The world-famous Ngorongoro Crater is one of the highlights of an East African safari. The crater is an ancient caldera formed 3 million years ago by a collapsing volcano. The breath-taking sides of the crater, as well as its picturesque lake, make an impressive backdrop against which to enjoy game drives. The crater is home to over 25,000 resident large animals, one of the greatest densities in Africa. It is one of the most popular destinations in Africa for tourists. As such, it can get extremely busy. For this reason, the number of vehicles is limited, and guests can only travel one route through the crater.
The Ngorongoro Crater is one of the best places in Tanzania to see the Big Five (lion, elephant, buffalo, rhino and leopard). The crater is home to a population of black rhino and is renowned for its big-tusker elephants. The crater is home to herds of wildebeest and zebra. Thompson gazelle and buffalo among other wildlife.
The region has been inhabited by man for millennia. Archaeological finds at nearby Olduvai Gorge and Laetoli provide fossil evidence of the earliest hominid species. Due to these finds, as well as the cultural significance of the region to the hunter-gatherers, the Dotoga and Maasai tribes, the entire area was given UNESCO World Heritage Status and forms part of a larger conservation area – the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.
Tourism provides much of the funding for conservation and research in the region. Much of the wildlife cannot migrate out of the crater due to the steep slopes of the walls. This has led to many of the animals becoming genetically inbred. Scientists are studying how animals are affected by this and looking at ways to introduce animals to diversify the genetic pool of the different species.