Ngorongoro Conservation Area
A UNESCO protected World Heritage Site and an International Biosphere Reserve, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area is situated some 190 km. west of Arusha, between Lake Manyara and Serengeti National Parks. Covering approximately 8,288 square km, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area consists of the Ngorongoro Crater itself, the Olduvai Gorge and Ndutu, the Empakai crater and the Oldonyo Lengai Mountain.
The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is a pioneering experiment in multi-purpose land use where people (the Maasai), their livestock and wildlife coexist and share the same protected habitat.
Wild animals are protected as in the National Parks. The craters of Ngorongoro and Empakai are reserved exclusively for wildlife, while the rest of the Conservation Area is shared by wildlife, people and livestock. The Maasai, the main residents of Ngorongoro, are pastoralists who move widely with their herds of cattle, sheep, goat and donkeys in search of pasture and water.
In recent years the Maasai have been encouraged to work on the land and supplement their traditional diet of milk, blood and meat. The Ngorongoro Crater, which is the central attraction in the area, is the largest Caldera in the world that has its walls intact. The Ngorongoro Crater floor, a sheer drop of 610 meters below the crater rim, has an area of 265 sq. km, with a diameter of 19 km. The sight of the Ngorongoro Crater is simply stunning.
“There is nothing with which to compare. It is one of the wonders of the world….” once wrote Professor Bernard Grzimek. The crater floor is covered with plains animals, including wildebeest, zebra, gazelles, elands, rhino, and a large predator population of lions, hyena and jackal which can all be viewed at close quarters. Cheetah and leopard can also be seen here.
The rainy season is between November and May. The altitude at the crater rim is about 2286 metres above sea level, and temperatures can get quite chilly in the evening.
The Olduvai Gorge, popularly referred to as “The Cradle of Humankind”, is the site where in 1959 Dr. Louis Leakey discovered the skull of Zinjanthropus or “Nutcracker Man” believed to have lived 1.75 million years ago. Later reclassified as Australopithecus boisei, this creature had a massive skull though small brained (500 cc) with huge teeth.
Several months later Dr. Leakey found another fossil hominid in the same layer of excavation, called Homo habilis or “handy man”, smaller than the “Nutcracker Man” but with a larger brain (600 cc) and capable of making simple stone tools.