Monday, 3 December 2012

Travel: The Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

The Ngorongoro Crater: An essential destination for any traveller lucky enough to visit Tanzania.

It’s quite a few years now since I visited the Ngorongoro Crater but it still remains one of the most memorable travel experiences of my life.  I love travelling and saw so many amazing sights during my three months in East and Central Africa, but the Ngorongoro Crater would comfortably make my top three of places to visit.  Given the long list of unique and memorable places to visit in Africa, that’s quite a bold claim to make, but there’s no other way to describe it.  The Ngorongoro Crater is literally like a different world.

A panoramic view of the Ngorongoro Crater.

The Ngorongoro Crater is the world’s largest unbroken collapsed volcano with a diameter of 18 kilometres and its very own eco-system, and this makes it the ideal location for thousands of animals to make it their home.  This in turn makes the crater an absolutely amazing place to visit for any backpacker or tourist who loves wildlife.

I did it the budget way on a backpacker tour which involved camping overnight on the rim of the crater and then heading down into the crater the following morning, and on the day of the tour a large group of us were put into smaller groups and assigned to various jeeps each with a guide to drive you around the crater.  Our driver was very knowledgeable and able to provide interesting and informative answers to our questions.  However, one of the dudes on the jeep seemed to think he knew more than the guide and was set on ‘treating’ us to a running commentary of the events we were watching, pointing out the most obvious details.  Despite this slight annoyance though, the thrill of the day meant that myself and the other two dudes didn’t let it spoil our time in the crater.

Lions playing in the Ngorongoro Crater.
I remember the Ngorongoro Crater was like being in an action-packed nature documentary with non-stop wildlife action the whole time.  The first thing we saw was a lioness and three cubs lounging around in the sun and we were lucky enough to be able to get quite close up to the lions.  Some of the others in our tour group were hoping to see a kill but our jeep just got to see the lions lazing around in the sun.  I was actually quite pleased about this as seeing a kill in real life would probably have made me a bit squeamish.

Other highlights included a visit to a swampy part of the crater where we watched a group of hippos relaxing in the mud, and it was strange to see that tropical birds would sit on the hippos backs and the hippos didn’t seem to mind this.  Another highlight was the sighting of two buffaloes which again we were able to get quite close up to.  Unfortunately when we stopped to watch the buffalo the engine on the jeep cut out, which was initially quite a worrying development but happily our driver managed to get us up and running again before too long.  And looking on the bright side, at least this unplanned delay meant that we got to spend more time watching the buffalo.

Rhino in the Ngorongoro Crater.
Finally, we managed to spot two rhinos and although we weren’t able to get right up close to the rhinos like we had with some of the other animals, it was nevertheless still an amazing and memorable experience.

Overall, it was pretty much non-stop action with the majority of the time spent watching wildlife and only a small amount of time spent driving around to find the next set of animals.  As previously mentioned it was several years ago when I visited the crater, but from what other travellers seem to say, the abundance of wildlife is still the case.

I’ve heard that in recent years the popularity of the Ngorongoro Crater has increased which means that you now find jeeps and trucks racing each other to get the best spots to view the wildlife.  This is a shame and obviously not ideal for the animals, but it does go to show the popularity of such an excellent and special experience.  And even if you have to share the view with a number of other trucks, the view is still a brilliant one.

Cheetah stalks his prey in the Ngorongoro Crater.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning that some of the backpackers I met on my travels seemed to regard their time in Africa as one big animal ‘tick list’ where they were in a race to spot as many different species of creatures as possible.  My advice would be to just enjoy the incredible sights and not worry too much about getting a complete set of animal sightings, as whatever animals you’re lucky enough to see, I can guarantee that your time in the Ngorongoro Crater will be a thoroughly memorable occasion.

In conclusion, anyone planning a trip to Tanzania should make a visit to the Ngorongoro Crater an essential inclusion on their itinerary of places to visit.

Check out the travellerspoint Ngorongoro travel guide to discover more about the Ngorongoro Crater:
Ngorongoro Conservation Area Travel Guide On

Find more travel recommendations at the following link:
Travel recommendations on Worthy Of A Bigger Audience

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Big thanks go to Jennifer Dey and Michael Burm for providing the photos for this review.  Their photos were originally featured on the excellent travellerspoint website.

Jennifer has a cool travel blog called Tales From The Backpack which you can find at the following link:
Tales From The Backpack
Jennifer's photo album on travellerspoint

You can find more cool photos of the Ngorongoro Crater in Michael's Tanzania photo album on travellerspoint.  He also has a travel blog on travellerspoint:
Michael Burm's Tanzania photo album on travellerspoint

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