The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is found in Northern Tanzania, bordered in the north-west by the plains of Serengeti and the eastern arm of the Great Rift Valley. The conservation area spans over vast expanses of highland plains, savanna, savanna woodland, and forest. The main attraction of the conservation area is the Ngorongoro Crater; a caldera that was formed 3 million years ago after the collapse of a giant volcano. Standing higher and mightier than the neighboring Mount Kilimanjaro, the volcano had vast slopes that directed their own weather pattern and water flow. The ferocious volcanic eruption collapsed the mighty mountain, forming a caldera that is 610 m deep with a floor area of 260 km2. The crater rim is over 2,200 m high and experiences its own climate. Swathes of cloud hang around the rim most days of the year and it’s one of the few places in Tanzania where it can get chilly at night. From the crater viewpoint, one is able to make the tiny shapes of wildlife making their way around the crater floor far below.
Wildlife in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area
The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is host to the largest ungulate herds in the world, including gnu (wildebeests), plains zebras, and Thomson’s and Grant’s gazelles. Predatory animals include lions, spotted hyenas, leopards, and cheetahs. Ngorongoro Crater is one of the most likely areas in Tanzania to see the endangered Black Rhino, as a small population is thriving in this idyllic and protected environment, and currently one of the few areas where they continue to breed in the wild. Notable among more than 400 species of birds in the area are flamingos, silvery-cheeked hornbills, and superb starlings.
The Majestic Ngorongoro Crater
The Ngorongoro Crater has achieved world-renowned status, attracting an ever-increasing number of visitors each year. One of Africa’s most famous sites, the Crater is home to approximately 30,000 animals at any one time and is said to have the highest density of wildlife in Africa. At 19 km wide, it is one of the largest unbroken calderas in the world that isn’t a lake.
Over the course of a few million years after the volcanic collapse, this geologic divot filled with life. Abundant water and grasses attracted ungulates, large predators, and countless bird species. Because of its enclosed topography, animals would descend into this bowl-shaped place and never leave, making some to consider it as an “eighth wonder of the world.”
Human history in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area
Ngorongoro Conservation Area has been a subject of extensive archaeological research for over 80 years and has yielded a long sequence of evidence of human evolution. Evidence includes fossilized footprints at Laetoli, associated with the development of human bipedalism; and a sequence of diverse, evolving hominid species within Olduvai Gorge, which range from Austral piths to the Homo lineage. Over time after its formation, the caldera teemed with sustenance, while also providing grazing lands for human tribes living along its edge. And so began the story of one of our planet’s most beautiful places, an unprecedented coliseum of biodiversity.