Ngorongoro Crater

February 10, 2013

We climbed higher and higher up the escarpment toward Ngorongoro Crater traveling through an extensive agricultural area belonging to the Mbulu people. We stopped at a visitor center introducing the Ngorongoro Forest Reserve and then drove even higher to the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater at approximately 8,000 feet. When we reached the rim, we caught occasional glimpses of the extraordinary crater 2,000 feet below. The crater is about 110 square miles, a perfect caldera ten to eleven miles across. We checked in at the Ngorongoro Serena Lodge and began descending the crater after lunch.
Ngorongoro Crater is not an official Tanzania National Park, but a conservation area, declared a Man and Biosphere Reserve in 1971 and a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1979. The Maasai and their livestock here share extensive lands with the Tanzania wild life, the Conservation Area providing protection for both the wildlife and the human inhabitants. The Conservation authorities limit both the number of vehicles entering the crater as well as the number of tourists, so we had to be careful about our timing both in and out of the crater.
Approximately 25,000 large animals, mostly ungulates, live in the crater. Large animals in the crater include the black rhinoceros, an extremely endangered species with just a handful remaining, and the hippopotamus. There also are many other ungulates: the wildebeest, Burchell’s zebra, the common eland, and Grant’s and Thomson’s gazelles to name a few.

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