Discovering the Ngorongoro, home of the Maasai: a safari inside a crater
Seen from above, it looks like the imprint of a massive meteorite that has crashed into Earth. However, instead of destroying the area, it left an explosion of life.
The mysterious meteorite imprint is actually a volcanic caldera that was formed around 3 million years ago when a gigantic volcano exploded and then collapsed.
The inside of its crater then became filled with over 25,000 animals in a unique setting: Ngorongoro. Although it looks like a tongue-twister, it’s a conservation area in the north of Tanzania and one of the strangest places in the whole of Africa.
Climb aboard the jeep on this unique safari to visit a place where the whole of Africa is concentrated into a diameter of just twenty kilometres.
In the heart of the Rift Valley, hidden and protected behind the walls of the old extinct volcano, the most representative animals of African fauna live side by side: Lions, leopards, elephants, buffaloes, rhinoceroses and hippopotamuses.
There are also jackals, hyenas, gnus, zebras…even flamencos have found their own space at Lake Magadi.
There is also the black rhinoceros, an exotic animal of which there are only 26 in the reserve. Each species has found its own space in this small area that includes several ecosystems: Savannahs, acacia forests, lakes, marshes, salt lakes, etc.
In order to protect the fauna and flora of the reserve, it is prohibited for anyone to enter the area without authorisation, which means that you’ll have to book an excursion to discover this small piece of African paradise.
You’ll be leaving in the early hours of the morning and it’s advisable to wear warm clothes. Ngorongoro means “cold place” in the language of the Maasai, and the temperatures at night are quite low, although, as the day progresses, the weather becomes warmer.
You’ll be able to see the inside of the volcano from the top of the crater and get a panoramic view of what you’ll be exploring later.
However, the animals are not the only inhabitants of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. For over two hundred years the Maasai have lived here and it’s likely you’ll see them in their red robes herding their cows, goats and sheep within the park.
They are allowed to take them inside the crater to eat and to drink water, although they are not allowed to live there. They can live in the rest of the reserve, where there are currently around 42,000 native Maasai.
It’s no surprise that they have chosen to live here. History, or rather pre-history, tells us that they are not the first to have done so.
The oldest human fossils in the world have been found here, which provided essential research into the evolution of our species.
Specifically, they were discovered in Olduvai Gorge and have been key to understanding where we’re from. Now we just need to discover where we’re going. Well we know…: to the crater in Ngorongoro.
LEAVING A MARK
Here, Louis and Mary Leakey discovered the remains of Homo Habilis, which were 1.8 million years old; barely a teenager if we compare them with the footprints of the hominids from 3.7 million years ago, which they also discovered. Fancy finding out more about our African ancestors? Don’t miss the Olduvai Gorge Museum.