Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania – lions, rhinos, hippos, zebras in a 600m deep pit 2


The Ngorongoro Crater in northern Tanzania is an enormous caldera – the remnants of a giant volcano that blew itself up and then collapsed. As calderas go, this one is a biggie. In fact it’s the largest intact (while also being unfilled) caldera in the world. Its floor area measures 260 square kilometres, about the size of Malta, and its crater is 600 metres deep.

What do you think is inside a 600 metre deep pit in the middle of Africa?

Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

The Ngorongoro Crater. Photo credit: Benjamin White

Animals, of course.

Wildlife, and lots of it.

The wildlife of Ngorongoro Crater

Lion and prey, Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

What sort of animals do you find inside Ngorongoro Crater?

Well, there are Masai Lions (and their fresh prey). The lions of Ngorongoro Crater are genetically inbred. That’s what comes of living in a pit.

Black rhino, Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

Black Rhinoceros. Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

There are a few of the elusive Black Rhinoceros (also called the Hook-lipped Rhinoceros). But these animals are shy and steer clear of tourist vehicles.

Hippos, Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

Ngoitokitok Spring, where there is a picnic spot for tourists, is home to a population of hippopotamus – as are a number of other lakes and swamps in Ngorongoro Crater.

Hyenas, Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

Spotted Hyenas. Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

There are families of Spotted Hyenas.

Elephants, Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

Elephants wander through Ngorongoro Crater whenever they feel like it.

Jackal, Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

Jackal. Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

So does the lone-running, ever-hopeful-of-a-free-meal Jackal.

Zebra and wildebeest, Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

There are enormous herds of Blue Wildebeest and Plains and Grant’s Zebras. These species migrate out of Ngorongoro Crater during the wet season, but always return to the crater again in the following dry. The Eland and Cape Buffalo do the opposite, migrating into Ngorongoro Crater during the wet season, and migrating out during the dry.

African Crowned Crane, Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

East African Crowned Crane. Photo credit: Amrita Ronnachit

And there are East African Crowned Cranes, the national animal for nearby Uganda.


Practical Information and how to reach Ngorongoro Crater:

Ngorongoro Crater is a solid three hour drive from Arusha (the starting point for most Tanzanian safaris). There is a campsite positioned at the very rim of the crater, which has spectacular views over the caldera. It’s worth camping here for a night or two. More transport info here.

Zebras, Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

Zebras in the campsite. Photo credit: Benjamin White

The campsite is visited by all sorts of wildlife, including zebra, giraffe, baboons, and Marabou Stork. And if you’re lucky – or, depending on your perspective, unlucky – you might even have a close encounter with a member of the African megafauna.

Read more on Ngorongoro Conservation Area in the UNESCO World Heritage listing.

Elephant, Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

A bull elephant casually wanders through the campsite. Photo credit: Benjamin White


More on Tanzania:

Zanzibar – mystical paradise or cold, hard, tourist trap?

Mount Kilimanjaro / Lemosho Route


My favourite animal encounters:

Gelada baboons? Bleeding Heart Monkeys? 80s perms? The Simien Mtns, Ethiopia

South Luangwa NP, Zambia – camp alongside the hippo highway

De Hoop Nature Reserve, South Africa – perfect for your first self-drive safari

Humpback whale watching, Fafa Island, Tonga

Grande Riviere Beach, Trinidad and Tobago – leatherback turtle egg laying

or visit my unexpected animal encounters page


More on East Africa:

Kenya:

Mombasa – Fort Jesus explored, and the Moi Avenue Tusks explained

Old Town, Lamu – 12th Century Swahili port city, caught in a time bubble

Ol Pejeta Conservancy – black rhinos, Grevy’s Zebras, and the elusive oryx

Rwanda:

Hiking amongst the Tea Fields of Gisakura

Kigali – clean, green capital with harrowing genocide tours

Uganda:

Kampala – worth a visit?

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