The Ngorongoro crater is a part of the larger Ngorongoro Conservation Area and often referred to as one of the wonders of the natural world. This crater was once an active volcano until an eruption a few million years in the past blew its cap off, to give the world its largest unbroken caldera encompassing over 260 square kilometers. The Ngorongoro crater was initially a part of the Serengeti national park but was later separated from it in 1959.
The crater is home to the charismatic large animals known as the “big five” and to smaller mammals like the serval, civet, genet and caracal. It is also well known as a haven for the much endangered black rhino. Popularly called “The Garden of Eden”, there really is no place like the Ngorongoro crater anywhere on earth!
Beyond the crater rim, Maasai pastoralists herd their cattle across the plains, seemingly oblivious to the herds of wild animals sharing this vast landscape, the ‘endless plains’ of Serengeti. This truly magical place is home to Olduvai Gorge, where the Leakeys discovered the hominoid remains of a 1.8 million year old skeleton of Australopithecus boisei, one of the distinct links of the human evolutionary chain. In a small canyon just north of the crater, the Leakeys and their team of international archaeologists unearthed the ruins of at least three distinct hominoid species, and also came upon a complete series of hominoid footprints estimated to be over 3.7 million years old. Evacuated fossils show that the area is one of the oldest sites of hominoid habitation in the world.
Hikes in the highlands head north east of Ngorongoro Crater towards two smaller craters, Olmoti and Empakai and can continue on to the active volcano Oldonyo Lengai (mountain of God to the Maasai) and Lake Natron. Most of the hiking is done on cattle trails alongside the warriors and their herds and nights spent camping amongst Maasai bomas, allowing visitors to interact with the Maasai in their own environment and learn their culture. Exploring this little visited part of the country is an adventure of a lifetime.