Did you come to this post looking for flights to Ngorongoro Conservation Area? If so, I can tell you quite a bit about that.
There are no international airports in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA).
Airport Near Ngorongoro Crater
The international airport closest to Ngorongoro is Kilimanjaro International Airport, which is approximately 200 kilometers away.
Ngorongoro is accessible by air, though. There is an airstrip on the crater rim close to the headquarters of the NCA.
Flights to Ngorongoro Conservation Area are usually charter flights to this airstrip or to another airstrip nearby, though scheduled flights do exist.
Airlines That Operate Scheduled Flights to Ngorongoro Conservation Area
- Coastal Aviation Coastal Aviation operates flights to Ngorongoro Conservation Area that land at one of two airports/airstrips. One of the airstrips is Ndutu Airstrip which is within the NCA, close to the Serengeti, and the other one is Lake Manyara Airport, about 40 minutes drive from the Lodoare Gate of the NCA.
Another airline that operates flights to Ngorongoro Conservation Area from Arusha Airport and Kilimanjaro Airport is Air Excel. Like Coastal Aviation, Air Excel flights land both at Ndutu Airstrip and Lake Manyara Airport.
- A third airline that operates scheduled flights to Ngorongoro Conservation Area–both Lake Manyara Airport & Ndutu Airstrip–is Regional Air.
- ZanAir operates flights to Ngorongoro Conservation Area but only to Lake Manyara Airport.
- Auric Air operates daily flights to Ngorongoro Conservation Area, landing both at Lake Manyara Airport & Ndutu Airstrip.
- Flightlink operates regular flights to Lake Manyara Airport.
Note that all these scheduled flights to Ngorongoro Conservation Area land either at Lake Manyara Airport (40-minute drive away) or at Ndutu Airstrip (in the NCA near the Serengeti) and not the airstrip on the rim of the Crater.
No scheduled service can go to the Crater as weather can be unpredictable.
Other Flights to Ngorongoro Conservation Area
On top of the above scheduled flights to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, it is possible to arrange for special flights to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. For instance…
- Auric Air flies on request directly to Ngorongoro not only from locales in Tanzania such as Dar es Salaam, Arusha, Zanzibar, Kilimanjaro, and Serengeti but also from locales within the region such as Entebbe in Uganda and Kigali in Rwanda.
Flights to Ngorongoro Conservation Area through Kilimanjaro
As I mentioned above, the international airport closest to Ngorongoro is Kilimanjaro International Airport (KIA).
When you are booking your flights to Ngorongoro Conservation Area, you will therefore need to book the international portion of your flight to KIA (or Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar), and then book a separate local portion of your flight to Ngorongoro.
You may have heard of the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania before, possibly in the context of the great wildebeest migration.
Even without the famous migration, though, the Ngorongoro Crater is spectacular and a sight to behold.
Today, I’d like to tell you about this amazing feat of nature. I’ll also tell you about the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, the UNESCO World Heritage Site that the Crater lies in.
Without further ado, here goes!
What is the Ngorongoro Crater?
I like to call the Ngorongoro Crater a big hole in the ground.
Of course, it’s a lot more than that, but that is essentially what it is.
The Ngorongoro Crater was formed when a volcano believed to be about the size of Mount Kilimanjaro erupted and then collapsed on itself leaving a ‘a big hole in the ground’ that is approximately 2,000 feet (610 meters) deep and whose bottom is about 100 square miles (260 square kilometers).
This collapse occurred many, many years ago: 2 to 3 million years ago to be more precise.
Today, the Ngorongoro Crater is a lush, scenic, abundant ecosystem. It supports one of the densest populations of large mammals—and predators—in all of Africa.
What is the Ngorongoro Conservation Area?
You’d imagine that the Ngorongoro Crater would be found within a national park, right?
Well, it isn’t.
Although the Ngorongoro Crater was part of the original Serengeti National Park established in 1951, problems with the Maasai and other indigenous people who had been living in the area for hundreds of years before then led to the division of the original Serengeti National Park into two separate protected areas: 1) the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and 2) the Serengeti National Park as it stands today.
The major difference between these two protected areas is that people are allowed to live in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area while they aren’t in the Serengeti National Park. (It’s actually cool to drive across these two protected areas and notice this difference for yourself.)
The Ngorongoro Crater is the jewel in the crown of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. But the latter includes more than just the former.
The Ngorongoro Conservation Area also contains part of the Serengeti plains, other smaller craters such as the Olmoti and Empakaai craters, as well as important archaeological sites such as Olduvai Gorge and Laetoli, where some of the oldest evidence of man’s ancestors on Earth has been found.
All gates and barriers in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area open between 6:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. The one exception is the Seneto Descent Gate which closes at 4 p.m.
