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?
Animals, of course.
Wildlife, and lots of it.
The wildlife of Ngorongoro Crater
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.
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.
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.
There are families of Spotted Hyenas.
Elephants wander through Ngorongoro Crater whenever they feel like it.
So does the lone-running, ever-hopeful-of-a-free-meal Jackal.
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.
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.
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.
More on Tanzania:
My favourite animal encounters:
or visit my unexpected animal encounters page