Looking for an African adventure that is not your run-of-the-mill, with varied activity options and tours to make even the seasoned safari-visitor sit up and take note? Tanzania’s largely untouched wilderness is such a place, and the beauty and magic of one of its famous landmarks, the ethereal green Ngorongoro Crater, will simply take your breath away.
A World Heritage site and the largest intact caldera in the world, the Ngorongoro Crater is home to an unparalleled concentration of wildlife including the Big Five (with a healthy rhino population and some of Africa’s largest tusker elephants), all the big predators (including lion, leopard, hyena and cheetah), as well as the highest density of big game (herds of wildebeest, zebra, buffalo and various types of gazelle, not to mention the incredible birdlife including vast flocks of flamingo!) on the continent due its rich, fertile grazing grounds. This is probably why the Ngorongoro Crater Tanzania experience rates as one of the world’s top safari destinations; a place of immense peacefulness and beauty where visitors can marvel at the wildlife as well as interact with its people, the Masai.
When To Go
A Ngorongoro Crater safari can be booked throughout the year as its wildlife never has to migrate to greener pastures, however, this also means that during the peak safari season (July to March) the crater floor can get very crowded with safari vehicles! If you prefer a less jam-packed Ngorongoro safari experience, then we suggest planning your travel during the low season (April and May).
Where To Stay
For phenomenal crater views we love andBeyond Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, or if you’re looking for peace and tranquility with incredible Ngorongoro Forest and Great Rift Valley views, we recommend staying at Gibb’s Farm. If you are on a tight budget you may also consider staying in the nearby village of Karatu which is less crowded and offers more affordable and smaller Ngorongoro Crater accommodation.
AndBeyond Ngorongoro Crater Lodge
Perched at the ‘top of the world’ on the brim of the crater, the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge offers visitors unsurpassed views across the game-rich crater. This award-winning lodge prides itself on its warm African hospitality and is divided into three camps (each with their own dining and sitting areas complete with a personalized butler service) comprising of 30 stilted and handcrafted banana thatch suites. Each suite is filled with elegant antiques with no luxury being spared, ensuite bathrooms with exquisite chandelier-lit bathtubs and enormous showers – the perfect romantic Tanzanian experience.
But it’s the sweeping floor-to-ceiling crater views and the breathtaking location of this game lodge that really steal the show, with ever-changing vistas as mists churn in the huge caldera below.
Originally established in the late 1920’s as a coffee plantation, we adore Gibb’s Farm for its warm, rustic charm with luxurious touches abounding and all the modern amenities you would come to expect from a top-rated African hotel – a truly authentic East African experience. The farm offers 17 enchanting guest cottages, each one uniquely themed with its own private verandah, fireplace, ensuite bathrooms and handcrafted furniture. The main historic farmhouse still features the original wooden beams and has been lovingly restored with colourful local African artwork throughout complete with outside verandahs, perfect for the weary Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater safari traveller! Plus the 10-acre farm produces organic Arabica coffee, fruit, herbs and vegetables, and even has an on-site bakery and dairy – all of which are used in your farm-to-table cuisine.
There is also a beautiful terraced flower garden and the farm even has an African Spa where you can relax whilst enjoying traditional Masai healing treatments. Gibb’s Farm is known both for its long-standing commitment to its community and its sustainable, renewable practices, just two more reasons why it’s well worth a visit.
Ngorongoro Crater Tours And Activities
Inside the Tanzania Ngorongoro Crater itself activities are limited to game drives only and guests are not allowed to vacate the vehicle, but in the wider Ngorongoro National Park area there are a range of exciting activities:
Crater Rim Walk
The crater rim walk is a popular activity that can be walked starting either at Gibbs Farm or the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge. Take a thrilling 6 to 7 hour walk accompanied by rangers from the Ngorongoro conservation area and a Gibb’s Farm naturalist (if staying at the farm) to explore forgotten forests filled with fascinating plants, animals and spectacular birds such as the Schalow’s wheateater, mountain white-eye and the golden-winged sunbirds. The hike takes you up through the Ngorongoro Forest where you climb to the slopes of the crater offering exquisite views of the crater floor below.
Crater Game Drive Tours
Once again, Ngorongoro Crater safari tours can be arranged from either accommodation option. This is a thrilling experience not to be missed! Witness the abundance of wildlife found in the Tanzania Ngorongoro Crater first-hand as you take a game drive through blue-green highland forests with an incredible variety of birdlife all the way down to the grassy plains of the crater floor where you’ll see herds of grazing herbivores and (if you’re lucky) a predator or two! Depending on the season, you may also see a sea of pink flamingoes near the Lake Magadi shores and hippos wallowing in the surrounding swamps.
Crater Floor Dinner
If you’re staying at the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge you can take your loved one on the ultimate romantic experience to the crater floor. Enjoy a private picnic complete with a personalized butler amidst the huge concentration of wildlife with the vast crater as your backdrop.
Elephant Caves Walk
One of our personal favourites is the Elephant Caves Ngorongoro tour, a hike (that takes about two hours) through lush forested slopes to century-old waterfalls and ‘elephant caves’ that were once created by these gentle giants by digging up the earth to consume its vitamin-rich soil. You may even encounter bushbuck, waterbuck, buffalo and the odd troupe of baboons on your adventure, also drawn here by the fertile soil.
Visit A Coffee Plantation
Coffee has been a staple in Tanzania and has been grown here for centuries as well as being one of this country’s largest exports. There are a number of coffee plantations in the area, but if you’re staying at Gibb’s Farm you can visit their coffee plantation on the farm to see how it is grown, how the coffee is processed and roasted using age-old methods.
Hadzabe Bushman Experience
If you want to learn more about the life of the hunter-gatherer people who have lived near Lake Eyasi in harmony with nature for centuries, then this off-the-beaten-track journey to meet the Hadzabe Bushmen is for you. Learn about their traditional hunting methods, culture, food preparation and survival skills by interacting directly with the bushmen whilst being accompanied by a ranger. It’s a spellbinding experience that you are bound to cherish forever.
Lake Eyasi Walk
For a unique chance to meet the Masai as well as spectacular views across Lake Eyasi, we highly recommend the Lake Eyasi Walk. Wander through open grazing land and Masai villages whilst you experience the lifestyle and culture of the Masai firsthand. You can visit the moving Africa Foundation Mokilail School project to see the community work being done in the area.
For a truly African experience, witness the African drummers who perform on the lawns in front of the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge. Share in the unique Masai culture to the beat of their drums as the traditional sounds take you on a musical journey.
Olduvai Gorge And Shifting Sands Tour
Go on an exploration tour to the incredible archaeological site of the Olduvai Gorge where the earliest remains of homo sapiens were found by Mary Leaky. Then move on to the beautiful volcanic ash dunes (also known as shifting sands) which slowly migrate across the desert floor due to winds.