The Ngorongoro Crater was formed nearly 2.5 million years ago when an active volcano erupted on itself, causing the walls to collapse inwardly, creating a large depression known as a caldera. The crater is now recognised as one of Africa’s seven natural wonders and has become of global importance for biodiversity conservation due to the presence of globally threatened species. Sometimes referred to as the ‘Garden of Eden’, the 260 square km expanse is home to over 25,000 animals, enclosed within its 600metre high crater walls. Many animals in the crater are permanent residents, choosing not to migrate, making the crater a fantastic safari destination all year round, and a favourite area to spot the Big 5.
The best time to visit the Ngorongoro Crater depends on what you’re hoping to see. We’ve detailed what you can expect to find over which months, to help make the decision easier.
Ngorongoro Crater Dry Season
The dry season is always the most popular time to visit any safari destination due to the favourable weather conditions and game viewing opportunities. This brings with it a higher price tag and more visitors, but all for good reason… This season runs from June – September, (July/August) being the busiest months. The landscape is barren, with fewer water sources, meaning the wildlife congregates around watering holes, making it possible to spot the big 5 all in one day! Generally, daytime temperatures hover around the low twenties (celcius) with around seven hours of sunshine per day. In addition to the Big 5, you can also spot; antelopes, cheetahs, wildebeest, zebra, elands, hyenas, kudu, hippos, impalas and more. It is believed to have the densest population of predators in the world. Though giraffes do inhabit the area, you won’t find these in the crater itself! However, with over 115 different wildlife species, there is plenty to keep you entertained. Nights can be cooler during this time, often dropping to as low as 8 °C, so bring a warm top for the evenings!
Ngorongoro Crater Wet Season
The wet season runs from November – May, with a dryer spell over January and February, with the heaviest rains falling in March and April. Although March and April mark the peak of the wet season this is probably the only time which the crater sees fewer crowds. With the exception of March and April, the other months typically only experience short rains, often in the afternoon – a perfect opportunity to read your book or have a siesta!
For keen birders, this is an excellent time to visit as migratory birds arrive from Europe and Asia. Some of the migratory birds you can expect to see are the Lesser Kestrel, European Bee-Eater, European Swallow, Caspian Lapwing, Palled Harrier, Montagu's Harrier and more. There is thought to be over 500 bird species inhabiting the crater, including resident birds that will be breeding during this time. You may also see nests from the likes of Ostriches, Kori Bustards, Grassland Pipits and more, lying along the sand tracks.
January to March marks the calving season where hundreds of wildebeest, zebra, gazelles and other animals give birth over a short period of time. February is the peak of calving season where over 8000 calves can be born daily. This attracts a number of predators looking to prey on vulnerable newborns - a spectacular event to see. This usually happens around Ndutu in the northwestern part of Ngorongoro and can be timed to fit with your visit to the crater.
The Great Migration in Ngorongoro Crater
The Great Migration is most often associated with the Serengeti and Masai Mara, however, come late January or February, when the herds are moving up through the Serengeti, clockwise towards the Masai Mara in Kenya, many find themselves on the lower northern slopes of Ngorongoro Crater amidst calving season.