Ngorongoro Crater – Tanzania

The Ngorongoro Crater is one of the natural marvels of the world, two to three million years old, 2000 feet deep and over 100 square miles, it is surely one of the more remarkable places we’ve ever been. Located 110 miles west of Arusha, Tanzania, thousands of tourists flock here every year to see one of the most amazing wildlife displays on the planet.

The crater is the home to over 25,000 animals and reputedly the highest density of predators in Africa. Here you will experience herds of thousands of cape buffalo, wildebeests, zebra and Grant’s and Thompson’s gazelles.  With the largest known population of lions, along with leopards on the rims and a cheetahs and hyenas within, the hunters and the hunted are in close proximity, providing an exhilarating viewing experience.

Elephants, impala, reedbuck, warthogs, dozens of different bird species and hundreds of pink flamingos appear to turn the lakes within the crater a vivid pink. We were even lucky enough to glimpse the reclusive and endangered black rhino from a distance.

Ngorongoro is the best and worst of Africa all in one place and we explored it with a bit of trepidation. As amazing as it is to see so many of the great animals on earth in one spot, it is also sad and a bit depressing to see the lineup of safari jeeps crowded with tourists doing the same. I do understand the dilemma of it… if we get to be there then everyone else should also get a chance, but it does make cause you to question the care and management of such fabulous places on this earth. Tourism does a great bit of good in many very poor countries and because of tourist dollars many such countries have taken better measures to control poaching and the destruction of habitat. Tourism also creates an increasingly dangerous bid for these dollars travelers bring, along with the expected refuse and garbage. Is there a good answer? Possibly not but it is something to consider when making the decisions about who gets your tourist dollars.

Because we were over landing for months through Africa, we had made sure to have the trip into Ngorongoro into our plans but for others there are a multitude of options. For the big spender, consider spending the night before your entry into the crater at the stunning Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, set on the rim of the canyon with breathtaking views. For the more budget minded there are a variety of cheap hotels that can arrange tours in the nearby towns. For we backpackers, camping near the rim was the way to go for the price and because of our love for the culture and color of the villages of Africa.

Regardless of your lodging options, figure on spending several hundred dollars per person for a day pass into Ngorongoro. Between entry fees, vehicle fees, photography fees, etc it’s important to shop around and determine what your best option will be. For most, a visit to Ngorongoro Crater is a once in a lifetime experience. Our advice. GO. It’s nice to think that these amazing places on earth will always be there but, whether you want to blame global warming, bad conservation, or simply greed we know this isn’t true. Make your way there, stand in awe at this extraordinary place, just be mindful of the effect your being there is having on the area… both positive and negative.

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