Ngorongoro Conservation Area

The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is a protected area and a World Heritage Site located 180 km (110 mi) west of Arusha in the Crater Highlands area of Tanzania. The area is named after Ngorongoro Crater, a large volcanic caldera within the area. The conservation area is administered by the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority, an arm of the Tanzanian government, and its boundaries follow the boundary of the Ngorongoro Division of the Arusha Region.

Ngorongoro Conservation Area / Tanzania Horizon Safaris

Ngorongoro Conservation Area / Tanzania Horizon Safaris

The 2009 Ngorogoro Wildlife Conservation Act placed new restrictions on human settlement and subsistence farming in the Crater, displacing Maasai pastoralists, most of whom had been relocated to Ngorongoro from their ancestral lands to the north when the British colonial government established Serengeti National Park in 1959.

Tanzania Horizon Safaris offers a vast variety of Safaris to visit Ngorongoro Crater.

The 2009 Ngorogoro Wildlife Conservation Act placed new restrictions on human settlement and subsistence farming in the Crater, displacing Maasai pastoralists, most of whom had been relocated to Ngorongoro from their ancestral lands to the north when the British colonial government established Serengeti National Park in 1959.

Tanzania Horizon Safaris offers a vast variety of Safaris to visit Ngorongoro Crater.

History and geography

The name of the crater has its origin in the Maasai language; it was named after the sound produced by the cowbell (ngoro ngoro). Based on fossil evidence found at the Olduvai Gorge, various hominid species have occupied the area for 3 million years.

Hunter-gatherers were replaced by pastoralists a few thousand years ago. The Mbulu came to the area about 2,000 years ago and were joined by the Datooga around the year 1700. Both groups were driven from the area by the Maasai in the 1800s.

Massive fig trees in the northwest of the Lerai Forest are sacred to the Maasai and the Datooga. Some of them may have been planted on the grave of a Datago leader who died in battle with the Maasai around 1840.

No Europeans are known to have set foot in the Ngorongoro Crater until 1892, when it was visited by Oscar Baumann. Two German brothers farmed in the crater until the outbreak of World War I, after leasing the land from the administration of German East Africa. The brothers regularly organized shooting parties to entertain their German friends. They also attempted to drive the wildebeest herds out of the crater.

In 1921, the first game preservation ordinance was passed, which restricted hunting to permit holders throughout Tanzania. In 1928, hunting was prohibited on all land within the crater rim, except the former Siedentopf farms. The National Park Ordinance of 1948 (implemented in 1951) created the Serengeti National Park. This caused problems with the Maasai and other tribes, resulting in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Ordinance (1959) that separated the conservation area from the national park. Maasai pastoralists living in Serengeti National Park were systematically relocated to Ngorongoro, increasing the population of Maasai and livestock living in the Crater. The Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority was established by the Game Park Laws Act, 1976 and owns the majority of Ngorongoro Conservation Area land, including the Crater. The area became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. The Wildlife Conservation Act of 2009 further restricted human use of Ngorongoro Crater and created a legal framework to politically disenfranchise and forcibly displace traditional pastoralists. The restriction on land use generates tension between the local Maasai communities and conservation authorities. Currently, The International Union for Conservation of Nature is seeking solutions to ease conflict and improve collaborative efforts towards conservation with the locals.

Land in the conservation area is multi-use and unique because it is the only conservation area in Tanzania that protects wildlife while allowing human habitation. Land use is controlled to prevent negative effects on the wildlife population. For example, cultivation is prohibited at all but subsistence levels. The area is part of the Serengeti ecosystem and, to the northwest, adjoins the Serengeti National Park and is contiguous with the southern Serengeti plains.

Ngorongoro Crater

VIEW OF THE NGORONGORO CRATER / TANZANIA HORIZON SAFARIS

The main feature of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area is the Ngorongoro Crater, the world's largest inactive, intact and unfilled volcanic caldera. The crater, which formed when a large volcano exploded and collapsed on itself two to three million years ago, is 610 metres (2,000 feet) deep and its floor covers 260 square kilometres (100 square miles). Estimates of the height of the original volcano range from 4,500 to 5,800 metres (14,800 to 19,000 feet) high.  The crater was voted by Seven Natural Wonders as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa in Arusha, Tanzania in February 2013. The Ngorongoro volcano was active from about 2.45 to 2 million years ago.

