The Quick Guide to Ngorongoro Crater

Ngorongoro Crater is a 100 sq mile ancient inactive volcanic caldera that was formed 2-3 million years ago after the volcano erupted and collapsed in on itself. The crater itself is just the most famous portion of the greater Ngorongoro Conservation Area - one of Tanzania's 7 UNESCO Heritage sites and one of the 7 Natural Wonders of Africa (Serengeti National Park being another). The "Conservation Area" is different from the National Parks in Tanzania in that it is also inhabited by the local Maasai tribespeople. Visitors who come through the region will see many small Maasai hamlets dotting the landscape - many of which invite tourists in for small demonstrations of their culture.

Ngorongoro Crater is home to the critically endangered Black Rhinoceros. Due to the natural enclosure of the caldera rim, the Rhinos never leave the 100 sq mile area and therefore are some of the best protected in the world. It also gives tourists the best opportunity to see them. The difficulty of ascending the 2000ft rim of the caldera is also the reason why wildlife is present at roughly the same population year-round. Wildlife in general is plentiful with over 25,000 large animals inhabiting the caldera - including all of the Big 5. One of the few animals which doesn't reside in Ngorongoro Crater is the Giraffe. This is because of its inability to scale the rim.

Ngorongoro Crater can get very crowded during peak season due to the small area and high interest in the diverse wildlife - especially the opportunity to see the Black Rhino. It is also the most expensive destination in Tanzania due to the high park fees - much of which goes towards protecting its endangered residents.

This guide seeks to give a quick breakdown of need-to-know information about Tarangire National Park.

Where is Ngorongoro Crater?

Ngorongoro Crater is located halfway between JRO airport and Serengeti National Park. The Southern gate of Lodoare is only 20 minutes from tourist hub Karatu. The crater floor is around an hour drive from the entrance gate.

How Far is Ngorongoro Crater's Lodoare Gate From Other Destinations in Tanzania?

  • JRO Airport: 3.5 hours
  • Arusha City: 2.5 hours
  • Mt. Kilimanjaro basecamp (Moshi): 4-4.5 hours
  • Arusha National Park: 3-3.5 hours
  • Lake Manyara National Park: 45 minutes
  • Seronera (Central Serengeti): 3 hours
  • Tarangire National Park: 1.5-2 hours

What Are the Fees to Enter Ngorongoro Crater for 2022?

Tanzanian park entry fees vary by age, season, and whether or not you are a citizen of East Africa. Fees also are often charged both per person as well as per group. If you sleep in the park, you will also be assessed a concession fee. All park fees are INCLUDED in every Tohe Wildlife Safari itinerary.

The below fees are for NON-East African Adults over 16 years of age. To see the detailed tariff list, click here.

Concession (entry) Fees:

  • Low Season (March 15-May 15): $60/per person
  • High Season (May 16-March 14): $70/per person

Camp Site Fees (Only assessed if using public Camp sites):

  • Low Season (October - June): $50/per person
  • High Season (July - September): $60/per person

Hotel Concession Fees (Assessed if you stay at a lodge within the park boundaries)

  • Low Season (October - June ): $50/per person
  • High Season (July - September): $60/per person

Vehicle Entry Fees:

  • ~$295/vehicle

What Kind of Wildlife Can Be Found In Ngorongoro Crater?

The biggest draw to Ngorongoro Crater is the population of critically endangered Black Rhino, but that is far from the only reason to visit. Around 60 lions live in the 100 sq mile caldera as well as healthy populations of all of the Big Five. Because of the small area, it isn't simply the quantity of animals here, but rather the density. Another unique feature is the year round presence of most of the migrating animals which live in the crater. It makes Ngorongoro a top flight destination during the offseason while other parks may not be as densely populated. Giraffe & Crocodile are a few of the only animals of Tanzania that aren't found within the crater due to their inability to travers the rim.

Common Highlights: Black Rhino, Lion, Elephant, Zebra, Buffalo, Hyena, Hippo, Cheetah

Ngorongoro Crater Lodges and Accommodation

Choosing where to stay for your Ngorongoro Crater vacation can be a difficult undertaking. Early entry to the park can give visitors some time before the crowds arrive. Because of this, lodges within the park boundaries are at a premium and Mid-range budget options are limited. The luxury lodges within the park boundary are spectacular with a price tag to match. Karatu - just 20 minutes from the gate - offer much more affordable options at a better price point. The cost being you may not be able to beat that early morning rush.

See here for mid-range options

See here for luxury options

Is Ngorongoro Crater Good For a Day Trip?

