Ngorongoro Crater safari was, without a doubt, one of the most anticipated moments of my six days of safari in Tanzania. A volcanic crater, the largest intact and undamaged boiler in the world; and which is said to have the highest density of wildlife in Africa. Also, visually it's a haunting!
The crater is the jewel of the entire Ngorongoro Conservation Area, which UNESCO has included in the list of World Heritage Site of Tanzania. And it is one of the icons of the country in terms of environmental preservation. It is not a small thing.
At the base of the crater, there are tens of thousands of animals habitats as diverse as marshes and forests, pastures and Lake Magadi - or Makat ("salt" in the language Maasai); a central lake in the Ngorongoro ecosystem. This is because, although there is nothing to prevent prey and predators from leaving the Ngorongoro Crater, most of the species prefer to stay there all year round, contributing to this density of animals. There are migrations, of course, including birds, but much of it stays there permanently.
Thus, in addition to easily spotting lions, hyenas, wildebeest, zebras, buffaloes and elephants and countless other wildlife, Ngorongoro Crater is the site of Tanzania where the likelihood of spotting a black rhinoceros - a severely threatened species - is greater.
Fortunately, the small population that inhabits Ngorongoro has prospered. This is because rangers watch 24 rhino hours a day, protecting them from potential poachers and hyenas (a major threat to rhinoceros pups). It is, it seems, one of the few regions where black rhinos continue to breed in the wild.
I was fortunate enough to spot two rhinos but, unfortunately, far away. Although not the ideal situation, the binoculars did a good job.
My visit to the Ngorongoro Crater
We left early in the day. Pakulala Safari Camp and proceeded to the checkpoint on the descent to the base of the Ngorongoro Crater. After the formalities, we descended to the crater; and not two minutes had passed when I placed the binoculars in my eyes to observe a group of lions who appeared to be preparing to hunt.
As in the Serengeti we had seen animals of the main species, we spent some time there, peering at the lions' movements, hoping something spectacular would happen; unfortunately, the hunt did not materialize.
In the morning I saw many zebras and wildebeest; a huge concentration of hyenas ("I discovered" two to mate with binoculars), many flamingos in the salt lake, large elephants, a group of moving lionesses with five very small offspring; various hippos; many birds; and up to two rhinos (of the 25s that inhabit the Ngorongoro Crater).
Tell the truth to say that, being the last day of my six day safari in Tanzania, was no longer so enthusiastic about the most mundane situations. After a few days of safari, seeing an elephant or a giraffe to eat, a group of zebras or wildebeest running, or even a lying lion is no longer enough; so I spent most of the time in search of predators to prepare poaching. I was not lucky!
We spent the morning in search of these situations, until it was time to have lunch. Shortly afterwards, a dense fog covered the Ngorongoro Crater and began to rain torrentially. There was absolutely nothing. It was incredible luck: we had already had lunch and were preparing the return. If it were in the morning, the safari in the Ngorongoro Crater would have been a fiasco.
When we reached the top of the crater rim and stopped at the Ngorongoro Crater gazebo, I took the binoculars and looked down one last time. I felt lucky to be there. Ngorongoro is same a magical place.
I've had the privilege of being in some places like this. I remember, for example, a turtle nesting in Costa Rica; depriving with mountain gorillas in the forests of Uganda; From to dive with giant mantas in Borneo and to swim with whale sharks in Australia. Unique moments in my life as a traveler. And, like these experiences of direct contact with wildlife, also the Ngorongoro Crater was remarkable and unique. It was the perfect epilogue for my safari in Tanzania.
Almost three hours later we arrived at the inn Christina House, on the outskirts of Arusha, from where I went to the airport Kilimanjaro already at dawn.
How to organize a safari in Ngorongoro Crater
My safari was organized by Soul of Tanzania, and lasted for a total of six days, past Lake Manyara, Serengeti and Ngorongoro Conservation Area. For all the practical details, including which company to choose, when and where to go, see the post about mine safari in Tanzania.
Where to stay
It is not possible to stay inside the Ngorongoro Crater. Luckily, there are many hotels on the edge of the crater, some of which have fantastic views to the said. I stayed in the mentioned Pakulala Safari Camp and enjoyed the experience. The tents are very comfortable and the food reasonable; I just felt sorry for not having Wi-Fi, but so did more time to contemplate the views.
Alternatively, be aware that there are other excellent hotels in the area. One of the most exclusive and Neptune Ngorongoro Luxury Lodge, but there is also the excellent Ngorongoro Oldeani Mountain Lodge; and still lodges as Rhotia Valley Tented Lodge and Pembeni Rhotia - both cheaper than the Neptune and the Oldeani.
If you want to save money on bedtime, Tanzanice Farm Lodge is a good choice of accommodation. It is a simple yet cozy space in the Kataru region, not far from the Ngorongoro Crater. For other accommodation options use the link below.
A World Nomads offers one of the best and most complete travel insurance recommended by National Geographic and Lonely Planet. Other excellent and cheaper option is IATI Seguros, which has no age limit and allows multivariate insurance (including long-term travel) to any destination in the world. It's the insurance I use in my travels.
The Soul of Tanzania was kind enough to provide me with a six day safari in Tanzania at a reduced cost. I paid all the flights, park access fees and tips due to the guide.