Published on April 3rd, 2013 | by Andrew Garcia


Safari’s for Dummies

The Best First-Time Safari Destination

Want to see a natural world wonder, a lion, an African elephant, Cape buffalo, leopard and rhinoceros all in one trip? Finding the big five and the natural world wonder calls for a trip to the Ngorongoro Crater to Tanzania.

Around three million years ago the Ngorongoro Crater was created by the enormous explosion of a 20,000 foot tall volcano. At the site of the explosion now is the rich volcanic floor surrounded by 600 meter high walls. It hosts over 30,000 different animals, including the much coveted big five. Due to lack of migration in the crater it is one place you usually can be guaranteed to see the big five on just one day of safari which is a huge bonus to many first time safari goers who want to see everything!


You may be lucky enough to see a male Lion

Imagine looking over an enormous valley sprinkled with animals of all kinds, in the center is the bright blue Lake Magadi that is covered with the pink iridescent color of flamingos. You can hear the hyenas giggle and whoop in the background as a lion roars echoes on the crater walls. It is a loud place with so many animals, but it is a more serene type of clatter varying starkly with the hustle and bustle of human civilization.

You can never be completely ready for you first safari or your first sighting of the Ngorongoro crater which is one of Africa’s most famous destinations. Repeat visitors describe a sense of humble awe upon each return to the largest unbroken caldera in the world. When you see it, you will know why it is one of the seven natural wonder of the world.


What Animals You Will See   

Wildebeest and Zebras in the Maasai Mara

Zebras and Wildebeast grazing

It is not unusual at all to see the big five in just one day on safari in Ngorongoro. It is the best place to find the big five in one trip. There is a thriving population of black rhino which is growing every year. The largest tuskers elephants still left in Africa today can be found in the crater, but seeing any size elephant is satisfying to most. The largest populations in the crater are of lions, leopards and hyena along with large herds of wildebeest, buffalo and zebra for the predators to munch on. Jackals, zebras, several cats, cheetahs, gazelles, flamingos, bats, bat eared foxes and oddly enough, porcupines are common to see. The crater is a bird watchers heave with 400 different species of birds. In other shorts, you will see a lot of African critters, and it is a perfect place for someone who wants to see or take pictures of a wide variety of animals.

A big bonus of the crater is that the animals tend to be less shy of human then at other safari destination. I’m not sure how good this is for the animals long-term, but it makes safari vehicles capable of getting up close to get a good gander at the animals.


An elephant gathering at the watering hole

When to Go

The great thing about this particular destination is the game stays in the crater all year. At other destinations the animals migrate, but since the crater provides food and water year rounds animals tend to stay put. This means there is no good or bad time to go as far as animal spotting goes.

Different times of year will bring different things to see though. During the rainy season, November to April, the animals congregate to give birth. In Early March you can see some migration going on which creates lots of predator and prey situations that are fascinating to see in person. These months tend to be the peak season for tourist, so if you aren’t into crowds you may want to try the dry season.

The dry season is May to October. During dry season game is concentrated around permanent water sources. This means most of your safari will be concentrated around the lakes since the Short Grass Plains will be devoid of animals. There is also the benefit of no or little rain if you hate gloomy weather.


What Activities are Available 

Inside the craters only game driving is allowed. There is no foot traffic. You will be going on safari in a vehicle which is the status quo as far as safaris goes. Walking around with lions, elephants and rhinos just isn’t safe for the inexperienced safari goer.

The Ngrorongoro Conservation area, outside of the crater, offers a lot of physical activities like walking, hiking trekking, viewing the Olduvai Gorge, and visiting the Masai and other tribes. Visiting with the Masai is a very special way to support the local tribe’s way of living while learning about the people who live in this unique part of the world.


Who doesn’t love Giraffes?

Where to Stay

If you can afford it, I recommend the Ngorongoro Crater lodge that goes for 3,000 dollars a night (which of course most of us cannot afford). There are two things to consider when choosing lodging near the crater, what you can afford and whether you want to stay on or off the crater rim. Either way, there are astounding views to be had, but the lodging is always pretty expensive (but very beautiful and unique). When you begin budgeting for your trip, you should definitely calculate the cost of the lodging. It will be a major portion of the cost!

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