Ngorongoro travel tips

lion wildlife ngorongoro crater tanzania safari

  • Ngorongoro Conservation Area can only realistically be explored in a solid 4x4. The 150km road from the northern Tanzanian ‘safari capital’ Arusha to Lodware Entrance Gate, the only access point along the eastern border, is now surfaced in its entirety, and can be covered in less than three hours. All roads within the conservation are unsurfaced, however, and most - including the bumpy descent and ascent tracks to the crater and corrugated strip of fine compacted ash running west to Serengeti National Park - are pretty rough going. Tanzania’s safari industry is not really geared towards a self-drive approach, and the roads are unsuited to large coach tours, which means that almost all visitors to Ngorongoro either join a bespoke or small-group safari with a local driver-guide, or fly from Arusha to a camp offering a package inclusive of game drives. In theory, Ngorongoro Crater could be visited on a standalone one or two-night safari out of Arusha, but in practice it usually forms part of a longer (5-14 day) safari taking in some or all of the other highlights of the northern Tanzania safari circuit i.e. Serengeti National Park, Lake Manyara National Park, Tarangire National Park and Arusha National Park.

  • A day trip to Ngorongoro Crater is worth planning carefully. Vehicles are forbidden from entering the crater before 07h00, and they must leave before 18h00, and a hefty ‘crater service fee’ is payable every time a vehicle enter the crater. This combination of rulings has forged a situation where most safaris breakfast at their lodge before going on a game drive and carry a picnic lunch. Far preferable, however, to take a packed breakfast and lunch, allowing you to get down into the crater as early as possible, partly because early morning offers the best photographic light, but also because the place is at its most magical before the tourist hordes descend, with the main procession usually starting the descent from 08h00 onwards.

credit the highlands ngorongoro tanzania safari 4x4 drive The Highlands Ngorongoro

  • The conservation authority forbids tourists from staying overnight within Ngorongoro Crater. But several tourist lodges and tented camps are perched on the lofty crater rim, offering fine views over the floor and its teeming wildlife, and there is also a campsite. Plenty of accommodation is also available in and around the town of Karatu, which straddles the main surfaced road from Arusha about 15 minutes’ drive from Lodware Entrance Gate. The lodges on the crater rim are preferable in terms of views and for placing you as close as possible to the heart of the action, but accommodation in and around Karatu tends to offer better value for money. Either way, the elevated altitude of the crater rim and Karatu largely negate their near-equatorial location and nights can be decidedly chilly, so bring plenty of warm clothing to wear in the evening and early morning game drives.

Our Recommended Itinerary

Affordable Ngorongoro and Serengeti Safari (6 days)

day 1 to 2

  • Affordable Ngorongoro and Serengeti Safari (6 days)
  • Affordable Ngorongoro and Serengeti Safari (6 days)
  • Affordable Ngorongoro and Serengeti Safari (6 days)
  • Affordable Ngorongoro and Serengeti Safari (6 days)
  • Affordable Ngorongoro and Serengeti Safari (6 days)
  • Affordable Ngorongoro and Serengeti Safari (6 days)

day 3 to 4 to 5

  • Affordable Ngorongoro and Serengeti Safari (6 days)
  • Affordable Ngorongoro and Serengeti Safari (6 days)
  • Affordable Ngorongoro and Serengeti Safari (6 days)
  • Affordable Ngorongoro and Serengeti Safari (6 days)
  • Affordable Ngorongoro and Serengeti Safari (6 days)
  • Affordable Ngorongoro and Serengeti Safari (6 days)

day 6

Departure

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Solo travel to the Ngorongoro

Credit: Sanctuary Ngorongoro Crater Camp Very few people visit Ngorongoro solo. The main reason for this is presumably because a solo safari in northern Tanzania works out to be so much more expensive per person than it does for a couple or a small group. That said, if cost is not an obstacle, there is absolutely no reason why you couldn’t do a solo safari to Ngorongoro and elsewhere…

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…

Maasai visits

Ngorongoro Conservation Area is one of the last places in Africa where large herds of wildlife still roam alongside people. The people in question are the pastoralist Maasai, staunch traditionalists renowned for their ongoing adherence to a cattle-herding lifestyle and distinctive attire of toga-like red blankets, ochre-dyed hair and beaded jewellery. Several Maasai ‘cultural…

Ngorongoro in January

Credit: Kusini Camp Ngorongoro Crater has a temperate climate characterised by rather chilly nights throughout the year but January is one of the warmest months, with an average daily maximum of 23°C and average minimum of 10°C. January generally marks the end of the so-called short rains, so it shouldn’t be all that wet, but the landscape retains a lush green appearance and the air…

Ngorongoro in March

March is a relatively warm month in Ngorongoro, and one of the wettest. The average daily maximum is 22°C, night time temperatures on the crater rim typically drop to around 10°C, and the average annual rainfall is 135mm, though this tends to fall mostly in stormy bursts rather than long bouts of drizzle. The crater floor is lovely and green at this time of year, and there is plenty…

Lake Natron and Ol Doinyo Lengai

Set within the Rift Valley on the eastern border of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Natron is perhaps the most starkly beautiful of all the Rift Valley lakes south of Turkana. Almost 60km long but nowhere more than a metre deep, this primordial alkaline sump is renowned for its caustic and unusually viscous waters, which are enclosed by a crust of volcanic ash and salt, as well as a…

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