I have to admit the Ngorongoro crater provides one of the most beautiful backdrops for spotting wildlife! And yes, we did see a huge amount of wildlife, both in the crater as in Lake Manyara national park. However, despite all this do read the downsides of traveling in Tanzania and why you may want to forego on Tanzania safari… It is important that you are aware of these downsides as they hugely impact your overall experience!… These also partly apply to the famous island of Zanzibar, so do read both posts carefully when planning your trip!
We combined our visit to Ngorongoro with a visit to neighbouring Lake Manyara national park. This park is far more “bushy” than Masai Mara or Ngorongoro. It reminded me the most to our safari in Yala national park in Sri Lanka.
Given the many trees, you will undoubtedly come across countless monkeys. But we also saw many warthogs, elephants, hippos and various birds! You will also stop at a pick nick area that overlooks Lake Manyara and the surrounding national park. It is a nice park to visit as the forest provides a different safari experience. However, if bound for time or in case it saves costs you could leave this park out of your itinerary. You will likely see all the animals described above (and more) in the Ngorongoro crater… which we visited the next day…
As already mentioned, the scenery of the crater is just amazing! And despite some of the Tanzanian downsides, it is one of the key natural wonders on the African continent!
Ngorongoro is the world’s largest inactive, intact and unfilled volcanic caldera. The crater was formed when a large volcano exploded and collapsed on itself two to three million years ago. It is 610 meter (2,000 feet) deep and its floor covers 260 square kilometres (100 square miles).
Unlike other safaris, you do not need to wake up early, as the crater rim will be misty in the mornings. We thought we left “late” around 8 am but still did not see a thing when driving on the rim. Only when you start driving down into the crater it starts to clear up. Best views from the rim into the crater will be in the afternoon (upon your return).
The crater is teeming with wildlife and you will be sure to see Elephants, Lions, warthogs, hippos, buffalos, zebras, wildebeests, flamingos, and many other birds. If you are lucky you also have a good chance to see a rhino. And as mentioned the crater rim backdrop is unique!…
Safari Jeep Traffic Jam downside
I also touch upon this in my post explaining the downsides of travelling of a Tanzanian safari. One apparent downside of safari in Tanzania is the overabundance of safari jeeps! It is not very hard to spot wildlife, as you just have to drive up to a congested area of jeeps. This was a bit disappointing for us, given we had a much more pleasant experience in Masai Mara, Kenya.
It is not that the crater is small, on the contrary, it really is huge! It is also not that there are too many jeeps, as they could be easily spread out. The key issue is that there are only limited roads in the park. On top of this, the rangers are enforcing the rules very strict (read: too strict). You can feel that the guides are afraid to make a “mistake” or to drive slightly off the path just to overtake another jeep. It is likely this will have “financial” repercussions in the ranger’s favour.
Unbelievable and annoying congestion
When we spotted a rhino or to put it better… we spotted a line of jeeps. In a matter of a few minutes, there were at least 50 Jeeps congested on a small road. All trying to get a peek of the rhino. This was just crazy! It took us ages to get out of this traffic jam! It would really help if they would just make a few smaller side roads. This way you can get a bit closer to an animal and the traffic would run smoother through the park.
I know I keep comparing… But just read my blog about Masai Mara in Kenya, where this issue is non-existing! (And we went in peak season as well!).
In case you were wondering… The photo below shows a long line of double-parked jeeps, not buffalos or wildebeests, as would be a far nicer sight!…
So should you visit Tanzania, and in particular Ngorongoro or not? Well, the crater is definitely beautiful… And if your visit is part of a larger African, or Tanzanian, adventure, certainly include this in your itinerary! If you have time, do also explore Lake Manyara! However, if you are “only” looking for a great safari experience, you can likely guess my answer. I would not go to Tanzania, given the downsides provided. Instead, I would go to Masai Mara, Kenya instead!
I hope this helped you! Please drop me a comment with your experiences! Or perhaps you do not agree with me at all? Happy to hear your thoughts!