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The Ngorongoro Crater is the best place in Tanzania to see the 'Big Five' and is an absolutely beautiful place to be on safari. Unavoidably, the Ngorongoro Crater is busy, at times very busy, but given it is one of the worlds most amazing natural wonders, it is going to be busy. However, due to the crowds we recommend a 2 night stay only, after that the safari time should be spent in the Serengeti.
A trip to Northern Tanzania has to include the Ngorongoro, it is an exceptional place to interact with the Masaai and is one of the most beautiful natural wildlife safari sites in the world.
The advantage of staying at a hotel on the Crater rim is the view, the advantage of staying away from the Crater at nearby Karatu is that there are less people around, the lodges are smaller and more personal offering a range of activities such as walking and mountain biking.
The Ngorongoro Crater and surrounding highlands are one of Africa's most beautiful regions. Volcanic craters form stunning backdrops to some of the richest grazing grounds in Africa. The most famous is without question the Ngorongoro Crater, the world’s largest intact volcanic caldera; home to the highest density of big game in Africa. With 600 metre high walls and a rich volcanic floor that plays host to the big five, the Ngorongoro is one of the continent's most famous safari destinations.
Ngorongoro Crater: What game will you see
The Ngorongoro is the best place in Tanzania to see the big five. A healthy population of black rhino and some of the largest tusker elephants left in Africa today are the prize spots, but the Crater is home to strong populations of lion, leopard and hyena along with good herds of wildebeest, buffalo and zebra. Other game in the Ngorongoro includes serval cat, cheetah, jackal, Grant's and Thompson's gazelle, flamingo and bat eared foxes along with approximately 400 species of bird.
Ngorongoro Crater: What activities are on offer
Activities in the Ngorongoro Crater itself are limited to game driving only. There are also picnic spots in the park. When you include the surrounding Ngorongoro Conservation area, a full range of activities are on offer including walking, trekking, visiting the Masai and other tribes and Olduvai gorge.
Ngorongoro Crater: When to go
Since the game stays in the crater all year, there really is no good or bad time to be in the park. However, given that the crater floor can be busy with vehicles the low season months can be beneficial. There is also something to be said for the fact that more water in Lake Magadi (in the center of the Crater) results in higher flamingo concentrations, but travelling to Ngorongoro at any time of year will guarantee great game.
Ngorongoro Crater: An overview of where to stay
The question here is whether you stay on the Crater rim or off the crater rim, in the Ngorongoro highlands. The Ngorongoro Crater lodge is world class and is by far the best hotel on the Crater rim, but at approximately $3,000 a night it probably should be! The Serena and the Sopa are much more affordable options and have equally stunning views of the Crater floor, their negatives being the fact they are large and fairly old hotels.
Staying away from the Crater rim in nearby Karatu area, in the highlands, opens up the option of staying in small coffee plantations and guesthouses. These cost approximately the same price as the Serena and Sopa but have undeniably more charm, albeit without the amazing Ngorongoro views. The best of these are The Plantation Lodge, Gibbs Farm and The Manor.
Recommended lodges in this area:
Without doubt one of the top ten hotels in the world. Perched on the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater and with views to die for; people come to Tanzania just to stay here. This is &Beyond’s flag ship property; quirky and something different from other properties on a northern itinerary. &Beyond call it ‘ Masaai meets Versaille’, we find it verging on over the top - but if you can afford it - you must stay here!
Since there is not a wide variety of choice on the crater rim the Ngorongoro Serena Lodge is an excellent option; good access into the crater whilst remaining quite affordable. Being a large hotel it doesn’t have all the charm you would expect of a lodge in a world famous location. But why should it when you are only here for only a night or two and the focus is the crater itself, not the lodge, its design and aesthetics.
With the best views of any of the lodges on the Crater rim and a good price too, the Sopa is great choice for location. Although it isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing lodge it serves a purpose and does it very well. It pretty much has its own access road to the crater floor and being on the eastern side of the rim it is far away from the other lodges.