Only if you're staying in Karatu. Visitors from any other location will not be able to descend and ascend the rim with enough time to make the entry fees worthwhile.

What does Ngorongoro Crater Look Like?

There are two shallow lakes in the center of the caldera often filled with Flamingos. The descent in to the crater is lined with jungle-like forest draped in a heavy mist. As you reach the bottom, the floor opens flat and wide with the outer rim jetting towards the 360 around you. Maasai hamlets can be seen as well.

A Maasai Tribesman looks out over the crater

The year-round Zebra and Wildebeest in front of the crater rim

A Black Rhino walking along the caldera floor

An Ostrich walks through the golden grass in Ngorongoro Crater in late October

A panoramic view showing Lake Magadi

A look at how steep the walls of the Ngorongoro Crater are

What is the Best Time Of Year to Visit Ngorongoro Crater?

What constitutes the best time to visit is always subjective depending on what you prioritize. In general, the things to consider with seasonality are:

How busy will it be?

Ngorongoro Crater will be busy throughout most of the year but especially during the peak seasons of nearby Serengeti National park - June through October. Low Season of April & May is the best opportunity to avoid crowds.

What is the weather like? Will the weather limit the accessibility of the park?

During dry season (June - October) typical temperatures during the day are in the low-70s and the low 50's in the early mornings and evenings. Rain is extremely rare. All areas of the park will be accessible.

During wet season temperatures are generally slightly hotter than dry season (high-70's). Regarding precipitation, the wet season is further split in two sub-seasons known as the "long rains" and "short rains."

  • The "short rains" are generally in November-December and consist of sporadic afternoon showers that will seldom effect your trip.
  • The "long rains" are usually between March and Mid-May and are characterized by more consistent rains. It usually won't rain all day, but many days will be overcast and wet.
  • Between the short & long rains (January-February) are an unpredictable dry period. It is not possible to predict when exactly it will arrive in advance.

The lodges located on the rim of the park will often be very cold during the early morning and evenings - even to the point that it may freeze overnight. Warm clothes are a must for early mornings regardless of the season.

How easily can you spot the animals?

In general, wildlife is always more difficult to find during the wet season for two reasons. First, wet season produces more vegetation. The greenery, while beautiful, gives the animals many more places to hide. Second, the animals have more access to water sources so they do not need to concentrate around fewer areas as they do during dry season. Flamingos will be here in abundance during wet season.

If you are coming in hopes of seeing the Black Rhino, the above is especially relevant. The enjoy woodlands during the wet season and can often be seen in the wide open plains in dry season.

However, due to the rim's edge the population remains similar year round and therefore Ngorongoro Crater is somewhat "immune" to seasonality when it comes to wildlife viewing. Meaning the "low season" wildlife viewing here is extremely high quality.

What are the cost differences?

Ngorongoro Crater is expensive year round. However, as with lodges in Serengeti National Park, expect to be able to save up to 30% on lodging costs during low season of April-May.

An overview:

Dry Season (June - October)
  • The weather is more pleasant. Daytime temperatures are typically in the mid 70's and evenings/mornings will be very cool and require warm clothes
  • Animals are easier to find. Less vegetation means they have fewer places to hide. Because the Black Rhino enjoys the woodland areas, this is particularly relevant for them.
  • Less rain means less mosquitoes
  • Very busy because of the popularity and small area
  • Migratory birds are not present in the park

Wet Season (November - May)
  • The weather is a bit hotter and more humid. Temperatures are in the high 70's during the day. Mornings and evenings are very cool and require warm clothes.
  • Animals may be more difficult to spot due to heavy vegetation
  • More mosquitoes
  • Less people and slightly less expensive.
  • Rain typically wont be a problem except for April-May when it may rain significant amounts. This will usually add to the time required to ascend and descend the rim.

What Is The Bottom Line?

  • Ngorongoro Crater is one of the 7 Natural Wonders of Africa and home to a large concentration of critically endangered Black Rhinoceros as well as the rest of the Big Five.
  • The small size and huge popularity make it crowded during peak season and still busy during other times of the year.
  • It is the most expensive park in Tanzania. Visiting during off-peak season can help offset lodging costs
  • Wildlife viewing is great year-round due to the difficulty for the animals to ascend the crater walls.
  • Its close proximity to Karatu, Lake Manyara, and Tarangire National Park makes it very convenient to pair with any or all of those destinations for your safari trip
  • Deciding whether to stay within the park boundaries or in nearby Karatu requires some cost/benefit analysis that Tohe can assist with.