The Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) is an extensive highland area along the eastern arm of the Rift Valley, with the world-renowned Ngorongoro Crater as its focal point. It is not a national park in the strict sense of the word, but the NCA was established to conserve wildlife and other natural resources. It also safeguards the interests of indigenous people and promotes tourism. Thus, guests on safari have the unique experience of seeing Maasai herdsmen whose cattle graze side by side with the tremendous variety of wildlife found in the area.
Unmatched for its natural variety, there are few places on earth where such a tremendous diversity of landscapes exist inside a region this size. Apart from its wildlife riches, the NCA is also of great archaeological importance, with the remains of some of mankind’s earliest ancestors discovered in the area.
The largest intact caldera in the world, the Ngorongoro Crater shelters one of the most beautiful wildlife havens anywhere. A permanent population of more than 30 000 animals inhabit a mere 260 km² (100 square miles) in the 600 m (2 000 ft) deep crater, making this one of the few places in Africa where guests stand a great chance of seeing the entire Big Five in the course of a single game drive.
An estimated 25 000 mammals are resident in the Crater, including large herds of resident wildebeest, 16 highly endangered black rhino and around 70 lions. Nomadic cheetah move in and out of the area and leopard are most often encountered in the Lerai Forest. Both golden and black-backed jackal are abundant, while the normally shy and nocturnal serval are frequently spotted during daylight hours. Vast numbers of buffalo, zebra and Thomson’s gazelle also occur. Large numbers of both lion and spotted hyena are also resident in the Crater.