Ngorongoro conservation area

Ngorongoro Conservation Area

The Ngorongoro Conservation Area covers 8,292 square kilometers. It is one of the three divisions that comprise Ngorongoro District in Arusha Region.

The jewel in Ngorongoro’s crown is a deep, volcanic crater, the largest un flooded and unbroken caldera in the world. About 20kms across, 600 meters deep and 300 sq kms in area, the Ngorongoro Crater is a breathtaking natural wonder.

Within the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, with the exception of Simba near the NCAA headquarters, the campsites are all classified as “special campsites”.

What to See -People and Culture (Maasai)

For thousands of years a succession of cattle herding people moved into the Area, lived here for time, and then moved on, sometimes forced out by other tribes.

About 200 years ago the Maasai arrived and have since colonized the Area in substantial numbers, their traditional way of life allowing them to live in harmony with the wildlife and the environment. Today there are some 42,200 Maasai pastoralists living in the NCA with their cattle, donkeys, goats and sheep. During the rains they move out on to the open plains; in the dry season they move into the adjacent woodlands and mountain slopes. The Maasai are allowed to take their animals into the Crater for water and grazing, but not to live or cultivate there. Elsewhere in the NCA they have the right to roam freely.

Visitors are welcomed at two designated Maasai cultural bomas one on the road to Serengeti and another close to Sopa Lodge at Irkeepusi village.

The Datoga, Nilo-Hamitic-speaking pastoralists, who arrived more than 300 years ago and were subsequently forced out of the Serengeti-Ngorongoro area by the Maasai, today they live just outside the NCA, in the Lake Eyasi basin and beyond.

Oldupai Gorge & Laetoli

Over the last thirty years or so, it has become increasingly apparent that Africa is probably the “Cradle of Mankind”. From Africa they spread out to populate the rest of Earth. Remains of the earliest humans were found in Oldupai Gorge.

The Laetoli Footprints: First Steps on the Road to Humankind

See and touch a huge cast of actual footprints made by our early human ancestors (hominins ) known as “Lucy” Australopithecus afarensis. The prints of three hominins were miraculously preserved in muddy ash deposited by volcanic eruptions and hardened by the sun some 3.6 million years ago.

Made by feet little different than our own, they proved conclusively that these creatures stood and walked upright (bipedally) with a human-like stride a million years before the invention of stone tools and the initial growth in hominin brain size. It’s undoubtedly one of the most astounding and important scientific discoveries of our time.

A complete room of the Olduvai Museum devoted to the hominin footprint trail.

Walk in the Grand Canyon of Humankind

Some 30,000 years ago, splitting of the earth’s surface by violent geological activity and millennial of erosion by seasonally flowing streams incised the nearly 250 foot (90m) canyon known as Olduvai Gorge. These natural forces exposed a remarkably rich geological chronicle of human ancestry and the evolution of the Serengeti ecosystem. It was here that Mary and Louis Leakey unearthed the first well-dated artifacts and fossils of some of our earliest human ancestors after over 30 years of painstaking work. These include the famous Zinjanthropus (Australopithecus boisei) skull, homo habills, the presumed maker of the numerous early stone tools in the 1.8 to 1.6 million year-old deposits, and homo erectus, the larger bodied, larger brained hominin that preceded the earliest modern humans (Homo sapiens). Special archaeological tours guided by the Department of Antiquities personnel are available and include the remarkable Shifting Sands.

Nightmarish Flesh-Eaters Ruled the Birth of Our Early Ancestors

Similar to modern-day East African lakes, the nearly two million year-old paleolake Olduvai once teemed with large predators and gigantic plant-eaters. Clearly our ancestors lived and evolved in a brutal world where sudden death potentially lurked at every turn. They successfully competed against such dangerous competitors by seizing an opportunity created by large carnivores with the aid of a few sharp stones and refuge trees.

The Upright Apes Who Changed the World

Somewhere in the East Africa’s Great Rift Valley over two million years ago, a bipedal ape picked up two rounded fist-sized stones. Forcibly striking one against the other, he created a sharp-edged implement and several razor-edged stone flakes. By design or accident, this was the world’s most important technological breakthrough because it helped make us human. Their ability to cut open the thickest of animal hides and process and consume the nutritious flesh and bone marrow may have been the metabolic catalyst for increased brain size and our successful transition from apes to humans. These crude but effective tools and later stone implements are on display in the Olduvai Museum. The full, up-to-date story of Laetoli and Olduvai Gorge and our early ancestors is available in a newly published booklet available in the Museum book shop.


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