Life in the Ngorongoro Crater

A visit to the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania is usually on everyone’s bucket list. This world heritage listed site provides a stunning backdrop for some of the best wildlife viewing .

The crater is about a two hour drive from Manyara Airport. As you enter the National Park area, the driver has to check in, so it’s a perfect time to learn about the history of the park at the nearby museum.

Before proceeding to our accommodation, we stopped to enjoy the view from the rim. It is spectacular to see the sides of the caldera rising up from the floor creating this prefect crater with Lake Magadi standing in front of us and the mini fever tree forest in another corner.

View from the rim of Ngorongoro Crater

The view over Lake Magaldi


I’m already excited about tomorrow’s visit to the park but this afternoon we will explore the area around the camp. A walk to one of the nearby lookouts will be good exercise but first we must wait for a ranger and guide to accompany us. It’s a gentle walk through the bush, slowly heading uphill with a few stops so the native flora and fauna can be explained. A villager, illegally cutting down trees is very surprised to see the ranger heading his way. The view from the lookout is over the neighbouring Masai village. Having  just been visiting the Masai in Kenya, we decide to enjoy the view and then head home to the promised gin and tonic around the fire!

View over the Masai Village from the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater

View to the Masai Village


The high cost of the entrance fees into the Park usually means that most people only spend one day in the crater. The lodge has packed a delicious picnic lunch for us so we can spend as long as we choose with the animals.

After driving down the side of the crater, we immediately come across a herd of zebra, gazelles and wildebeest grazing together. The crater is home to the ‘big five’ but you will not see giraffe, topis, impalas or crocodiles here.
The animals are free to roam outside the crater but with the abundant food and water available here, many do not move too far.

Zebra's grazing in the Ngorongoro Crater National Park

What's the secret!


Wildebeest on the move in the Ngorongoro Crater National Park

Wildebeest on the move


With the promise of seeing a lioness and her cubs, we head off down one of the many tracks that criss cross the crater floor to a well known place where this particular lioness likes to rest. It’s hard to see them in the dry grasses but eventually we do.

Lions in the Ngorongoro Crater National Park

Mum and her cubs hiding on the grass


In another corner of the park, a marshland provides the perfect habitat for the hippos and the occasional visit from a buffalo.

Buffalo in the Ngorongoro Crater National Park

Buffalo in the marshland


Hippos at Ngorongoro Crater National Park

Hippos occasionally share the marshland with buffalo


Not far from here a pride of lions is entertaining the visitors by prowling between the vehicles looking for shade. They sit under the cars or, as in our case, lie very close to the side of the vehicle. I was only an arm length away!
A bottle neck is created as no one can move.

Lions in the Ngorongoro Crater National Park

Wandering between the cars

Lions in the Ngorongoro Crater National Park

Looking for shade


Lion in Ngorongoro Crater National Park

They really are magnificent creatures


Tracks criss cross the floor of the crater and we follow these in the hope of seeing the elusive black rhino or a leopard. Another track takes us towards Lake Magadi with its large bird population. As we have to stay on the roads, we cannot get to close to the edge of the lake but the mass of pink flamingoes is impressive, even from a distance.

Flamingoes on the lake in the Ngorongoro Crater National Park

Flamingoes on the lake


All of a sudden, a large pride of lions is spotted by the guide and we pull over to watch the cubs playing. Unfortunately they are quite a way off in the distance but we can finally use the binoculars we have carried around Tanazania! The pride consists of dad and three lionesses as well as a couple of teenage lions and some baby cubs.
On the other side of the reeds a herd of buffalo graze contentedly but one has wandered away from the pack and is heading towards the lion pride. Sensing something is about to happen, a call is made on the radio and jeeps arrive from all directions. We have front row seats!

Jeeps in the Ngorongoro Crater National Park

Thank heavens it's not high season!


The lioness herds her cubs off in the opposite direction and hides them in another part of the reeds. She then returns and slowly prowls the edge of the grass, waiting to see if the buffalo is going to wander into their area.

Lion in Ngorongoro Crater National Park

The lioness on the prowl


Unfortunately for the buffalo, he wanders towards the lions. As quick as a flash, the lioness jumps on his back and the buffalo, trying to fling her off, makes it worse by heading even closer to the group. The other lionesses now join in and together they try to bite into the spinal column and bring the buffalo down. Every now and again, the male lion jumps up onto the animal while the teenagers bite at the back legs. The buffalo puts up a good fight but with such a large group, he was never going to win! Once they have all had a feed, the lioness retrieves her cubs and they are fed too.
It was a funny feeling watching this scene play out in front of us. Whilst both fascinating and upsetting, it was nature taking its course. I just wish I had had a decent camera with me!!

