When you visit Tanzania, one of your first stops should be the Ngorongoro Crater (pronounced exactly how it’s spelled). The history of the crater is fascinating. Located about 180km from Arusha (one of the main airports to fly into), this is the world’s largest inactive, intact and unfilled volcanic caldera. In layman’s terms: a massive volcano imploded millions of years ago and animals, wildlife and nature took over. The Olduvai Gorge, which is in the plains area, is thought to be the birthplace of man. The oldest human fossil ever was found here. It is so crazy to think that millions of years ago, dinosaurs and neanderthals were living near this then-active volcano. Fascinating!
The crater is 22km in diameter and because of how it was formed, it has its own ecosystem. There is a lake, rivers, dense trees, grasslands and more. The topography is really amazing – within 10 minutes of driving it would go from a vast, open plain to a huge marsh area to a wide open lake. The West side of the crater is known to be very dry but the East side is more lush and green, due to the mist that rolls in over the rime every day.
The reason that the crater is really special to visit because as the animals migrated here, they formed their own life here. We were told that the only animal that never made it was the giraffe (maybe they can’t make the trek?). The animals are quite easy to spot here when they’re moving because they typically are near the tree lines and/or water sources. Within the first hour we saw two different prides of lions, a massive herd of buffalo, huge groups of wildebeest, hundreds of zebras crossing the road and a pod of hippos swimming. We even lucked out and saw the elusive black rhino – one of only 5,000 left in the world.
We stayed at Neptune Luxury Lodge which is just over the rim of the crater. It is one of the most lush, perfectly landscaped properties that we have ever stayed. There are about 20 individual cottages, each with a double-sided wood burning fireplace, a living room, bedroom and private outdoor terrace. We lucked out that our cottage was on the backside of the property, providing us with an unobstructed view of the coffee fields and the crater rim. The lodge makes it very easy to enjoy with an infinity pool, a main lodge with games and fireplaces and an on-site restaurants where we ate breakfast and dinner both days. The service is top notch (as is everywhere we’ve experienced in Africa) and I would definitely recommend staying here. A local Maasai tribe guards at night from animals or intruders. We were able to meet them and experience a tribal song & dance, which was such a highlight for us! There are a few lodges within the crater (on the rim) should you opt for a feel that is more in nature.
Wherever you opt to stay, visiting the Ngorongoro Crater is an absolute must when you travel to Tanzania. It’s an easy place to visit first, as you make the trip up to the Serengeti or down to the Tarangire. The crate is incredibly unique in many ways and without a doubt worth experiencing.