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Ngorongoro Crater

Updated on June 29, 2011

View of the crater from the top of the ridge

A day trip to the crater

 It sounds hard to believe but about 2.5 million years ago, there was an enormous volcano that rose above the western side of the Great Rift Valley, that blew up in an enormous explosion.  KABOOM!  The reservoir of magma under the volcano emptied itself and caused the mountain to implode under its own weight.  It left behind a huge crater technically called a caldera.  This caldera, is the largest unflooded unbroken caldera in the world, is 600m deep and has a diameter of 19km.  What it means is that this crater is a perfect amphitheatre and holds about 30 000 large mammals, including some of the large predators.  It is one of the few national parks in the world where you are assured of seeing both herbivores and carnivores.  Going to the Ngorongoro Crater, is one of those once in a lifetime experiences you just have to have.

Getting There - We left Moshi at seven am and headed in the direction of Arusha which is about 80km away.  It should have been simple from there but it wasn't, as the road out of Arusha is not clearly marked.  Once we found out that we had to drive through Arusha, it wasn't a problem.  I think the lack of proper road signs pointing the way, is because most people go to the Ngorongoro Crater with a safari company, and obviously, they know the way.  However, next time I'll know exactly what direction to drive.  The Ngorongoro Crater is close to the Serengeti, Lake Manyara and Terengeri - all fantastic parks to visit if you want to view game.  The road to Ngorongoro is tarred and in good condition, and we arrived at Lake Manyara at about 11am.  Not bad going, considering we got lost on the outskirts of Arusha and had to backtrack quite a few kilometres.  The Ngorongor Crater is literally just past Lake Manyara and just before the Serengeti.

Lake Manyara

Pricey but worth every penny

 Okay, you have to have a 4 x 4 to go to the Ngorongoro Crater, not so much for the descent, but definitely for the ascent which is quite hairy.  We decided to cram everybody into my car to try and save money, so seven of us did our sardine can impersonation.  Actually, my car is quite roomy so it wasn't that bad at all.  I have a pajero with a little Toyota engine.  The previous owner forgot to tell his wife to check oil and water regularly, and she blew the engine.  It's okay, i prefer Toyota anyway, even if the car is a little heavy for the size of the engine.

Okay, so what are the costs?  As I said, it's pretty pricey, supposedly to try and deter many vehicles from visiting the crater.  It isn't working!  There are still just as many vehicles visiting the crater, and the government is rapidly filling its coffers with the park fees.  We paid $50 per adult and $30 for children under 12.  Then you have to pay 10 000 TSH car fee which is roughly about $10.  The big fee is the $200 crater fee which you have to pay on top of that.  But if you think 'once in a lifetime experience' then it's okay.  Of course, then they try and get you to pay for a driver/guide, which costs $20.  They try and make this compulsory, but seriously, we wouldn't have had any place for him to fit in the car anyway.  So I admit, I lied.  i told the guides at the gate that I'd already driven to the crater before.  This was not my first visit, obviously bull, as I didn't even know which direction to drive to get there!  I could see he didn't believe me, but he waved me through as there was a long queue of safari vehicles behind us.  Along the way from the main gate to the crater entry gate, we passed many Maasai villages and Maasai warriors along the side of the road all checking out their cattle.  We came to the crater gate, and the guide at the gate wouldn't let us through.  He didn't believe me.  "When were you last here?"  he asked a little aggressively.  "Um, two months ago," I replied nervously biting my lip.  "How did you manage the ascent?" he asked with a glint in his eye.  "Oh the ascent, no worries, no problem," I replied lying through my teeth, wondering what ascent he was talking about.  "You need a ranger," was his response.  "Oh, I'm a qualified South African Ranger," interrupted my 18 year old son who had completed a level one 12 day ranger course two years ago.  The guides at the gate indicated for my son to go to the main office while we waited nervously in the car.  They had made him sign some papers saying he understands the rules and will go to jail if we leave the car.  What a relief, it should be a breeze.  I mean, why would you want to leave the car anyway?  My son looked quite nervous.  You are only allowed to spend six hours in the crater and have to leave the crater by 6pm.

