Ngorongoro Crater, the largest intact caldera in the world

15 Oct 2022

The Ngorongoro Crater is located in Northern Tanzania, once be a gigantic volcano and nowadays is the largest inactive, intact and unfilled volcanic caldera in the world. Some maintain that before it erupted, it would have been higher than Mt Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa.

Named by the Maasai pastoralists after the sound a cowbell makes, Ngorongoro translates (quite literally) to “big hole” in English.

Today, long since having collapsed and eroded, it is an extensive highland area and nearly three million years old, the ancient caldera shelters one of the most beautiful wildlife havens on earth that must be visited.

The crater is part of the “Ngorongoro Conservation Area” reserve, which extends for about 8300 sq. km. Populated by over 25,000 mammals and also a paradise for birdwatchers.

Ngorongoro is not a national park, like The Serengeti National Park, but a reserve (UNESCO World Heritage Site) where the Maasai can live with their domestic animals together with wildlife. This is not possible in the national parks where human settlements and domestic animals are not allowed.


How was Ngorongoro Crater created?

Calderas like the one found in Ngorongoro Crater are only formed after major eruptions. About 2.5 million years ago, this once-active volcano erupted so furiously that it caused an implosion. This implosion formed the impressive caldera that exists today.

The Ngorongoro Crater is 600 metres deep and its floor covers 260 square kilometres. Prior to its eruption, the volcano was thought to be anywhere between 4,500 to 5,800 metres high. Nowadays it would take you an hour and a half to cross the crater on foot.

Why visit Ngorongoro?

There are, of course, plenty of reasons to visit Ngorongoro, but highlights of this area include its UNESCO world-heritage Ngorongoro Crater, the endangered black rhino which live and reproduces here, black-maned male lions and the other 25,000 more animals, such as zebras, elephants, wildebeest, buffaloes, Grant's and Thomson's gazelles, hippos, cheetahs, hyenas that roam the surroundings.

Inside the Ngorongoro Crater it have been created an unic eco-system that you must meet. Predominantly comprised of open grassland, the Ngorongoro Crater is home to a truly diverse collection of animals as well as geographic highlights such as small springs, and a shallow soda lake where colourful flocks of pink flamingos linger.

Its magnificent size, depth and unique wildlife has secured it a spot as one of the world’s standout natural features.

However, the visit to the crater will take you no more than 1 day.

When is the best time to visit Ngorongoro?

The busiest period is the dry season, which runs from July to October when the animals are concentrated around the water points and the less dense vegetation allows easy spotting. Ngorongoro Conservation Area can be visited at any time during the year because even in the humid season the rains are not heavy and nature is wonderful.

If you wish to witness the Great Migration, the best time is from late December to early March when the herds move from Central Serengeti to South Serengeti and Ndutu Area in Ngorongoro.


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