro crater

one of the best for sightings of

Lion Spotted Hyena Black-backed Jackal Side-striped Jackal

very frequent sightings of


probable sightings of

Leopard  Serval African Civet Small-spotted Genet Aardwolf African Wolf Striped Hyena

very rare sightings of

East African Wild Dog • Caracal African rock Python

Herbivores and other species in Ngorongoro crater

one of the best for sightings of

Black Rhinoceros Western White-bearded Wildebeest Zebra  African Buffalo African Bush Elephant

very frequent sightings of

Topi Thomson’s Gazelle Grant’s Gazelle Mountain Reedbuck Coke’s Hartebeest (or Kongoni) Kirk’s Dik-dik Klipspringer Bushbaby (or Northern lesser Galago) Warthog Hippopotamus

probable sightings of

Waterbuck  Oribi Steenbok Common Eland Bat-eared Fox Olive Baboon Angola black and white colobus Vervet Monkey Sykes’s Monkey (or Blue Monkey) Leopard Tortoise


Predatory birds • Secretarybird• White-headed Vulture • Hooded Vulture • White-backed Vulture • Egyptian Vulture • Ruppell’s Vulture• Lappet-faced Vulture• Martial Eagle• Tawny Eagle • Pallid Harrier • Mountain Buzzardand several other 
Other species • Common Ostrich⚑ • Eastern Crested Guineafowl⚑ • Grey-breasted Francolin⚑ • Black-faced Sandgrouse⚑ • Lesser Flamingo⚑ • Montane Nightjar • Grey Crowned Crane• Kori Bustard(in photo) • Schalow’s Turaco• Hartlaub’s Turaco• White Stork⚑ • Saddlebill⚑ • Cattle Egret • Great White Pelican • Black-winged Stilt • Chestnut-banded Plover⚑ • Caspian Plover⚑ • Blacksmith Lapwing • Blacksmith Lapwing • Ruff • Red-and-yellow Barbet⚑ • Green-backed Honeybird • Fischer’s Lovebird⚑ • Cape Crow • White-tailed Blue-flycatcher • Red-throated Tit• Red-capped Lark⚑ • Karamoja Apalis• Brown-headed Apalis • Hunter’s Cisticola • Wailing Cisticola • Mountain Yellow Warbler • Brown Woodland-warbler • Brown Warbler⚑ • Kenrick’s Starling⚑ • Hildebrandt’s Starling• Moorland Chat⚑ • Northern Anteater-chat⚑ • Mourning Wheatear• Tacazze Sunbird⚑ • Golden-winged Sunbird • Rufous-tailed Weaver• Jackson’s Widowbird⚑ • Long-billed Pipit • Rosy-throated Longclaw⚑ • Golden Pipit•  Western Yellow Wagtail⚑ • White-bellied Canary⚑ • Thick-billed Seedeater • Yellow-crowned Canary… and several other 
Tanzania endemic
Near endemic
Africa endemic


By car: our programs include the descent to the crater of Ngorongoro, accompanied by your private guide that will take you to this incredible natural paradise in search of the most exciting sightings.
If you travel with us between November and March, in addition to the day dedicated to the descent into the crater, We will reserve another one or two days in the north-western area of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area to enjoy the spectacle of animals waiting for the start of the great migration with their newborn cubs.

Entry to the National Parks in Tanzania is allowed to licensed off-road vehicles of local tour operators with a valid license. The paths of the safaris are strictly bound to the trails. The strict regulation of parks has the laudable aim of safeguarding the inestimable natural heritage and supporting the local economy. The “DIY tourism” presents many unknowns and therefore becomes difficult to practice. With us, local tour operator with Italian participation, you can realize your dream of a tailor-made safari! Contact us


Boma (Masai Village): the safari in Ngorongoro is one of the best opportunities to visit an authentic Boma Masai, among the many settlements in the area.

Olduvai Gorge: one of the places from which the history of the man begins, an archaeological site not to be missed for the lovers of history, where to visit also the small museum, although the originals of the more important finds are preserved to the museum of Dar es Salaam. The entrance to the Olduvai Gorge also includes other excursions; do not miss the spectacular Shifting Sands, magnetic sand dune sacred to the Masai.

Walks and trekking for those who spend several days in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.

To find information on park fees, already included in the price of our safaris, go to Park FeesThe park taxation system in Tanzania is the necessary contribution to the conservation of an uncontaminated and wild natural heritage, of inestimable environmental value.

For general information about all parks in Tanzania and about this park – when to go, where it is, nearby destinations – go to Parks

Are you interested in Ngorongoro Conservation Area? Contact us!