A crater that is not
Ngorongoro is often described as the world’s largest volcanic crater; it is in fact it the world’s largest unbroken and unflooded volcanic ‘caldera’. It was formed 3 million years back when a giant volcano of about 19,000 meters in height collapsed as the magma beneath it exploded. Normally a crater is the vent on the top of the volcano through which magma flows out; whereas when it blows out beneath the ground; the whole volcano collapses down and the magma that escaped forms a ring around the place where the volcano stood. The place where the ill fated volcano stood becomes a caldera; easily mistaken for a giant crater.
The Ngorongoro ‘crater’ (volcanic caldera to be precise) is located in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) about 160 meters west to Arusha Town in Tanzania It is located between three lakes like Eyasi, Natron and Manyara and more than three national parks (Serengeti, Masai Mara, Arusha, Tarangire). There two more landmarks in the vicinity the king of all dormant volcanoes the mighty
There three lakes in its vicinity and one at the center of the crater they are as follows;
Lake Eyasi, it is in the southwest part of the East African Rift Valley, the southwest flanks drain in to the northeast corner of this rectangular lake; it is shallow due to sedimentation. All these lakes are rich in bird population and favorite locations of bird watchers.
Lake Manyara, it part of the
Lake Makat and rivulets Munge and Lerai
Ngorongoro Crater Stats
The bottom of this giant ‘cauldron’ (word caldera in Spanish means cauldron) is 610 meter deep from its rim and it is 260 sq km in area. Rainfall in the valley varies between 80 and 120 cms. The western ridge of the crater is less steep and more arid with patches of thorny bushes here and there. This area receives lesser rainfall (40 to 60 cms). Animals like elephant, lion, zebra, rhinoceros, leopard, buffalo and the ubiquitous wildebeests form the major part of the animal population (altogether they are 25,000 in number. Along with so many of these animals in perfect harmony there live the Masai Tribes.
Masai Tribes, the real heroes of Ngorongoro
The Masai is the most popular among the African tribes; one reason may be that they live in these game areas not doing any harm to the wild animals and catch the attention of cameramen. They are much more than that; they are protectors of these wild animals and don’t eat their flesh.
They are undoubtedly the most fiercely independent tribes in the world; in the long history; no man could ever enslave a Masai; they lived life on their own style and terms compelling slave hunters to look elsewhere.
They are entirely nomadic pastoralists and they speak a language called ‘Maa’; they move along with their cattle to place where the grass is green; as they depend on cattle for everything; a Masai without at least fifty cattle and ten siblings is taken for a poor man! Because for a Masai cattle is food, drink, wealth and status.
Masai legends suggest that they are migrants from the neighborhood of
The Ngorongoro Crater as the habitat of numerous animals and the local Masai population requires a lot of water which is scarce in this semi desert area; some of the natural springs available in the area play a great role in keeping the place ticking.
Ngoitokitot Spring near the eastern wall of the crater is the biggest of them all; this spring has been the giver of life to the entire surrounding area; there is even a picnic spot around it. A swamp inhabited by hippo, elephants etc is also there to add variety to the Ngorongoro; this swamp was formed from the water left over by the spring.
The Serengeti Migration
This biologically rich area is host to almost all the animals of
World Heritage Site
The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979 as it is home to about 25,000 animals, grazing and human occupation are prohibited; only the Masai Tribes are permitted to graze their animals here; as per rules they have to return with cattle the same day of coming in (a Masai has his own rules; he never obeys outsiders’ orders is another thing)!.
Odupai Fossils and Human Evolution
Ngorongoro was cradle to early human beings called ‘hominids’ (an extinct primate predecessor to human beings) that lived around this place 3 million years back. Some of the fossils recovered from Odupai Gorge belong to them. Later these humanoids got evolved in to hunter and gatherer and from there to pastoralists and finally to farmers. The Masai tribes came to this area very late (15th to 18th century) and captured the land for them.
A collection of gems
Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Masai Mara, Tarangire, Lake Manyara, Arusha etc are all conservation parks lying close to each other. They can excel any other place in the world in diversity and richness of their animal wealth. These parks remain as the nature’s last resort for the survival of its many cherished beings. Fortunately the dark time of destruction is almost over; the present trend of nations looking for revenue from eco-tourism rather than exploitation. There are so many tour operators offering trips (saffaris0 to all these national parks individually as well as combined.