Chichen Itza
Gebel Berkal

World Heritage Site

for World Heritage Travellers



The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is a nature reserve which main feature is the Ngorongoro Crater. The crater floor is covered with open grassy plains that hold both fresh and brackish water lakes.

It is the world's largest unbroken, unflooded volcanic caldera. The Crater formed when a giant volcano exploded and collapsed on itself some two to three million years ago.

Ngorongoro is thought of as "a natural enclosure" for a very wide variety of wildlife. It has the densest known population of lion in the world. The most commonly seen animals are gazelles, zebra and wildebeest.

At its inscription special notice was taken of the balance between conservation and the needs of the Maasai pastoralists who still take their livestock into the reserve.

Map of Ngorongoro


  • Mixed

Visit December 2008

Ngoro Ngoro is the sound cow bells make. At least this is one of the possible origins of the name Ngorongoro. These bells you hear right away when descending the 600 meters from the crater rim. Some Maasai herdsmen are leading their herds down for water. These herds consist of dozens if not hundreds of cows.

At the crater floor we encounter only birds at first, such as cranes and the sacred ibis. The major salt lake also holds numerous flamingos. Unfortunately you cannot come close, but a pink glow can be seen. Not far away is a mud bath full of hippos. These are more lively than the ones we saw in the Serengeti. They perform a full circle of 360 degrees with their fat bodies, so they get completely covered by the mud.

December 2008

On a plain our driver suddenly spots a rhinoceros. There are only 22 of them in the crater, so it's a rare appearance. He is moving among a group of wildebeest and buffaloes. With this (black) rhino, we have completed seeing the "Big Five" of predators in two days (lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard, rhinoceros).

Another highlight comes from a family of hyena just along the road. We first see a male and a pregnant female hurrying in front of our jeep. A little further it shows that they were on their way to their little ones, which are half hidden in a pit. There are three kids in all. The whole family then huddles together nicely in the pit which is full of mud. A few meters away a large warthog is buried in the same way.

December 2008

After lunch we drive through a part of the 260 square kilometres large crater which seems to hold fewer animals. On the crater wall there are huge herds of wildebeest, just like ants when seen from a distance. Also, there are zebras, as they are everywhere.

In a corner of the crater floor is a spot with higher grass and trees. Here we see lions again. Six of them stretched out in the grass. And then four females with two children. The latter are close to the road and look at the visitors in the jeeps. Their mothers, however, all look the other way: they have their eyes on two zebras. One lioness slowly creeps through the high grass. Two others remain on the lookout. The fourth has started a large move to the zebras from the other side to surprise them. We continue to look for a long time, but it doesn't come to an attack. Lions need to be very close to their prey to be successful, they then jump on top of it by surprise.

December 2008

Community Reviews

Peter Howard, Kenya 16-Jan-11

Ngorongoro by Peter Howard

I have visited Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area several times in recent years to photograph and carry out research for a forthcoming book about Africa's natural world heritage sites. A slideshow of my best photographs is now available on the African Natural Heritage website, together with comments, other information about the park, a map and links to other websites including satellite images from Google Earth. There is also a dowloadable article I wrote for the official UNESCO world heritage magazine which discusses some of the conservation challenges facing the area as its managers try to balance the needs of conservation with the growing demands of the resident Maasai pastoralist people. Follow the link below:


Florencio Moreno-Anega, Spain 05-Jul-06

This is one of the most special places that I visited in all the world. Simply magic and unique. Highly recommended to everybody and, of course, to those loving wildlife.

Brandon Davis, United States

I recently visited Tanzania on safari for my honeymoon. We visited in early July and spent almost two weeks there. On our travels we visited the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. It was amazing. Although we were there during the dry season and everything wasn't as lush as in pictures I had seen, it was beautiful. The weather was cool to cold along the rim, but inside the crater it was perfect weather for safari. Because of it being the dry season the tsetse flies were minimal and mosquitos were not a problem. We saw lions, hyenas, black-backed and common jackals, elephants, DeFassa's waterbuck, vervet monkeys, baboons, plenty of hippos, wildebeast, zebra, Thomson and Grant gazelle, flamingo, three species of eagles, various water birds, buffalo, and four black rhino. Amazing!! A lifetime experience for naturalists. A nice note is that the crater closes at 6 pm daily and this is strictly enforced. Park rangers watch your every move from above. The needs of the animals are definitely the priority here.

