Ngorongoro Crater Safari
Few safari destinations deliver the same experience as the Ngorongoro Crater. There are bigger and wilder parks but if you want some of the easiest and most rewarding game viewing in East Africa, an Ngorongoro Crater safari won't disappoint.
A can't-miss destination on Tanzania's star-studded Northern Safari Circuit, the Ngorongoro Crater offers a classic Big 5 safari experience in the unique setting of an ancient volcanic caldera. Home to some 30 000 animals, the crater's surprisingly diverse habitats are revealed on an Ngorongoro safari on all-day guided game drives; the scenery is spectacular, predators are abundant and it's not unusual to see the Big 5 in a single day.
There's amazing accommodation perched right on the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater, offering some of the best views in Africa, if not the world. Staying at these prime-location lodges will put you first in the queue to drive down to the crater floor in the morning but for more affordable Ngorongoro safari accommodation in an equally tranquil and not much less scenic setting, head for the town of Karatu, set some 20km south from the crater in the green rolling hills of the Karatu Highlands.
Here you'll find several excellent lodges, some set on working coffee plantations and offering a range of additional activities that aren't so accessible to visitors staying on the rim of the crater. Activities range from game drives to nearby Lake Manyara and local bird watching to cultural visits and mountain biking.
A hassle-free, ideal destination for first-time safari visitors and families, the wide range of resident wildlife and the ease with which the animals can be observed makes an Ngorongoro Crater safari an obvious choice for wildlife photographers too. The romantic cliff-top lodges provide the perfect base for a Ngorongoro honeymoon, while visitors who want to maximise their Tanzania safari experience will find that the Ngorongoro Crater combines seamlessly with the Serengeti, Tarangire and Lake Manyara.
Best Time to Visit the Ngorongoro Crater
With Ngorongoro's wildlife remaining in the steep-walled crater all year round, the question of when to go on a Ngorongoro Crater safari is less about optimising your game viewing experience and more about how many other people and vehicles you want to share the crater with.
High visitor numbers can be expected during the dry July to September peak season and again during the December to February calving season that follows the November rains.
With this in mind, the main April to May rainy season is often considered the best time to visit the Ngorongoro Crater as there are far fewer visitors and the crater is wonderfully lush and green compared to the dusty dry-season landscape.
For further advice on planning your Ngorongoro Crater safari, simply enquire with one of our Africa Safari Experts.
Ngorongoro Crater Travel Advice
Flights & Getting Around
Arusha Airport: located just outside the town of Arusha, Arusha Airport is the gateway to the Ngorongoro Crater, Serengeti, Lake Manyara and Tarangire but you'll need to get there via Kilimanjaro International Airport, located about 50km away.
Kilimanjaro International Airport: fly into Kilimanjaro from Dar es Salaam, Nairobi or directly from Europe and transfer to Arusha Airport but note that international flights often arrive at Kilimanjaro Airport late at night, so an overnight in Arusha is usually necessary.
However, as the Ngorongoro Crater is only a 3.5hr road trip from Arusha, many travellers prefer to make the final transfer to their accommodation at the crater or in the nearby town of Karatu by road. Game drives and road transfers in the Ngorongoro Crater region are conducted in open-sided 4X4s.
Top Travel Tips for the Ngorongoro Crater
Choose your accommodation carefully: lodges on the crater's rim have out-of-this-world views and the quickest access onto the crater floor but the nearby town of Karatu has a wider range of accommodation and activities.
Prepare to share: at only 260 km² the Ngorongoro Crater gets pretty crowded during the dry seasons, especially around good animal sightings and popular lunch spots. For the lowest visitor numbers in the Ngorongoro Crater, travel during the April to May rainy season.
Bring the kids: the abundance of animals and its many child-friendly lodges means the Ngorongoro Crater is an ideal destination for a family safari.
Wrap up in winter: the Ngorongoro Crater's geography means that you can expect cold weather between June and August.