Things to do in Ngorongoro Conservation Area (Activities)

Unique Things to do in Ngorongoro Conservation Area (Activities). The Ngorongoro Conservation Area in Tanzania is renowned for its abundant wildlife and cultural heritage, making it one of the most exceptional locations globally in terms of biodiversity and historical significance. This aesthetically pleasing area is an essential destination for every genuine adventurer. We have compiled a comprehensive list of the top seven activities to engage in within the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.

The Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) is renowned globally for its prominent feature, the Ngorongoro Crater. However, this conservation area holds additional attractions that are of great interest to inquisitive tourists. The area under consideration spans approximately 8,288 square kilometers and is located in the northern region of Tanzania. It encompasses the elevated terrain situated between the Serengeti Plains and the Great Rift Valley.


The NCA offers a wide range of activities, including world-class safaris, exhilarating treks, and opportunities for cultural immersion, making it a valuable and diverse destination. Presented here are our selection of the foremost seven activities to engage in throughout a vacation to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.

Two halves

The eastern half of the NCA exhibits a topography characterized by mountains and a remarkably verdant environment.

The majority of tourists typically encounter this particular region initially, as they ascend from the plains next to Lake Manyara via a serpentine roadway that affords remarkable vistas. Upon reaching the summit of the plateau, one encounters a gravel road that meanders through a dense tropical rainforest, adorned with an abundance of hanging vines.

The western half of the NCA exhibits a more level topography, characterized by a vast expanse of land populated by many animal species. This expansive plain gradually transitions into the renowned grasslands of the southern Serengeti.

This place is renowned for its exceptional opportunities for seeing wildlife. Animals exhibit unrestricted movement throughout the entirety of the NCA. The observation of a substantial population of wildebeests, antelopes, and various other animal species during vehicular traversal in this region during the period of increased precipitation is truly remarkable.

Having gained a comprehensive understanding of the geographical aspects pertaining to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, it is now appropriate to shift our focus towards exploring the foremost activities and attractions available inside this region.

Things to do in Ngorongoro Conservation Area

Ngorongoro Crater safari drive

You Won’t Believe What Happened on our Tanzania Safari (Ngorongoro Crater)

The crater is a vast and uninterrupted caldera. This implies that in ancient times, a volcanic eruption resulted in the implosion of the volcano, giving rise to a concave topographical formation that currently teems with diverse flora and fauna. The fauna in this region encompasses the renowned Big Five, which comprises lions, elephants, black rhinos, leopards, and buffaloes.

The elevation of the crater wall is 600 meters. Tourists are transported downwards into the crater by a limited number of serpentine roads. The hairpin curves on this journey contribute to its inherent excitement.

Upon descending to the floor of the crater, one begins to observe a diverse array of fauna that had previously eluded visibility from the rim. The safari guide will accompany you on an expedition to investigate the diverse regions of the crater, encompassing Lake Magadi and Lerai Forest.

In addition to the Big Five, there are several other species of wildlife that one may encounter, such as wildebeests, zebras, elands, Thomson’s and Grant’s gazelles, hippos, flamingoes, baboons, jackals, and hyenas.

This excursion encompasses a full day’s itinerary, featuring a picturesque picnic area adjacent to the Hippo Pool where visitors have the option to purchase coffee and snacks to complement their midday meal. However, it is important to be cautious as the avian creatures may attempt to pilfer your midday meal from your grasp.

Are you interested in acquiring further knowledge on the subject? It is recommended to peruse a compilation of twelve noteworthy facts regarding Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Crater, as well as an analysis of the optimal period for embarking on a safari in the aforementioned location.

Ngorongoro Crater rim walk

Ngorongoro crater rim hike

Although access for people to hike inside Ngorongoro Crater is restricted, guided hikes along the upper rim of the crater are permitted. The upper rim of the area exhibits a high density of tropical trees, shrubs, and creepers.

The rim of the crater has remarkable aesthetic qualities, characterized by its captivating beauty. Additionally, this area serves as a habitat for several avian species and diverse fauna, occasionally including the presence of leopards. Several avian species that one might encounter are the martial eagle, olive sunbird, cinnamon-chested bee-eater, and European roller.

The western wall of the crater exhibits a somewhat reduced depth, hence creating a drier ecological setting that is characterized by the presence of euphorbia forests.