Maasai on the crater rim

Animals and more animals

 As a person who has spent over 30 years of my life living in different countries in Africa, I have been to many different game reserves, game parks, national parks - call them what you will.  Nothing prepared me for the abundance of game I saw at Ngorongoro Crater.  We saw rhino, hippo, hyena, lions, zebra, wildebeest, buffalo, warthog, baboons, elephant, water buck, Thompson's gazelle, kingfishers, vultures, ostrich, crowned cranes, flamingoes.  Wherever you looked, there were animals.  The cool thing about the Ngorongoro Crater is it has so many different kinds of habitatas.  You have Lake Magadi in the middle, savanna all around and then the Lerai Forest, a large patch of Acacia woodland, on the southern edge of the lake.  Bring in some swampy land and you have an area that caters for a diverse variety of wildlife.  You see it all at Ngorongoro.  The only animals we didn't see were giraffe - but we'd seen plenty at Arusha National Park, leopard and cheetah.  The only thing we didn't find, was a toilet.

After a couple of hours of game-viewing, my friend in the back of the car needed the toilet.  Badly.  We tried to encourage her to hold on, but after another hour of squinting at the animals because her eyeballs were floating in pee, it was time for desperate measures.  The problem was, that so many people were in the crater, there were safari vehicles everywhere.  Down all the little roads.  Eventually, next to a grazing herd of zebra, we found a quiet spot and she dropped her drawers and swung her bum out of the back of the car.  The Victoria Falls have nothing on her and she seemed to pee for ages.  In mid-pee, we saw a convoy of safari vehicles heading towards us.  "Hurry!  vehicles approaching, the six of us shouted anxiously.  "I'm going as fast as I can!" shouted my friend from the back.  "Vehicles 50m away!" we shouted.  "Okay, three quarters of the way done but I feel better," said my friend hastily pulling up her knickers and closing the back door.  My son was sweating profusely, imagining how he was nearly jailed for letting someone put their bum out of the car and pee in the crater!

The ascent was all they'd warned us about and more.  A steep muddy incline that I would not want to drive up myself.  Luckily, my friend's husband drove up the face.  Definitely not for the cowardly types that ascent!  I couldn't look down and rather focused on the bush on the passenger side!  Ngorongoro Crater is a must for your Bucket List!

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    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      6 years ago from Cape Town

      Heaps of wildlife there, eh Hafeezm? All congregated in a small area so makes good viewing!

    • hafeezrm profile image

      hafeezrm 

      6 years ago from Pakistan

      Nice description. I enjoyed it as I have recently been to this region.

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      8 years ago from Cape Town

      Hey, thanks Sheila, glad you enjoyed the hub!

    • sheila b. profile image

      sheila b. 

      8 years ago

      Hi! You really brought it alive for me - a great read for me, great writing for you. Thank you.

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      8 years ago from Cape Town

      Distinct possibility there BP, in fact, more a probability! Will you be cooking the lobster on the barbie while I'm on the lap?

    • blondepoet profile image

      blondepoet 

      8 years ago from australia

      Haaaaa yes I can imagine you still typing away while on Hugh's lap.

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      8 years ago from Cape Town

      BP, Hugh Jackson? Hmmmmmmmm would still have the adventures plus lots of sex!

    • blondepoet profile image

      blondepoet 

      8 years ago from australia

      Wow Cindy you always find something interesting to write about. This is awesome. The way you always have time to do and write all you do is amazing. I wonder how that time would go if say, you had a Hugh Jackson that came in your life, and you got hooked up together, maybe even married.

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      8 years ago from Cape Town

      Tatjan, thanks for stopping by and it goes without saying, if you ever find yourself in Tanzania, just drop me a line.

    • Tatjana-Mihaela profile image

      Tatjana-Mihaela 

      8 years ago from Zadar, CROATIA

      Beautiful photos, beautiful country and interesting Hub as always. Thank you.

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      8 years ago from Cape Town

      Jerilee, i do love sharing my adventures, but my biggest adventure is in June when I drive to cape Town from here, driving through Zambia and Botswana. I salivate at the thought!

    • Jerilee Wei profile image

      Jerilee Wei 

      8 years ago from United States

      Always a delight to hear about your adventures, big and small. It has made me look at your part of the world right now in a different light.

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      8 years ago from Cape Town

      James, I have to say the pics do not do what we experienced that day justice. The animals were so close, unfortunately without a proper zoom I couldn't photograph the lions, hyena, rhino, hippo. I just have to invest in a decent camera!

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 

      8 years ago from Chicago

      Thank you for this joyous journey. Your writing is crisp and the pics are great.

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      8 years ago from Cape Town

      Thanks Paradise!

    • Paradise7 profile image

      Paradise7 

      8 years ago from Upstate New York

      Amazing pics, wonderful story. You have an interesting life.

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      8 years ago from Cape Town

      Thanks Dolores, sometimes I still wonder how on earth I fell into this kind of lifestyle. But I have to say, it is addictive.

