Nearly two million years ago, Ngorongoro peak towered almost as high as Kilimanjaro. Both these mountains formed the highest peaks in Africa at that time. The Ngorongoro peak collapsed beneath the volcano to form a cardera ,the largest unbroken and unflooded in the world today. Although a geological feature formed by the withdrawal of a molten in this manner is correctly called a cardera, many people traditionally used the term crater, and hence Ngorongoro Caldera is described as a crater in all records available.
The animals make the Ngorongoro Crater one of Africa’s major attractions. The crater is also known as “The eighth wonder of the world”. Around 300,000 animals live in the bottom of the crater, the numbers change with seasons, because some animals migrate towards the Serengeti. The largest group is the wildebeests, but there are plenty of zebras, gazelles and buffaloes. In the forests and the swamped areas one can find hippos, rhinos, elephants ,waterbucks, baboons and monkeys. Ngorongoro is one of the few places you are quite sure of spotting a rhino. In the 1960’s the crater had 100s permanently living there, but because of poaching, the number was decreased to under 20 in a few years. Now the illegal shooting appears to be under control, so the number of rhinos is stable and even rising. The rhinos are protected by a number of rangers, and the motto seems to be “it is better that 10 rangers die protecting the rhinos, than one rhino to be shot.”
There are also ideal circumstances for the predators living in the crater. With around 100 lions and 400 hyenas, the crater has the largest number per km^2 in East Africa. Among the male lions one can find a number of black-manned ones. There are also good chances of spotting jackals and serval-cats, which hunt in the swamps and close to the waterholes. In Ngoro Ngoro you have the best chance of spotting the “Big Five”, namely lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant and rhino
In flat, open surroundings the animals are easy to spot, and they are more used to cars than animals in Serengeti and other national parks. This means that one can come quite close to the animals with the camera.
The only thing, which might ruin the experience, is to come inside the rater wit far too high expectations. You can’t find Rhinos on every road-turn, and the lions are not paid to hunt while the tourists are spectating and taking photos.
It takes a Land Cruiser or another 4-wheel-drive to manage the steep road descending and ascending the crater. It is a good idea to start at sunrise, so one can spend the entire day inside the crater. Most people prefer to have lunch at the picnic –area in the crater, where the vultures dive and sometimes to snatch the food out of your hands.
The Ngorongoro crater is a part of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, which consists of several volcanic mountains and craters-altogether an area of 8288 square kilometres.Until 1959 this Area was a part of Serengeti National park. Out of consideration to the local Maasai is, it changed its status, so that it now both protect the animals and the Maasai’s rights. They are allowed to take their cattle down the crater to get water, but they cannot stay inside permanently. The cattle must get out of the crater the very same day.
From Arusha it is about 180 km to the Ngorongoro crater. Follow the road to Serengeti past Lake Manyara through the trading city Karatu.The first view over the crater is at Heroes point (2286m)
Here there is a monument dedicated to the park employees, who have been killed in the battle against poachers’ little further you find a monument over the German professor Bernhard Grzimek and his son Michael, who with their scientific work, movies and books contributed greatly to promote the nature of Northern Tanzania. Michael was killed in a plane accident in Ngorongoro in 1959.