Ngorongoro Conservation Area Zones : The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is located in northern Tanzania, east of the Serengeti National Park and west of the Great Rift Valley escarpment. Unlike Tanzania’s national parks, which are managed by the TANAPA authority, this area is governed by the Ngorongoro Conservation Area authority, which allows indigenous populations, such as the Maasai, to live within the area with some restrictions.
UNESCO designated the Ngorongoro Conservation Area as a World Heritage Site in 1979 due to its beauty and the uniqueness of its ecosystem. The main places of interest in the NCA (Ngorongoro Conservation Area) are:
ü Ngorongoro Crater
ü Eastern Highlands
ü Southern Highlands
ü Northern Plains
The Ngorongoro Crater is the world’s largest unbroken, unflooded caldera, formed three million years ago when a massive volcano collapsed. The microclimate inside the crater provides an ideal habitat for numerous animal and vegetable species, making it a true heaven on Earth.
Inside the crater, there is a savannah, small marshy areas, a salty lake, and some yellow acacia forests, a variety that helps many animal species survive inside the caldera.
The crater’s slopes are covered in a dense forest that is home to a variety of animals, and the forest is responsible for the constant fog that forms along the rim of the crater due to the temperature difference between the bottom of the crater and the summit of the walls and the surrounding area.
A day-long visit inside the crater is an experience not to be missed, and there are exceptional chances of seeing animals; the only drawback is the jeep traffic along the two roads leading down to the crater, especially early in the morning, in picnic areas, and near sighting spots.
The Eastern Highlands are located to the east of the Ngorongoro Crater and are often overlooked by visitors, which is a shame because they are a place of exceptional beauty and deserving of a visit.
The Lemala Road departs from the Ngorongoro Crater and takes you to a remote area where you can admire the craters of extinct volcanoes and visit Masai villages.
Following the dirt road, you will come to the Olmoti Crater, which is smaller than the Ngorongoro Crater but equally fascinating; the bottom of the crater is home to numerous animal species, and its slopes are covered in forests. From here, you can reach the rim of the crater and go down inside it to discover endemic flora and fauna.
Driving along the main road, you will come across the Empakai Crater, a smaller crater than the Ngorongoro Crater, but it contains a true gem: a salty lake that covers nearly half of the crater’s surface.
A trekking excursion allows you to reach the crater’s rim, from which you can enjoy magnificent views not only of the crater’s bottom but also of the nearby active Ol Doinyo Lengai volcano, the sacred mountain to the Maasai, and, on a clear day, Mount Kilimanjaro and the Natron Lake. From the rim, you can trek down inside the crater.
This area is off the beaten path, and it is difficult to meet other visitors; this contributes to a truly unique experience when visiting the Eastern Highlands.
Driving along the road on the southern rim of the Ngorongoro Crater to the west, you can reach the Southern Highlands, which is another area with stunning views but is rarely included in sightseeing tours.
You can climb Mount Lemagarut, which is 3,147 meters above sea level. You must be properly trained and knowledgeable to do so, but the effort is well rewarded by the spectacular views from the top, which range from the endless plains of the Serengeti National Park to the Ngorongoro Crater and Lake Eyasi.
It is quite common to see Maasai young boys leading the cattle grazing or Maasai women gathering wild herbs and roots as the road ascends to the Irsimigiyo hills, passing through a number of Masai villages that can be visited.
In addition, you can embark on a walking safari with an experienced armed ranger up to the escarpment’s rim in the Western Great Rift Valley, from which point you can take in stunning views of Lake Eyasi and the plain, which is the home of the Datoga and the Hadzabe.
As you travel north, you will come to the Northern Plains, which administratively are a part of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area but geographically are a part of the Serengeti ecosystem, Ngorongoro Conservation Area Zones
Every year, between December and March, herds of wildebeests and zebras congregate here to feed on the incredibly nourishing grass growing on this fertile volcanic soil and give birth to cubs that, once weaned, will set out on their life’s journey through the Serengeti National Park and up into Kenya in the Masai Mara National Reserve.
The salty lakes of Ndutu and Masek, which are located in the westernmost region, are surrounded by marshes and a forested area, and many animals live there year-round.
The Olduvai Gorge, where the remains of hominids from various eras have been found and helped paleontologists rewrite part of the history of man, is one of the most significant archaeological sites in the entire world.
Another exceptional discovery has been made at a nearby site called Laetoli, where hominid footprints from three million years ago have been discovered. The footprints, however, are not visible because they have been covered to keep them safe from corrosion and atmospheric agents.
The Shifting Sands are anthracite-colored dunes to the north of the Olduvai Gorge that are shaped and moved by the local winds. The distinctive characteristic of these dunes is that the sand remains compact and does not get dispersed because it is electromagnetic.
While travelers frequently pass through this region on their way to or from the Serengeti National Park without stopping, spending a few hours here, even when it is not the time of the migration, may yield pleasant surprises.