Lion kill in the Ngorongoro Crater National Park

The lions attacking a buffalo


We still hadn’t seen a black rhino here but after witnessing the lion kill, we felt it was time to head home and leave the park.


One more stop on the way home allowed me to have a look at the famous Ngorongoro Crater Lodge.  Zebra were grazing in the grounds as we drove in and were taken to one of the villas. Each luxurious villa is designed in the local style but with heavily european influenced interiors. The views from the villas over the crater are stunning.

Ngorongoro Crater Lodge

Zebras in the grounds of the Lodge


Interiors of the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge villas

Inside the villas


I could be very happy here but it was back to the tents for us!


Have you been to the Ngorongoro Crater National Park?




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15 Responses to Life in the Ngorongoro Crater

  1. jan February 24, 2012 at 8:21 am #

    No I have not. You got to see some amazing things. Fancy seeing a lion kill and photographing it. I think you were very lucky, although it would have been upsetting. These photos really bring the crater to life for me. Thanks.

    • atasteoftravel February 24, 2012 at 8:45 am #

      Thanks Jan. Tanzania is amazing. Seeing the lion kill was a highlight of the trip even though I had conflicting feelings. One for your bucket list!

  2. Debra Kolkka February 24, 2012 at 4:17 pm #

    My list just keeps growing. This is now on it.

    • atasteoftravel February 25, 2012 at 12:42 am #

      We don’t want to stop adding to the list do we! Tanzania is fabulous – I can highly recommend it!

  3. Johanna February 25, 2012 at 8:30 am #

    Yes, I went in 1985, when Dave and I backpacked around Malawi and Zimbabwe, and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. We ended up at Ngorongoro and Lake Manyara too. Ngorongoro was amazing, the lodge looks just the same, but the traffic seems to have increased. It was so under subscribed back then, that we were the only safari truck out there. Great pics Jenny and lovely story.

    • atasteoftravel February 28, 2012 at 10:04 pm #

      What a fabulous trip. It would have been great to have seen the animals without all the cars surrounding you. You try not to think about it but when you are there on your own, it feels quite personal

  4. Esther February 29, 2012 at 11:26 am #

    Thank you for sharing such special memories and amazing photos. We traveled to Tanzania in September – no heat, no dust. Our camp, on the rim of the crater, was adjacent to the Lemala entry route. The treetop views were stunning and we could hear the bells of the Masai cattle nearby. Amazing to see the solitary bull elephants in the crater. The rhino were quite shy and just too far away but our guide could easily spot them for us.

    • atasteoftravel February 29, 2012 at 10:11 pm #

      Hi Esther. You must have been nearby- We stayed at Lemala! I agree, it was a beautiful area to stay which is why I loved our walk. I find it fascinating how the animals come and go from the crater. After being in private game parks, it was hard having to stay on the roads and not get closer to the animals- especially the rhino. Sounds as though you had a great guide as well.
      Thankyou for stopping by and taking the time to leave your interesting comment

  5. Kieu ~ GQ trippin March 3, 2012 at 11:18 am #

    Visiting Tanzania is high on my bucket list! Your pictures remind me of a scene from Planet Earth. Lol. Great shots! I can’t believe you guys could get that close to the animals. And.. so many tourist with the line of cars. Would love to visit one day.

    • atasteoftravel March 3, 2012 at 10:21 pm #

      Thanks Kieu. I couldn’t believe how close we got to the animals either. They are so used to the jeeps now that they just ignore them.
      We were visiting in September. I’m told its chaotic in high season.
      Definately put it on your bucket list. It’s fabulous. I’d love to go back again….and again!!

  6. Caz Makepeace October 2, 2012 at 5:48 pm #

    We missed Ngorogoro Crater when we were in Africa. It was a hard decision not to go there, but we chose other game parks instead. Kinda regretting it now. These pictures are just beautiful!! Thanks for sharing

    • [email protected] October 2, 2012 at 11:27 pm #

      Thanks Caz. Ngorongoro Crater is worth seeing once but you wouldn’t keep going back there. Great to see a lion kill even though it was a bit confronting to watch!

  7. InsideJourneys November 2, 2012 at 12:18 am #

    We’re planning to go next year. I can’t believe the line of vehicles and it wasn’t even high season! I’ll keep that in mind. Not sure I’d want to see a kill, though.

    • [email protected] November 2, 2012 at 5:20 pm #

      The large number of vehicles is one of the scary things about the Ngorongoro Crater. We thought long and hard about whether we would include it on our itinerary for this reason but in the end we decided to as we were not in high season. The kill was fascinating..nature at work so, as hard as it is, you have to accept it.

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