The guide will provide engaging narratives regarding the flora and fauna encountered, encompassing topics such as the utilization of specific plants in traditional medicinal practices and the identification of nearby animal species through the examination of scat and spoors. It is advisable to inquire about a multitude of queries.

It is strongly recommended that participants equip themselves with appropriate waterproof hiking boots and trousers for this excursion, given the high probability of encountering muddy terrain. The utilization of a set of trekking poles might provide assistance in navigating precarious and slippery terrains. It is advisable to include a rain jacket in your backpack.

The observation of the crater from the rim constitutes the most noteworthy aspect of any excursion along the crater rim. This offers a valuable opportunity to see this natural occurrence from an alternative standpoint. It is strongly advised to incorporate a hiking activity either prior to or following your excursion to the Ngorongoro Crater for a more comprehensive experience.

Empakaai Crater hike

Trekking in Empakaai Crater, in the Ngorongoro Crater Highlands of northern Tanzania

The Ngorongoro Crater is restricted to the Maasai community for pedestrian access, whereas the Empakaai Crater offers an opportunity for exploration on foot. Similar to the Ngorongoro Crater, it is important to note that this geographical feature is classified as a caldera rather than a crater.

The Empakaai Crater, characterized by its depth of 300 meters and width of 6 kilometers, is located in the secluded northeastern region of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA), necessitating a certain level of dedication to access. However, the number of visitors to this location is significantly lower compared to that of Ngorongoro Crater, resulting in a more exclusive safari experience.

The descent into the crater entails a moderately inclined trail down the eastern wall, requiring around half an hour to complete. It may present challenges in certain areas; therefore, it is advisable to don appropriate hiking attire. It is important to bear in mind that the return trip will require additional time and physical exertion, necessitating adequate preparation for a strenuous activity.

While engaging in the activity of hiking, it is advisable to maintain a vigilant stance in order to see and identify several forms of wildlife, such as blue monkeys, bushbucks, waterbucks, and Cape buffaloes. For safety purposes, it is advised that a trained ranger armed with appropriate equipment be assigned to accompany your party during the trip.

Upon descending to the bottom of the crater, one proceeds to investigate the perimeter of the aesthetically pleasing Lake Empakaai. The lake often hosts clusters of pink flamingoes that thrive in its acidic waters. The Ngorongoro Crater frequently accommodates Maasai pastoralists who tend to their livestock, resulting in the pleasant auditory backdrop of cow bells.

It should be noted that this excursion encompasses an entire day. The primary factor contributing to this circumstance is the considerable time required, typically spanning several hours, to reach the destination due to the presence of a highly uneven road surface, contingent upon the specific location of one’s accommodation. The individual will transport a packed meal for outdoor consumption, originating from their accommodation, within a portable bag. Additionally, it is imperative to ensure an ample supply of potable water is brought along.

Exploration of Empakaai Crater necessitates the accompaniment of a guide. The present geographical area under consideration is recognized as the ancestral land of the Maasai community, thus necessitating the provision of a Maasai guide for your guidance and assistance. The guides possess a high level of proficiency in the English language, enabling you to inquire about any concerns or uncertainties during the course of your journey. It is advisable to have a sufficient amount of cash in order to provide a gratuity to your guide subsequent to the service, since it is normal to engage in tipping practices within the cultural context of Tanzania.

The experience of hiking Empakaai Crater is typically highly regarded by individuals that partake in it. Engaging in a hiking activity can be particularly enjoyable, especially after a series of consecutive days spent on safari drives.

Olduvai Gorge and Shifting Sands visit

A tour in the Olduvai Gorge

Olduvai Gorge, also known as Oldupai Gorge, is a gorge spanning a length of 48 kilometers, situated in close proximity to the primary southeast-to-northwest thoroughfare within the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Located at a distance that is somewhat beyond the midpoint between Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti, this particular site offers a convenient opportunity for engaging in physical activity and embarking on an exploratory endeavor.

It is advisable to commence the exploration by visiting the Olduvai Museum, situated at the eastern extremity of the gorge. Although the museum is relatively small in size, it is of exceptional quality. The museum exhibits captivating fossil displays and chronicles the significant findings inside the exposed strata of the gorge, which are widely regarded as hominid fossils of great significance.