Joan McNaughton, Canada

Returned to Canada from a great tour. Enjoyed our time at the crater very much. Had excellent guides/drivers with Leopard Tours, stayed at Serena Lodges and enjoyed them all very much. The Serenena Lodge at the Crater being one of my favourite. Food excellent, staff wonderful. Room very comfortable, enjoyed the cooler evening for sleeping. Saw an amazing rainbow late afternoon over the crater out my door - great photo. Saw lions, rhino, huge elephant lots of other animals also. Would have liked to see more rhino, but at least saw the one. Great day, would like to explore area surrounding crater more - next time! Enjoyed seeing the Maasai with their herds, missed them when we got to the Serengeti. Was not overly impressed with Olduvi Gorge, but it was OK.

Share your experiences!

Have you been to Ngorongoro? Add your own review!

Community Rating

Community Rating 4.17. Based on 3 votes.

Site Info

Full name: Ngorongoro Conservation Area

Unesco ID: 39

Inscribed: 1979

Type: Mixed

Criteria: 7   8   9   10  

Link: By Name By ID

Site History

  • 2010 - Extended Extension to add cultural criteria: "because of the extraordinary record of human evolution at the site"
  • 1989 - Removed from Danger list 
  • 1984 - In Danger Management shortcomings
  • 1979 - Inscribed 


The site has 1 locations.

  • Ngorongoro


The site has 27 connections.


  • Rhino habitat
  • Big Five: The 1992 IUCN list of mammals in the AB evaluation includes all 5 (of which buffalo, elephant and leopard were present "on the crater rim" 9but (but still within the inscribed area) whilst Rhino and Lion were "in the crater". As of 2009 it is thought that all are still present, with the Rhino the most threatened.
  • Critically endangered fauna species: Black Rhinoceros - General: "Population size collapsed during the last century, from an estimated 65,000 animals in 1970 to a mere 2,300 in the 1990s. Rhino numbers are now increasing, but recovery is slow"; in Nogorongoro: "between 11-14 in 1995" Link
  • Elephants: African elephant
  • Ratites: common ostrich
  • Strepsirrhini: brown greater galago
  • Fossils: Although the interpretation of many of the assemblages of Olduvai Gorge is still debatable, their extent and density are remarkable. Several of the type fossils in the hominin lineage come from this site. (OUV, crit iv)



  • Early Hominid Remains: Based on fossil evidence found at the Olduvai Gorge, it is known that various hominid species have occupied the area for 3 million years.
  • Archaeological 'Type Sites': Olduvai Gorge - Oldowan Culture ("Even though Olduvai Gorge is the type site, Oldowan tools from here are not the oldest known examples" Wiki) Link

Human Activity

  • Traditional Hunting: Ritual lion hunting (Ala-mayo) was banned in the 1970s but Masai are allowed to kill lions in retaliation against wildlife attacks Link
  • Indigenous groups expelled: Maasai. “Perhaps the most critical land loss was experienced by the pastoralists living on the floor of the Ngorongoro Crater. As a consequence of the villagization programme of the mid 1970s and the hardening conservation rule they were evicted from the Ngorongoro Crater in the late 1970s. Grazing and watering of livestock in the Crater, covering an area of some 250 square km, were prohibited -  Link

Individual People

  • Leakey Family: Olduvai in the Ngorongoro conservation area was also famously "discovered" by Mary and Richard.
  • Female Archaeologists : Mary Leakey (nee Nicol, 1913-1996) "For much of her career she worked with her husband, Louis Leakey, in the Olduvai Gorge, .... uncovering the tools and fossils of ancient hominenes. Leakey developed a system for classifying the stone tools found at Olduvai" (Wiki)  Link


  • Early Pleistocene: Olduvai Gorge gave its name to "Oldowan". This "is the archaeological term used to refer to the stone tool industry that was used by Hominines during the Lower Paleolithic period. The Oldowan is significant for being the earliest stone tool industry in prehistory, being used from 2.6 million years ago up until 1.7 million years ago" (Wiki) Later remains have also been found at Olduvai.


WHS on Other Lists