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Ngorongoro Crater In Tanzania – A Complete Guide

An Ngorongoro crater safari is one of the most amazing experiences in Tanzania. One of the few places to spot the big five, here’s a complete guide.

How To Get To Ngorongoro Crater

The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is a protected 8,292 km² area and a World Heritage Site, located in the Eastern (Great) Rift Valley, northern Tanzania. It lies 150 km west of Arusha in the Crater Highlands area of Tanzania.

The area is named after Ngorongoro Crater, a large volcanic caldera, measuring between 10 and 12 miles (16 and 19 km).

The crater can be reached via paved road from Arusha in just over four hours, which is also the closest domestic airport.

Kilimanjaro is the closest international airport (250km away), a 5 hour drive from Ngorongoro Crater.

Transport to Ngorongoro Crater will be included in your safari, so just be sure to let your chosen safari company know which accommodation you’re staying at, in advance.

When you arrive for your Ngorongoro safari, it’s a 30 minute descent from the entrance.

Who To Book Your Ngorongoro Crater Safari With

For our first ever African Safari, we chose to go with Shadows of Africa, and here’s why we highly recommend them.

Over a 4 day period, we explored Tarangire National Park, Ngorongoro Crater, visited local Maasai and Hadzabe tribes, plus we stayed at some unbelievable accommodations on our Tanzania safari itinerary.

Seeing the animals up close and personally was obviously incredible, but the organisation and service by the whole team was definitely the cherry on top of the whole experience.

Shadows Of Africa was born in 2010 and consists of a team of like-minded people, who have spent an extensive amount of time living and traveling around Africa.

The guides at Shadows of Africa were our eyes and ears of the experience, and our main driver Moody was such a knowledgeable and likeable guy.

All of the guides speak fluent English and have a real passion for the wildlife of Africa. They were happy to answer any questions we had, and made the trip a memorable one for sure.

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The entrance to Ngorongoro Crater Safari

Ngorongoro Crater Safari Entrance Fee

All safari prices differ depending on whether you choose to customise your package or what type of experience you’re looking for.

We opted for the Four Day Tanzania Express Safari where we visited Tarangire National Park, Ngorongoro Crater, a local Maasai Tribe and the Hadzabe Tribe. As well some beautiful accommodations!

This tour is priced at roughly $2,275 USD per person based on a two person group and we cannot recommend it enough!

However, you can send Shadows Of Africa a free enquiry, as well as check out the vast range of fully customisable safari packages they offer.

Ngorongoro Safari Animals Ngorongoro Crater Safari Ngorongoro National Park Tanzania
Incredible views on the descent into Ngorongoro crater

What’s Included In The Ngorongoro Crater Safari?

Below, you will be able to see what exactly is included in a typical Shadows of Africa safari:

  • All meals on the safari – When staying at lodges, you will be on full board basis so when you’re budget camping then the accompanying chef will prepare delicious warm meals.
  • All park entrance fees & taxes.
  • Flying Doctors rescue insurance for the time of the tour with Shadows of Africa.
  • Hotel/lodge/camp accommodation for the duration of the safari.
  • Private 4×4 wheel drive vehicle with a roof hatch and sliding windows. This allows a 360 degree view of the wildlife surrounding you.
  • First aid kit – Every safari vehicle comes standard with a fully stocked first aid kit. Shadows of Africa guides are all trained in providing basic first aid.
  • Spare tyres – For any unforeseen issues that may arise in the bumpy African outback
  • Charging station – Each car includes a charging station so you can charge your phone, camera battery, or laptop while on the road.
  • WIFI – The Tanzanian vehicles come standard with WiFi so that you can stay connected while on the road.
  • Tea & Coffee – Every safari departs with a box, which includes coffee and tea that can be enjoyed at any point during your safari.
  • Binoculars – 1 pair per car.
  • Professional English speaking safari and tour guide/driver.
  • Unlimited drinking water.
Lunch With Shadows Of Africa Ngorongoro Safari Animals Ngorongoro Crater Safari Tanzania
The 5 star lunch set up with the Shadows Of Africa team

Best Times To Visit Ngorongoro Crater

Best Times:

June, July, August, September, October, November

Good Times:

December, January, February

OK Times:

March, April, May

In terms of value for money, the periods just on the edge of peak season and low season are when you can get the best deals.

Travelling around November is a great time to go, because all the accommodations drop their rates as of the 1st November.

Between June and October, which is the solid dry season in Tanzania, is when the animals are easiest to spot.

This is when the undergrowth has receded and animals tend to gather conveniently around waterholes and rivers.

The only advantages the wetter months offer are fewer people and low-season accommodation rates.

However wildlife can be spotted all year round. Most camps and lodges are open all year round too.

A number of luxury lodgings are available on the rim of the crater, plus more affordable options are available in the nearby town of Karatu.

Weather & Climate

Conditions at Ngorongoro vary depending on the altitude.

Higher up, at the crater itself, it can get quite cold at night, particularly up on the rim. But down in the crater it stays quite warm. During the area’s dry season (June to October), there’s barely a cloud in the sky.

In the wet season (November to May), you’re likely to experience rain and a brief dry spell.

Lunch With Shadows Of Africa Ngorongoro Safari Animals Ngorongoro Crater Safari Tanzania
We found a love heart tree on our lunch stop

Animals Found In The Ngorongoro Crater

Ngorongoro Crater is home to the Big five and is also densely populated with other wildlife, including an estimated 6,000 wildebeest.


Black Rhino, Elephants, Hippo, Buffalo, Zebra, Wildebeest, Lion, Cheetah, Hyena, Warthog, Grant’s and Thomson’s gazelles, Eland.


