Home » Tourism: How The World’s Largest Intact Volcanic Caldera, Ngorongoro Crater In Tanzania Is An African Wildlife Hotspot

Tourism: How The World’s Largest Intact Volcanic Caldera, Ngorongoro Crater In Tanzania Is An African Wildlife Hotspot

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Ngorongoro Crater

Watch the sunrise over the African savanna with the famous intro lyrics to the Lion King song “Circle of Life” – “Nants ingonyama bagithi Baba” ringing in one’s head. The Serengeti and places like the Ngorongoro Conservation Area inspired the movie’s “Pridelands”. See the vast expanses of highland plains, savanna, woodlands, and forests.

According to thetravel.com, in addition to the Serengeti, another excellent wildlife region is the Ngorongoro Conservation Area – and, in particular, the Ngorongoro Crater. This is an area where people can see the annual migration of wildebeest – one of the wonders of the natural world (along with other animals like zebra and gazelles).

Ngorongoro Crater: The Largest Of Its Kind In The World
The Ngorongoro Crater is the largest intact and unfilled volcanic caldera, measuring around 20 kilometers or 12 miles in diameter. The prehistoric volcano would have been a large mountain before it collapsed; it would have risen to around 4,500 to 5,800 meters (14,800 to 19,000 feet) above sea level. The floor of the caldera measures some 260 sq kilometers or 100 square miles and is 1,800 meters or 5,900 feet above sea level.

The area is home to both vast amounts of wildlife and semi-nomadic Maasai pastoralists who practice a traditional livestock grazing way of life (although there have been moves by the Tanzanian government in recent years to restrict the Maasai living in the crater area).

The Ngorongoro Crater is a remarkable landscape feature and is the world’s largest caldera. It is home to a great density of wildlife and a number of threatened species.

The area is also important to the deep evolutionary history of humanity, with early hominid footprints being found there that date back 3.6 million years (another excellent place in Africa to learn about early hominids is the Cradle of Humankind in South Africa).

READ: Tourism: To woo tourists from neighbouring countries, East African country of Tanzania to lower park fees

Three million years ago, it was formed when the volcano collapsed some 610 meters (perhaps the most famous caldera in the United States is Crater Lake National Park). Over the eons, the crater has become the home of vegetation, ponds, and over 25,000 animals.

The Lion King was kind of set in Tanzania this area (the landscapes depicted are that of Tanzania, and the names of the animals and the intro to the Circle of Life are drawn from Swahili – the national language of Tanzania).

How The Ngorongoro Crater Is A Hotspot For African Wildlife
The crater acts as a form of natural enclosure for much of its wildlife. Wildlife found in the Ngorongoro Crater includes lions, elephants, buffaloes, wildebeest, zebra, hippos, rhinos, hyenas, cheetahs, and others. In the forests on the crater rim, away from the floor, are other animals like leopards, reedbuck, warthogs, and others (cheetahs and leopards are rare). In a way, the crater has given rise to a natural zoo.

Famous African animals notable for their absence from the crater include giraffes, impalas, topi, and crocodiles (giraffes can be found outside the crater around Lake Ndutu).

Not all the zebras and wildebeest of the crater take part in the annual migration, however. It is also home to one of the densest known populations of lions (numbered around 62 in 2001). Due to the enclosed nature of the crater, the lion population is also quite inbred with few migrating male lions entering the crater from the outside.
Consider timing one’s visit to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area with the seasons.

During the rainy season, the area supports the great annual wildebeest migration, with over a million wildebeest and thousands of gazelles and zebras coming to calve in the Ndutu part of the area.

The area is a hotspot for African birdlife, with over 550 species of birds having been recorded. Notably, Lake Magadi (a salty lake on the crater flood) is home to thousands of water birds, including flamingos.

Conservation Area Animals
• Mammals: 115 Species
• Birds: Over 550 Species
Other Craters Of The Ngorongoro Conversation Area
There are nine craters in the Conservation Area, but the Ngorongoro Crater is the largest and most remarkable. Other notable caters include the Empakaai Crater and Olmoti Crater, both of which are also worth visiting.

Craters: 9 Craters
The Empakaai Crater is 8 kilometers across, and half of it is filled by a lake. The rim is formed by forested cliffs rising to at least 300 meters. Olmoti Crater is less famous than both Ngorongoro and Empakaai but can be reached by a two-day walking safari. Visitors need to be accompanied by an armed ranger to visit both of these craters.

Overall, it is not hard to understand why this area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


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