Empakaai Crater

the highlands game drive lion ngorongoro tanzania safari

The second-largest crater in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Empakaai is almost 8km in diameter and its floor is dominated by a saline crater lake and enclosed by sheer 300m high walls that rise to an elevation of 3,200m on the eastern rim. On of East Africa’s most underrated and seldom-visited scenic gems, the crater lies about 90 minutes’ drive northeast of Ngorongoro Crater via the Embulbul Depression, a grassy bowl that which dips to below 2,350m at the base of the 3,260m Mount Losirua and 3,648m Lolmalasin (the highest point in the Crater Highlands). The view from the forested crater rim is fabulous, whether you look inward to the emerald green crater lake, its shallows frequently tinged pink by thousands of flamingos, or east across the Rift Valley to the ashen slopes and smoking fumaroles of volcanic Ol Doinyo Lengai, a scene that also takes in Lake Natron and snow-capped Kilimanjaro on a clear day.

Empakaai offers a welcome opportunity to break the safari regime of twice-daily game drives with a stiff steep guided hike to the crater floor. The steep but scenic descent along a tolerably well-maintained footpath takes 45-60 minutes, longer if you’re looking out for the plentiful birds that inhabit the forested crater walls, and there’s also a chance of spotting bushbuck, buffalo, blue monkey and even elephant. Good walking shoes and a reasonable level of fitness are recommended.


Our Recommended Itinerary

Group Safari into Northern Tanzania (7 days)

day 1

Arusha | Tarangire National Park
  • Group Safari into Northern Tanzania (7 days)
  • Group Safari into Northern Tanzania (7 days)
  • Group Safari into Northern Tanzania (7 days)
  • Group Safari into Northern Tanzania (7 days)

day 2

Lake Manyara National Park
  • Group Safari into Northern Tanzania (7 days)
  • Group Safari into Northern Tanzania (7 days)
  • Group Safari into Northern Tanzania (7 days)
  • Group Safari into Northern Tanzania (7 days)
  • Group Safari into Northern Tanzania (7 days)
  • Group Safari into Northern Tanzania (7 days)

day 3

Central Serengeti
  • Group Safari into Northern Tanzania (7 days)
  • Group Safari into Northern Tanzania (7 days)
  • Group Safari into Northern Tanzania (7 days)
  • Group Safari into Northern Tanzania (7 days)
  • Group Safari into Northern Tanzania (7 days)
  • Group Safari into Northern Tanzania (7 days)

day 4

Central Serengeti
  • Group Safari into Northern Tanzania (7 days)
  • Group Safari into Northern Tanzania (7 days)
  • Group Safari into Northern Tanzania (7 days)
  • Group Safari into Northern Tanzania (7 days)
  • Group Safari into Northern Tanzania (7 days)
  • Group Safari into Northern Tanzania (7 days)

day 5

Karatu | Ngorongoro Crater Rim
  • Group Safari into Northern Tanzania (7 days)
  • Group Safari into Northern Tanzania (7 days)
  • Group Safari into Northern Tanzania (7 days)
  • Group Safari into Northern Tanzania (7 days)
  • Group Safari into Northern Tanzania (7 days)
  • Group Safari into Northern Tanzania (7 days)

day 6

Karatu | Ngorongoro Crater
  • Group Safari into Northern Tanzania (7 days)
  • Group Safari into Northern Tanzania (7 days)
  • Group Safari into Northern Tanzania (7 days)
  • Group Safari into Northern Tanzania (7 days)
  • Group Safari into Northern Tanzania (7 days)
  • Group Safari into Northern Tanzania (7 days)

day 7

End of Journey

View Full Itinerary

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Weather in Ngorongoro

Although Ngorongoro and the Crater Highlands stand in the heart of the tropics less than 200km south of the equator, the high elevation (mostly above 2,000m) means the climate is surprisingly cool, seldom rising above 25°C by day and more often than not dropping to below 10°C by night. It tends to be sunny by day, but cloudy weather is far from unusual and the gap in altitude between…

Ngorongoro in October

October is a month of transition in Ngorongoro Crater. The start of the month is the height of the long dry season, and much of the crater floor resembles a barren dust bowl of fine volcanic soil, while what grass remains will be low and yellowing, making it easy to spot larger predators, while grazers tend to congregate close to the few remaining sources of drinking water. The first of…

Ngorongoro Crater

People visit the Ngorongoro Conservation Area is to see the eponymous crater. Ngorongoro is the world’s largest intact and unflooded caldera, the relict of a massive volcano formed by the same tectonic activity associated with the creation of the Great Rift Valley. In its prime, Ngorongoro would have towered as high as Kilimanjaro does today, but it collapsed in on itself around one-…

Ngorongoro in July

July is a good month to visit Ngorongoro Crater. The long rains will be a distant memory, but the crater shouldn’t have dried out completely, and wildlife is prolific as ever. Further afield, July is also a good month for Zanzibar beach holidays and Kilimanjaro climbs, as well as for optimistic travellers hoping to catch the dramatic Grumeti river crossing as the Serengeti wildebeest…

Ngorongoro in December

The short rains that started in October continue into December, which is actually the third wettest month in Ngorongoro, receiving an average annual rainfall of 135mm. It is also relatively warm, with average daily temperatures ranging from a minimum of 10°C to a maximum of 22°C. Coming after the long dry season, the rain tends to feel rejuvenated, lending a fresh spring-like feel to…

Heroes Point

Credit: Naona Moru Camp Coming from the direction of Arusha, the road from Lodware Entrance Gate to the crater rim switchbacks uphill through fertile slopes swathed in Afromontane forest to Heroes Point, which is where most visitors catch their first breathtaking view to the crater floor. It is here that German conservationist and filmmaker Michael Grzimek (son of the legendary…

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