Giraffe, Leopard.

Giraffes are not present in the in the crater because of the steep descent/lack of trees, but easy to spot on the way in along the crater rim.

It is possible to spot the Big Five on a Ngorongoro Crater safari. The big five being, rhino, elephant, buffalo, lion and leopard. However, leopards are more difficult to find.

The area contains over 25,000 large animals, including 26 black rhinos. There are 7,000 wildebeests, 4,000 zebras, 3,000 eland and 3,000 Grant’s and Thomson’s gazelles. The crater also has the densest known population of lions, numbering at 62.

A visit to the Ngorongoro Crater is an experience of a lifetime. There are few places that have wildlife variety on this level and it is not so unusual to see the Big Five in one day at Ngorongoro crater.

Not only that, it has the most amazing setting, with the backdrop of a 600m high crater wall. The crater is the only intact caldera in the world.

The Black Rhino

Black rhinos in Ngororongoro crater are a rare species, whose presence has made a huge impact on the tourism industry in Tanzania.

It’s extremely common for tourists to choose the Ngorongoro safari, specifically to see black rhinos.

There are currently 26 rhinos living in Ngorongoro crater.

Rhinos Ngorongoro Safari Animals Ngorongoro Crater Safari Tanzania
Ngorongoro safari – an experience of a lifetime!
Lions Ngorongoro Safari Animals Ngorongoro Crater Safari Tanzania
Charlie in the front row seat, eyeing up the game!
Lions Ngorongoro Safari Animals Ngorongoro Crater Safari Tanzania
Sleeping lions
Wildebeest Ngorongoro Safari Animals Ngorongoro Crater Safari Tanzania
Hanging out with the Wildebeest
Cape Buffalo Ngorongoro Safari Animals Ngorongoro Crater Safari Tanzania
Cape Buffalo – one of the big five game
Zebras Ngorongoro Safari Animals Ngorongoro Crater Safari Tanzania
The most majestic animals from our Ngorongoro safari were definitely the zebras
Warthog Ngorongoro Safari Animals Ngorongoro Crater Safari Tanzania
Hakuna Matata!
Hippos Ngorongoro Safari Animals Ngorongoro Crater Safari Tanzania
The sleepiest animals on our Ngorongoro safari – Hippos

Ngorongoro Safari Packing List

We’ve put together a simple check list of items you will probably want to pack prior to your Ngorongoro Crater Safari.

Day Bag (For Cameras & Personal Items)

Long Sleeve Shirts
Long Pants
Lightweight Rain Jacket
Comfortable Shoes/Walking Boots
Sweatpants (for wearing around camp)

Weather Dependant:
Thermals/Leggings (for layering if it’s cold)
Beanie Hat

Sun Protection:

Safety/First Aid:
Hand Sanitiser
Deet (Mosquito Repellant)
Anti Malaria Tablets
First Aid Kit

Tech Gear/Accessories:
Spare Battery
Zoom Lens
Portable Powerbank
Money Belt
US Dollars (for local markets/tips)
Travel Insurance

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Taking in the incredible views of Ngorongoro crater

Where To Stay In Ngorongoro


Neptune Ngorongoro Luxury Lodge – All Inclusive

Neptune Ngorongoro Luxury Lodge is located in the Karatu district, surrounded by the highlands of Tanzania.

It features a swimming pool as well as a sundeck and a spa.

Each luxury suite features a spacious viewing terrace and an open fireplace. It has a living room with a sofa and dining area.

The Acacia Restaurant has a formal dining room with an outdoor terrace and serves a la carte meals along with a buffet. Dinner at the pool or in the bush can also be arranged.

Wi-Fi is available in the public areas of the lodge too.


Karatu Tented Lodge

Karatu Tented Lodge is a 4 star hotel that offers room service, family rooms and a tour desk.

The accommodation features a restaurant, outdoor swimming pool, and a bar and garden in Karatu.

At the hotel, every room includes a closet. Karatu Tented Lodge provides certain units that include a patio and garden view.

However, every room comes with a private bathroom and a desk along with a fully equipped seating area. Continental breakfast is also available daily.


Lilac Elevate Inn

Lilac Elevate Inn provides accommodation, free private parking and a restaurant and bar.

Among the facilities at this property are a 24-hour front desk and room service, in addition with free WiFi throughout the property.

Guests can also enjoy city views from this hotel. All rooms have a desk, as well as a private bathroom that is equipped with a shower and free toiletries.

Some units at Lilac Elevate Inn also have a seating area. Guests at the accommodation can also enjoy a Full English/Irish breakfast.

For more places to stay in Ngorongoro, you can check the latest prices on

Planning Your Trip

Book Your Flight

Use Skyscanner to find a cheap flight.

They search websites and airlines around the globe to find you the best possible routes and prices.

Book Your Accommodation

Use to find the best accommodation deals.

They consistently return the cheapest rates on everything from guesthouses to hotels for all of your budget needs.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance

Use SafetyWing to find the best travel insurance for you.

They provide travel and medical incident insurance built specifically for digital nomads.

Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations.

Book Your Tours & Activities

Use GetYourGuide to book your activities in advance.

They sell the best tours, excursions and activities to attractions around the world.

Conveniently book, download and access your tickets on the move all from your mobile.

Book Your Rental Car

Use to find the best deals on rental cars in the area.

They compare all major car rental companies and allow you to easily book the perfect vehicle for your trip.

Buy Those Last Minute Bits

Use Amazon to buy everything you need for your adventure.

They offer next day delivery and you can use my travel packing checklist to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything.

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Ngorongoro Safari In Tanzania Guide