All vehicles must be out of the Ngorongoro Crater by 6:00 p.m.
What wildlife can you expect to see in the Ngorongoro Crater?
Approximately 25,000 large animals live in the Ngorongoro Crater.
Almost every individual species of wildlife in East Africa is present inside the Crater. The two notable exceptions are impala and giraffe.
The Ngorongoro Crater has one of East Africa’s most thriving populations of black rhino. It also has the densest known population of lions.
Ok, Enough With the Facts. What Is It Like to Actually Be in the Crater?
In one word, divine!
It is no surprise to me that life probably had its beginnings in this part of the world.
I often say: the sun shines differently in the Ngorongoro Crater!
I remember standing out in the wild, in the middle of the Crater, with zebra around me and Maasai sitting on the ground tending to their cattle not far away. It was otherworldly!
(Thank God I didn’t know at the time that the Crater had the densest known population of lions! I don’t think I would have enjoyed the moment quite so much if I did. 😯 )
Honestly, the Crater is just really grand!
Whether it’s standing on the rim and trying to take in the whole Crater from above, or having lunch while sitting on thick tree roots by the Ngoitokok springs, or the crazy drive descending into or ascending out of the Crater, this is not an experience you’ll easily forget.
If you ever have a chance to visit, I cannot recommend it enough!
What else is there to see in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area other than the Ngorongoro Crater?
When I was visiting the Ngorongoro Crater, I remember asking people what else there was to see in the Area.
I got a few responses about this and that but nothing seemed particularly worth spending an extra day to see.
Driving from the Serengeti National Park, through the plains portion of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, all the way to the Crater and having learned a lot about the Conservation Area since then has me thinking differently.
I will be visiting Ngorongoro and Serengeti later this year, and this time I’ll be sure not to miss Olduvai Gorge, where fossils of early man dating up to 1.9 million years ago were found—fossils including those of Homo habilis (“handy man" known for his early use of simple tools), Zinjathropus (“Nutcracker Man" so called because his features suggest a diet that required heavy chewing), and Homo erectus (“upright man")? (Do you remember learning about these species in history class?) (Update: I did end up visiting Olduvai Gorge, and boy, was it a trip! I recommend it highly.)
Neither will I forgo Laetoli. Here, two upright early humans walking on two feet left footprints in volcanic ash 3.6 million years ago. These prints are still visible today.
Last but not least, I hope to visit at least one of the other craters in the Conservation Area, namely Empakaai or Olmoti Crater.
If possible, I’d also love to see Ol Doinyo Lengai, which although is not part of the Conservation Area, is right outside it.
Ol Doinyo Lengai, whose name in Maasai means “Mountain of God", is the only active volcano in Tanzania.
I am particularly curious to see it because its eruption in July 2007 was felt for a whole week in Nairobi and was particularly frightening for me. (Does anyone remember this?)
How to Reach Ngorongoro By Train
You cannot reach Ngorongoro by train.
Ngorongoro Conservation Area Vacation Packages
Most people, especially if they don’t live in East Africa, book their entire trip to Ngorongoro through a tour operator.
The prices for these packages can vary greatly.
Browse through some Ngorongoro Conservation Area vacation packages here.
What will remain the same no matter how you get to Ngorongoro, though, is what you will pay the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority for access to the Conservation Area and Crater.
You can find the latest Ngorongoro Crater fees here.
Dar es salaam to Ngorongoro Crater
There are several ways to get from Dar es salaam to the Ngorongoro Crater.
You can do this by road, which is a 14-hour journey that will usually require you to spend the night in either Arusha or Karatu, since entry to the Conservation Area normally happens very early in the morning.
Alternatively, you can fly to Kilimanjaro International Airport (KIA) and make the rest of the journey by road. It is about a three-and-a-half hour drive from KIA to the Lodoare Gate of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.
Lastly, you can fly most of the way from Dar es Salaam to the Ngorongoro Crater.
Read more about which flights are available and to what airstrip closest to the Ngorongoro Crater in the section about flights at the top of this post.
Ngorongoro Conservation Area Fees
N.B.: You CANNOT pay your Ngorongoro Crater fees in cash at the gates of the Conservation Area itself. You can with a VISA/Mastercard, though, subject to an additional service charge of 1.5%. To avoid the additional charge, pay these fees in advance at NMB, a local bank.
You can find NMB branches all over the country. The ones in Arusha and Karatu (approximately half an hour away) might be your best bet though.
Hotels Near the Ngorongoro Crater
Overview of Hotels in & Around the Ngorongoro Conservation Area
When visiting Ngorongoro, you basically have three main groups of accommodation to choose from:
- luxury hotels on the rim of the crater that offer great views along with a price tag to match, e.g., Ngorongoro Crater Lodge and Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge;
- accommodation inside the Conservation Area that doesn’t offer a view of the Crater and therefore will be a little cheaper, e.g., Rhino Lodge; and
- hotels outside the Ngorongoro Conservation Area in an area called Karatu, which can be quite cheap and even cost as low as US$15 a night.