Additionally, the museum provides a picturesque vantage point overlooking the gorge.

Subsequently, embark on a guided walk led by Maasai individuals along the Olduvai River, the geological formation responsible for the creation of the gorge. The guide possesses comprehensive knowledge on the local animals and natural environment, as well as the specific locations where significant hominid discoveries were discovered during the twentieth century. It is probable that one would also observe indigenous Maasai children engaged in the activity of tending to animals and goats within the gorge. Kindly ensure that you have sufficient cash available to provide a gratuity to our guide subsequent to the tour.

Located in the western periphery of the ravine, one will come upon a series of diminutive dark-hued dunes referred to as the Shifting Sands.

The dunes consist of volcanic ash that exhibits a significant magnetic property due to the presence of iron. Consequently, the ash particles adhere to one another, resulting in the formation of dunes. The dunes exhibit a perpetual eastward movement, propelled by the prevailing wind, at an approximate rate of 17 meters each year.

In the event that one desires to minimize their duration of stay at Olduvai or prefers to avoid the physical exertion of walking, an alternative option is to commute by vehicle from the Olduvai Museum to the Shifting Sands. The duration of the drive is approximately 30 minutes, during which one can enjoy the captivating beauty of the surrounding landscape.

Maasai village visit

A different way of life / Visiting a real Maasai Village

For millennia, the Maasai people have inhabited the geographical area that is presently recognized as the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. The community has exhibited a strong inclination to maintain the status quo within their cultural practices, resulting in the development of a very unique and deeply rooted cultural identity. In contrast to the Maasai residing in the eastern regions who have assimilated certain aspects of Western culture, the Maasai community inhabiting the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) adheres to their traditional way of life.

The Maasai residing in the NCA predominantly engage in a subsistence-oriented way of life, which is heavily dependent on their livestock comprising cattle, goats, and sheep. In addition, the local inhabitants engage in the practice of honey collection, and tourists have the opportunity to acquire bottles of this product from several vendors located alongside the primary thoroughfare.

The Maasai community has long been engaging in the practice of bringing tourists to their settlements as a means of generating economic revenue. The money is necessary to cover essential expenses, such as purchasing water during periods of drought and meeting the educational needs of their children, as compulsory education is mandated for all Tanzanian children. The safari guide will be required to remit a predetermined price for each individual in order to gain access to the community.

When individuals visit a Maasai village, they are consistently greeted with a high level of hospitality and warmth. Women are provided with intricately adorned beaded necklaces to wear during their presence in that particular setting. Both male and female participants are actively urged to partake in the lively and customary jumping dance.

During the course of your visit, it is expected that your safari guide would remain in close proximity to the vehicle. During your visit, you will be accompanied by a local elder who consistently demonstrates proficiency in the English language. Participants will receive an invitation to enter a residential dwelling, where they will be provided with an opportunity to observe and gain insights into the daily routines and practices of the local population, including their lifestyle, dietary habits, and sleeping patterns. Inquiries are encouraged.

Occasionally, visitors are afforded the opportunity to see the preschool facility, where the young learners may demonstrate their proficiency in both English and Swahili languages. The individual’s native language is Maasai, as expected.

It is important to acknowledge that there is a prevailing anticipation for all tourists to engage in a purchase during their stay, namely in the acquisition of items such as jewelry or various carved artifacts, including bowls, animal figurines, or traditional masks. A wide array of aesthetically pleasing options are available for selection, prompting individuals to frequently express contentment in acquiring items that contribute to the betterment of the community. However, it is important to note that there is typically a significant inclination to engage in consumer spending, which necessitates the use of currency for payment.

Lake Ndutu safari

The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is adjacent to the Serengeti National Park at its northwestern boundary. The two designated conservation zones exhibit a shared environment and lack a physical barrier separating them. Indeed, the demarcation is solely indicated by an unpaved pathway.

In light of this circumstance, a considerable number of wildebeests, zebras, and antelopes, which constitute the Great Wildlife Migration, migrate towards the northwestern region of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area during the summer season, with the purpose of benefiting from the abundant and nourishing grasses found in the vicinity of Lake Ndutu.

The flat plains habitat in the vicinity of Ndutu Lake offers expansive vistas that afford extensive visibility. The experience of game viewing is greatly enhanced by this aspect, resulting in heightened excitement.

