The Ngorongoro conservation area boasts the finest blend of landscapes, wildlife, people, and archeological sites in Africa. Often called an "African Eden" and the eighth wonder of the natural world; it is also a pioneering experiment in multiple land use means. For the Ngorongoro conservation area, the idea of multiple land use means allowing humans and wildlife to coexist in a natural setting. Traditional African pastoralists co-operate with Tanzania government bodies to help to preserve the natural resources of the area to ensure an experience for tourists.
The first view of the Ngorongoro crater takes your breath away. Ngorongoro conservation is a huge caldera (collapsed volcano) 250 sq km in size and 600m deep. The crater alone has over 20,000 large animals including some of Tanzania's last remaining black rhinos. The rhino emerges from the forests in the mists of, early morning, and their prehistoric figures make a striking impression, surrounded by ancient crater walls. No fences or boundaries border the crater walls; animals are free to enter or leave the crater, but many of them stay for plentiful water grazing available on the crater floor throughout the year.
Open grassland covers most of the crater floor, turning yellow with wildflowers in June. The Makat soda lake is a great attraction for flamingos and other water birds, while predators hide in the marsh to ambush animals that come to drink from the river that feeds the lake. Also on the crater floor are swamps, providing water and habitat for elephants and hippos as well as numerous smaller creatures such as frogs, snakes, and serval cats. Game viewing around Lake Makat is especially rewarding-large antelope-like zebras and gazelles come to drink, while herds of hippos sun-bake in the thick lakeshores mud.
The Lerai forest on the crater floor gets its name from the Maasai word for the elegant yellow-backed acacia trees, elephants often graze in the forest shade during midday, emerging into the open plains during the early hours of the morning and in the evening, as the midday heat abates. The small forest patches on the crater floor are home to leopards, monkeys, baboons, and antelopes such as waterbucks and bushbuck
Human and their distant ancestors have been part of the Ngorongoro landscape for millions of years. The earliest signs of mankind in the conservation area are at Laitoli, where hominid footprints are preserved in volcanic rocks 3.6 million years old.
The story continues at Olduvai Gorge, a river canyon cut 100m deep through the volcanic soil of the Serengeti plains, buried in the layers are the remains of animals and hominids that lived and died around a shallow lake amid grassy plains and woodlands. These remains date from two million years ago. Visitors can learn more details of this fascinating story by visiting the site, where guides give a fascinating on-site interpretation of the gorge.
The most numerous and recent inhabitants of the Ngorongoro area are Maasai, who arrived about 200 years ago. Their strong insistence on traditional costumes interests many visitors. As of today, there are approximately 42,000 Maasai pastoralists living in Ngorongoro with their cattle, goats, and sheep. Their presence is the main difference between the Ngorongoro conservation area and Tanzania's national parks which do not allow human habitation. Cultural "bomas" or Maasai villages, give visitors the chance to meet Maasai people on their own terms and learn more about this complex and interesting culture.