The secluded and rarely visited Great Rift Valley in Tanzania is home to some of the most breathtaking scenery a trekker can hope for, from dense forests and waterfalls to wild flamingos and endless protrusions of rock that cast dark lines along the horizon. Also home to the Maasai, who have grazed cattle along these 3,000-meter-high grasslands for centuries; this is a region that boasts not only striking scenery, but an utterly unique and ancient culture that, in spite of its reasonable population, leaves little mark on the undeveloped region’s natural beauty.
The Crater Highlands rise from the edge of the Great Rift Valley, boasting world-famous peaks such as Oldeania, Empakai, Ngorongoro, and the still active Ol Doinyo Lengai (“Mountain of God”), a unique volcano whose lava is so much cooler than most that it appears black instead of the typical molten red. With the trek culminating in a summit of this mythical feature, view Lengai’s many sister craters that rise up out of the colorful tropical highlands that stretch out as far as the eye can see.
Trek through the remote animal filled valleys and mountains, with a local Maasai guide; camp in remote villages that have few experiences with outsiders; climb the holy mountain of the Maasai. Below is a sample itinerary, but we can divide the trek into smaller sections, according to your wishes. However the full experience of walking through the highlands is really not to be missed. We can also include some trekking days in our safari itineraries.
While this trek is not necessarily physically demanding, it does require a fit and healthy individual with the stamina to walk 4–11 hours a day through some rugged terrain, but once you’re through – you’ll find it worth the sweat!
ITINERARY CRATER HIGHLANDS TREK (7 days/6 nights)
Day 1: Arusha – Ngorongoro
Depart from Arusha to the Ngorongoro Crater for a half-day game drive. Dinner and overnight in one of the lodges in the area.
Day 2: Ngorongoro – Nainokanoka – Bulati
Drive to Nainokanoka to start the trek. Here your entire luggage shall be loaded onto donkeys with Maasai. You start the trek with a visit to the Olmoti Crater before proceeding to Bulati via the Bulati depression. Dinner and overnight at the Bulati Campsite.
Day 3: Bulati – Empakai
Depart from Bulati after breakfast, walk to the rim of the Empakai crater, descending onto the crater floor about 300 meters below the rim. After this terrific sightseeing, ascend back to the rim for dinner and overnight at the Empakai Campsite.
Day 4: Empakai – Acacia
Depart from Empakai to Acacia via Nayobi village, where you shall have the pleasure of meeting the Maasai people and even seeing the market should it be a market day. Dinner and overnight at the Acacia Campsite.
Day 5: Acacia – Kamakia
Depart from Acacia to the base of the Rift Valley escarpment, where you say bye to the Maasai porters and their donkeys. By car you will cover the long, very dry and hot terrain to Lake Natron, which is also the base of the Ol Doinyo Lengai. Dinner and overnight at Kamaika Camp.
Day 6: Kamaika (Lake Natron)
Walk to the waterfalls and sightseeing of the ecosystem around Lake Natron. Dinner and overnight at Kamaika Camp.
Day 7: Ol Doinyo Lengai – Arusha
Wake up at midnight and start the trekking, ascending up to the cone shaped room of the Ol Doinyo Lengai. You shall be able to see the fresh ash cones at the crater floor on the top of the volcano; occasionally you may witness some activity. Later descend back to the base by about 10am and proceed either to Arusha or for any other safari extension.