Out of the two recent volcanoes to the northeast of the Empakaai caldera, Kerimasi and Ol Doinyo Lengai, Doinyo Lengai is still active and had major eruptions in 2007 and 2008. Smaller ash eruptions and lava flows continue to slowly fill the current crater. Its name is Maasai language for ‘Mountain of God’.

Lake Magadi

The Munge Stream drains Olmoti Crater to the north, and is the main water source draining into the seasonal salt lake in the center of the crater. This lake is known by two names: Makat as the Maasai called it, meaning salt; and Magadi. The Lerai Stream drains the humid forests to the south of the Crater, and it feeds the Lerai Forest on the crater floor - when there is enough rain, the Lerai drains into Lake Magadi as well. Extraction of water by lodges and Ngorongoro Conservation Area headquarters reduces the amount of water entering Lerai by around 25%.

The other major water source in the crater is the Ngoitokitok Spring, near the eastern crater wall. There is a picnic site here open to tourists and a huge swamp fed by the spring, and the area is inhabited by hippopotamus, elephants, lions and many others. Many other small springs can be found around the crater's floor, and these are important water supplies for the animals and local Maasai, especially during times of drought.

Olduvai Gorge

VIEW OF OLDUVAI GORGE / TANZANIA HORIZON SAFARIS

The Ngorongoro Conservation Area also protects Olduvai Gorge, situated in the plains area. It is considered to be the seat of humanity after the discovery of the earliest known specimens of the human genus, Homo habilis as well as early hominidae.

The Olduvai Gorge is a steep-sided ravine in the Great Rift Valley, which stretches along eastern Africa. Olduvai is in the eastern Serengeti Plains in northern Tanzania and is about 50 kilometres (31 mi) long. It lies in the rain shadow of the Ngorongoro highlands and is the driest part of the region. The gorge is named after 'Oldupaai', the Maasai word for the wild sisal plant, Sansevieria ehrenbergii.

It is one of the most important prehistoric sites in the world and research there has been instrumental in furthering understanding of early human evolution. Excavation work there was pioneered by Mary and Louis Leakey in the 1950s and is continued today by their family. Some believe that millions of years ago, the site was that of a large lake, the shores of which were covered with successive deposits of volcanic ash. Around 500,000 years ago seismic activity diverted a nearby stream which began to cut down into the sediments, revealing seven main layers in the walls of the gorge.

Wildlife

Approximately 25,000 large animals, mostly ungulates, live in the crater. Large mammals in the crater include the black rhinos, the African buffalo or Cape buffalo, and hippos. There also are many other ungulates: the blue wildebeest, Grant's zebra, the common eland (oryx), and Grant's and Thomson's gazelles. Waterbucks occur mainly near Lerai Forest.

Although thought of as "a natural enclosure" for a very wide variety of wildlife, 20 percent or more of the wildebeest and half the zebra populations vacate the crater in the wet season, while Cape buffalo stay; their highest numbers are during the rainy season.

Since 1986, the crater's wildebeest population has fallen from 14,677 to 7,250 (2003-2005). The numbers of eland and Thomson's gazelle also have declined while the buffalo population has increased greatly, probably due to the long prevention of fire which favors high-fibrous grasses over shorter, less fibrous types. The crater has one of the densest known population of lions, numbering 62 in 2001.

Outside Ngorongoro Crater

The Ngorongoro Conservation Area has a healthy resident population of most species of wildlife. The Ndutu Lake area to in the west of the conservation area has particularly strong cheetah and lion populations. Common in the area are hartebeest, spotted hyena, and jackals. The population of African wild dog may have declined recently. Servals occur widely on the plains to the west of the Ngorongoro Crater.

The annual ungulate migration passes through the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, with 1.7 million wildebeests, 260,000 zebras, and 470,000 gazelles moving south into the area in December and moving north in June. This movement changes seasonally with the rains, but the migration traverses almost the entire plains in search of food.