The optimal period to go on a remarkable Lake Ndutu safari is during the summer season, specifically from January to March. During this particular period, Lake Ndutu and its surrounding areas exhibit a lush and aesthetically pleasing environment, characterized by abundant vegetation and an array of vibrant flowers.

The summer season is also recognized as the birthing season for the animals involved in the Great Migration. Anticipate observing a substantial population of juvenile zebras, wildebeests, and several antelope species such as gazelles.

During the summer season, it is possible to observe a variety of predatory species such as lions and cheetahs in the vicinity of Ndutu Lake. These creatures actively seek out vulnerable neonates in order to facilitate a more effortless predation. Additional carnivorous species found in the vicinity encompass hyenas, jackals, and leopards.

During different periods throughout the year, the herds of the Great Migration exhibit a migratory behavior by moving in a northern direction, thereby distancing themselves from Lake Ndutu. There remains a plethora of other fauna to observe; yet, the experience is markedly dissimilar. During periods other than the summer months, it is advisable to proceed directly towards the northern region (as elaborated in the article “Best time to visit the Serengeti National Park”) for optimal safari experiences.

Ndutu Lake is an excellent destination for bird enthusiasts due to its abundant presence of diverse and visually captivating avian species. The discussion pertains to various avian species, including grey crowned cranes, greater kestrels, serpent eagles, kori bustards, secretary birds, Fischer’s lovebirds, and numerous others.

In conclusion, it is prudent to provide a word of counsel.

Select a tour company that employs safari guides that has extensive knowledge and demonstrate a high level of caution. During the summer season, the topography surrounding Lake Ndutu is characterized by a predominantly flat terrain with marshy conditions, leading to frequent instances of vehicle immobilization. On certain occasions, entire groups may find themselves compelled to remain overnight within the confines of a car due to the driver’s navigational errors. Our safari guides consistently use caution to prevent such incidents from occurring.

Olmoti Crater walk

Just with Empakaai Crater, Olmoti Crater offers the opportunity for tourists to partake in guided nature walks. This is an exceptional opportunity to observe various fauna species while simultaneously engaging in physical activity.

Additionally, Olmoti is situated in closer proximity to the primary NCA road. Indeed, the distance between the location in question and Ngorongoro Crater is less than 20 kilometers, rendering it a rather brief journey particularly when one opts to spend the night on the northern periphery of Ngorongoro Crater. It should be noted that the local roads in this area are unpaved and characterized by a rough surface, resulting in a slower navigation process.

The level of difficulty associated with the Olmoti Crater walk is considerably lower in comparison to the Empakaai Crater hike. The duration of the trek often ranges from one to two hours. Consequently, it is feasible to engage in this activity concurrently with other pursuits within a given day, such as participating in a wildlife drive at the Ngorongoro Crater.

The pathway traversed during this excursion traces its origins back to a significant Maasai cattle route.

The Maasai community holds a strong belief in maintaining a healthy coexistence with the natural environment, and possesses a substantial reservoir of knowledge pertaining to the local flora and fauna. It is imperative to ensure that all inquiries are posed. It is advisable to carry a sufficient amount of cash in order to provide a gratuity to your guide subsequent to the service.

Although the Ngorongoro Conservation Area lacks physical barriers such as fences, allowing unrestricted movement for all species, it is worth noting that Olmoti Crater is not typically recognized as a habitat for lions and giraffes. However, the area frequently observes the presence of Cape buffaloes, hyenas, zebras, and bushbucks. Occasional sightings of elephants and leopards have also been reported.

Attractions next door to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area

It is noteworthy that the Ngorongoro Conservation Area is in close proximity to several globally acclaimed sites, including Mount Kilimanjaro, Serengeti National Park, Lake Manyara, and Lake Natron. Indeed, it is a common practice for a significant majority of those who visit the NCA (Ngorongoro Conservation Area) to partake in a safari experience within the renowned Serengeti ecosystem. Additionally, it is common for our clientele to engage in the ascent of Mount Kilimanjaro followed by a safari in the surrounding area as a means of acknowledging their diligent endeavors.

If any of the aforementioned topics pique your interest, we invite you to explore our captivating Tanzanian safari itineraries, with our diverse range of Kilimanjaro climb alternatives.

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