Statistically speaking, Ngorongoro Crater is the largest intact and unfilled volcanic caldera in the world. The circular crater is some twelve miles across, with steep walls of more than 2,000 feet. The crater’s rim is 7,500 feet above sea level, the highest altitude reached on your trip. There are estimates that indicate the original volcano could have reached a summit around 19,000 feet (5,800 m), which would have made it a rival of Mount Kilimanjaro.
Aesthetically speaking, Ngorongoro Crater is a scenic wildlife bowl. The scenic overlook provides a breath taking view of the crater floor. However, it is the wildlife encounters on the crater floor that make Ngorongoro Crater a true wonder. Because of a permanent supply of water and a precise balance of predator and prey, most of the wildlife remains here year-round. There are around 25,000 large mammals including elephant, rhino, lion, leopard (usually on crater rim) buffalo and hippo accounting for six of the Big Seven. The majority of the 25,000 large mammals are ungulates with the highlight being the elephants. These elephants have large tusks and are part of the “Big Tuskers” of Africa. The birdlife is equally diverse, ranging from the scavenging vulture and bustard to the magnificent eagle and crested crane. The caldera is often considered an enclosed area that prevents animals from leaving, however this is not the case. Wildebeests and zebra migrate through the crater annually with only small populations remaining year round. The buffaloes migrate into the crater during the rainy season.
What is Ngorongoro Crater weather like?
Tanzania does not experience summer and winter seasons and the same is true for Ngorongoro Crater. The consideration is about rainy versus dry season. The “short rains” target the months of November and December with the “long rains” occuring during months of March, April and May. Although it is weather and unpredictable, the months of January and February are usually drier months. Temperatures average around 73oF (23oC) on the crater floor while evening temperatures fall to around 43oF (6oC).
During the months of the dry season that occurs between June and October, the temperatures on the crater floor average around 66oF (23oC). Temperatures can approach and even drop below freezing in the evening hours.
When is the best time to visit Ngorongoro Crater?
Ngorongoro Crater can technically be experienced year round, however there are better times to go. The best time to go to Ngorongoro Crater is during the months of January and February. It is during these months that the wildebeest are giving birth and more prevalent in the crater floor. It is also common to see baby zebra, warthog and other newborns during these months. Bird viewing is considered the best during these months because of migratory patterns.
The short rains from November and December have also revitalized the plant life creating green grasses and brushes. The flamingos have also migrated to the pond creating an amazing picturesque scene. All the new babies and abundance of wildlife makes the predators more lively and prevalent.
Travelers should overall avoid the months of March, April and May (long rain months) because the roads can become impassable or at least more challenging to navigate and the rains make it more challenging to experience the wildlife.
The second best, while some say the best, travel season occurs during the months of June through October. The reason some argue that this is the best is because the vegetation is more scarce which means the animals are more congregated for easier viewing. There is less of a chance of rain during these months as compared to January and February, which can easily experience a shower. One of the other highlights for this travel season is the absence of mosquitoes. The drawbacks for this season are more crowds and colder evenings.
Collectively, the months of July through February are considered high season. The short rains of November and December are normally short afternoon rains that quickly come and go.