The Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) is located west of the East African Rift on the highland threshold. It is named after the huge caldera (collapse funnel of a volcano) of the former Ngorongoro volcano. That is why the term “area of giant craters” is also used for this area. The NCA territory was formerly part of the Serengeti National Park. After the conflict between the park administration and the Masai in 1956 a protected area was established in 1959 on an area of 8200 km². It was a compromise and an interesting experiment at the same time. The area should be used as grazing land for the Masai cattle and at the same time serve as a habitat for wild animals. The Masai then had to leave the new, now reduced Serengeti National Park, but could stay here. In 1975, however, the Masai were forbidden to live in the crater, and they were only allowed to drive their cattle into the crater for a short time in approved exceptional cases. The crater was the Masai grazing ground for centuries. From 1908 to 1918 the German SIEDENTOPF brothers ran a farm in the northern part of the crater.
The mighty Ngorongoro Crater itself is the special attraction. The caldera can be seen as a kind of microcosm of Africa. The species-rich fauna reflects the typical representatives of the savannahs of East Africa. An alkaline (basic) lake and fresh water sources provide the habitat for a rich bird life.
The crater area is embedded in a zone where volcanism is concentrated. Here are eight perfectly shaped volcanic cones, which could also be the destination of safaris. Almost all of them reach an altitude of over 3000 m. These include the younger Kerimasi volcanoes and the Maasai holy mountain, Oldoinyo Lengai (2940 m), just outside the NCA. The Oldoinyo Lengai last had major eruptions for a few days in 1983.
Finally, there is the Olduwai Gorge to mention where the anthropologist MARY LEAKEY found fragments of a skull in 1959 after 28 years of work, which she attributed to primitive humans. The find is now attributed to the Australopithecines (“ape people”), namely the Australopithecus robustus or A. boisei, and is estimated at 1.75 million years.
The Ngorongoro Crater is a huge caldera with a completely preserved crater rim. This is at about 2300 m above sea level. The crater floor with an area of 250 km² is more than 600 m deeper. The diameter at the crater rim is 12 km and 18 km respectively. However, the area occupied by the crater is less than 5% of the total area of the protected area (Fig. 7).
The Ngorongoro Crater is the largest non-water-filled crater on earth, the most famous caldera and one of the largest continental craters. Because of its size and beauty, BERNHARD GRZIMEK called it “a wonder of the world”.
The rim of the crater is covered with dense bush forest. Only in the northeast, where water comes down from the Olmoti crater, has a modest gallery forest emerged. Short grass mainly grows in the crater. Only in the south is there a forest of fever acacias. In addition to some swamps, there is the alkaline Magadi Lake and fresh water springs.
The number of large animals in the crater is estimated at 25,000. But this number fluctuates and its composition also changes constantly, as many animals migrate into the crater and sometimes leave it again. The most numerous are wildebeest and zebras in the crater (Fig. 8). But there are also buffalo, cheetahs, hyenas, gazelle species, rhinos and hippos; Little elephants and no giraffes at all.
In the west, a slope leads into the crater, which leaves it again in the southwest. It can only be accessed by off-road vehicle. A round trip with branches can be done in the crater. There is also a picnic area where the car can be left. But the provisions should be held tightly, as bird robbers knock down at lightning speed and tear them out of their hands.
The Ngorongoro Crater was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1978 and an International Biosphere Reserve in 1981.
Professors have made great contributions to the preservation of the fauna of East Africa. Dr. BERNHARD GRZIMEKand his son MICHAEL acquired. MICHAEL GRZIMEK was killed in a plane crash in 1959 while filming the world-famous film “Serengeti Must Not Die”. A vulture collided with its small plane. His father died in 1987 at the age of 78. A pyramid-shaped memorial stone was erected for both of them on the southern edge of the crater at an altitude of 2216 m, from where a clear view of the caldera is possible (Fig. 9). The board for MICHAEL GRZIMEK reads in English: “He gave everything he owned including his life for the wild animals of Africa”. He was buried at the crater lodge, where the runway leading out of the crater ends. PROF. GRZIMEK was buried at the side of the son in a Tanzanian state funeral.