A World Heritage site, and often referred to as the Eighth Wonder of the World, Ngorongoro Crater, in the volcanic highlands of Tanzania, covers an area of some 240 square kilometres and is host to over 20,000 large animals.
The Ngorongoro Conservation Area
The NCA was the world’s first multi-purpose land use area with the goal to host not only tourism, research and conservation efforts, but also to allow local pastoralists access to ancestral grazing land and to protect and explore archeological sites for early hominid discoveries. The area itself begins in the Ngorongoro Forest in the Karatu region and extends up to the eastern boundary of the southern, central and northern Serengeti.
The Jewel of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area
Ngorongoro Crater is the jewel located within the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and is the world’s largest intact unflooded caldera. This means that the entire rim of the old volcano is still intact. The crater is home to almost 30,000 animals in an area naturally enclosed by the slopes of the volcano.
Despite the high walls of the Crater, approximately twenty percent of the herd animals do migrate in and out. However, the lion population remains rather steady, between 55-65 individuals. The lions of the Crater lack genetic diversity because new males do not venture down into the Crater to challenge the males of these inbred prides.
Ngorongoro Crater boasts the highest density of hyena in any location in Africa and is one of the best places for viewing black rhino and the huge old bull elephants. There is not enough vegetation or shade to support the large elephant cow and calf herds, but the old males “retire” to the Crater to take advantage of the wonderful swamp grass and acacia forest. The only animals you will not see down in the Crater are the impala and giraffe.
It is not known why the impala do not inhabit the Crater, but giraffe are unable to descend the steep grade without lowering their heads which raises their blood pressure to dangerous levels.
Birding in the Crater is a delight, with over 500 recorded species populating six distinct habitats: acacia forest, swamp, short and long grass, riverine and woodland. Since the Crater is only twelve miles wide andntotaling 100 square miles, it is easy to see the various habitats. While exploring the Crater look for the golden-winged and Tacazze sunbirds, Rufous-tailed weaver, Jackson’s widow bird and pallid harrier as well as the grey-crested Helmet shrike and the beautiful crowned cranes.