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 

      8 years ago from East Coast, United States

      Well, cindy, I admire your courage and writing skill. Most of us would not have the chutzpa to manage your adventurous life style. You are always an inspiration!

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      8 years ago from Cape Town

      Okay, book your flights, let me know when you are here and you can stay with me and use my car!

    • Princessa profile image

      Wendy Iturrizaga 

      8 years ago from France

      That's a very tempting offer Cindy, I would really love to do something like that.

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      8 years ago from Cape Town

      Hey Candie, hope this inspires you to do some travelling! I enjoy taking photos, really need to buy myself a big camera with a long lens!

    • Candie V profile image

      Candie V 

      8 years ago from Whereever there's wolves!! And Bikers!! Cummon Flash, We need an adventure!

      You always include the most fantastic pictures for your hubs.. and just when I was getting used to Chinese names, now I get to get used to long African names! You are THE BEST world tour guide! Thanks CV! - CV

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      8 years ago from Cape Town

      Christoph, but living in these exotic places can be just as humdrum as living in suburbia somewhere. After a while you no longer notice the exotica, just take it all for granted, because at the end of the day you're living in these places to earn money to put bread on the table just like anybody else.

      Thanks Jim, hope it makes you feel as if you are really there with me!

    • Jim Bryan profile image

      Jim Bryan 

      8 years ago from Austin, TX

      Your pictures and descriptions are simply awesome.

    • Christoph Reilly profile image

      Christoph Reilly 

      8 years ago from St. Louis

      How great that you visit all these exotic places. I'm jealous!

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      8 years ago from Cape Town

      Creativeone, the whole trip was enjoyable and I'm lad that came through in the hub. I'm hoping someone else comes to visit so I can get to go again.

      Pam, it is an experience I'll never forget.

      Dolores, you know me. Someone says it's dangerous or can't be done and I'm there.

      Sunflowerbucky, I really have to invest in a camera with a lens so that I can zoom in otherwise I would have had millions more great photos!

    • sunflowerbucky profile image

      sunflowerbucky 

      8 years ago from Small Town, USA

      Fabulous photos, thanks so much for sharing!

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 

      8 years ago from East Coast, United States

      Cindy - boy, you folks really have a lot of nerve. I'd be scared to death to go in there, when they tell you that you need a guide, and just go it on your own. A great story and your photos are fabulous. What a trip!

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      8 years ago from Sunny Florida

      What a wonderful article. Expensive or not, it looks so well worthwhile. I would love to visit. Like you said, once in a lifetime with an experience you will remember for a lifetime.

    • creativeone59 profile image

      benny Faye Douglass 

      8 years ago from Gold Canyon, Arizona

      Thank you cindyvine, I enjoyed every bit of your Ngorongoro crater hub, it was very amusing. Thank you for sharing. Godspeed. creativeone59

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      8 years ago from Cape Town

      Princessa, it is worth every penny and definitely a place you need to take your little hooligan to. Fly over to Tanzania and I'll drive you guys there!

      Alekhouse, it is an unforgetable experience. And I have to say, my camera is only a little sony cybershot with virtually no zoom, so you must know then how close we were to the animals.

      Hello, hello, i do love sharing my world with you guys. At the moment, I'm planning my big road trip in June, where I'm going to drive from Tanzania to Cape Town, going through Zambia and Botswana. That hub will be written end of June, so watch out for that one. It is a bit risky, woman and her daughter driving alone through Africa, lol.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      8 years ago from London, UK

      What a wonderful world. Your are lucky. I thank you for your hub and pics.

    • alekhouse profile image

      Nancy Hinchliff 

      8 years ago from Essex Junction, Vermont

      Another great hub! I love your animal pictures. Actually, I've been there, closeby that is. Never decended. But I was in all the surrounding area. It was years ago, but I will never forget it.

    • Princessa profile image

      Wendy Iturrizaga 

      8 years ago from France

      So beautiful, I was reading this with my Hooligan next to me, urging me to go back to see the animal pictures :)

      Thanks for a wonderful trip, I hope I can make it myself one day. It might be pricy but considering that it is a one in a life experience and that one can spend the same amount in a Saturday night in the city, it is worth every penny!

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      8 years ago from Cape Town

      Thanks Tony, yeah save those sheckels as this park is definitely worth the visit!

    • tonymac04 profile image

      Tony McGregor 

      8 years ago from South Africa

      Great stuff, Cindy! I saw a doccy on this park a while back and made my mind up to visit it when I get the money, etc., together. It must be awesome. Your pix are great too.

      Thanks for the interesting write up.

      Love and peace

      Tony

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