Ngorongoro Crater Lodge Rates
If you would like to stay at one of the hotels on the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater, you might be interested in the very luxurious &Beyond Ngorongoro Crater Lodge pictured above.
To give you an idea of the current going rates for accommodation at &Beyond Ngorongoro Crater Lodge in 2021, a suite costs from US$1,115 per person per night.
The going rate for a family suite starts at US$3,905 per family suite per night.
Hotels on the Rim of the Ngorongoro Crater: Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge
One of a handful of hotels located on the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater, the Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge, as you would expect, offers amazing views of this astonishing feat of nature.
Built with natural materials, such as stone, timber, and rope, the architecture of the Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge keeps in line with the natural environment around it and does not detract from the magnificence of where you are.
Cheap Ngorongoro Conservation Area Hotels (Not on the Rim of the Crater)
As mentioned above, if you are interested in something that is relatively cheap in terms of hotels in and around the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, your best bet is to stay somewhere outside the protected area, say in Karatu.
Karatu lies 14 km from the main gate of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, so close enough to ensure that you can get into the Crater early in the morning.
Popular choices in Karatu include Gibb’s Farm, Plantation Lodge and Ngorongoro Farmhouse Lodge. (I highly recommend TanzanIce Farm Lodge.)
Recommended Hotel in Karatu: Tanzanice Farm Lodge (a Relatively Cheap Option for Hotels Near the Ngorongoro Crater)
A Tanzanian/Icelandic collaboration, TanzanIce Farm Lodge is a farmhouse located on an operational farm and fully fledged social enterprise.
It is very neat and clean. The customer service is among some of the best I have encountered anywhere in years!
The accommodation is simple and well-priced.
The (super-)hot-water shower with strong pressure is a delight when you are on safari.
The food is good, but a little expensive for what it is.
There is NO accommodation inside the Crater itself nor can you camp there.
Speaking of camping, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area has only one public campsite: Simba Campsite.
It lies on the rim of the Crater not far from the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority headquarters.
Deals on Ngorongoro Conservation Area Hotels
If you are looking for something relatively cheap in terms of hotels in or around the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, here are some great deals currently available.
Ngorongoro Crater Best Time to Visit
Because of its permanent water sources and fertile soil, the Ngorongoro Crater supports wildlife all year round.
The dry season, from June to September, is a little better for spotting wildlife. This is because the vegetation is less lush and animals congregate around rivers and water holes.
The Ngorongoro Crater generally attracts lots of crowds during peak season.
Peak season runs from July to September and again from December to February.
The trick to avoiding these crowds is to get to the Crater very early in the morning.
Getting There: Flights to Ngorongoro Conservation Area & More
The most obvious way to get to Ngorongoro is through the city of Arusha, located 99 miles (160 km) from the Ngorongoro Conservation Area’s main gate.
Arusha is served by Kilimanjaro International Airport (KIA) which itself is 34 miles (55 km) away from Arusha. (A shuttle runs regularly between KIA and Arusha).
To search for flights between your city and KIA, enter your travel details below and see what great flight deals you can nab.
Once you get to Arusha, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area’s main gate, the Lodoare Gate, is a 2-3 hours’ drive away on tarmacked road.
A less obvious but still popular way to get to Ngorongoro is from the west, i.e, through the Serengeti National Park.
You can fly into the Serengeti National Park, or to a city further west such as Mwanza, and then drive through the Serengeti into the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.
The Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Conservation Area are adjacent to each other.
(Several years ago, I had the pleasure of driving through both protected areas in a single day on my way from Mugumu to Arusha.
We entered the Serengeti National Park at its Ikoma gate around 10 a.m. and exited through the Ngorongoro Conservation Area’s Lodoare Gate around 2:30 p.m.
This included stopping several times to watch wildlife, have lunch, and take pictures on the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater.
You can read all about that trip here.)
Now, your turn.
That’s it from me today.
I hope you enjoyed reading about the amazing natural phenomenon that is the Ngorongoro Crater and the UNESCO World Heritage Site that is the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.
If ever you do visit Ngorongoro, please come back here and leave me a comment telling me what you thought.
If you’ve already been, I’d love to hear about your experience.
Do you have any recommendations for would be travelers to the area? If so, please share them below!
Until the next time,
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Photo Credit: Achieve Global Safaris, South-African-Lodges.com, Journey in Style, Gibb’s Farm, Gites.fr, David Berkowitz, Jonathan Gill, Wikimapia.org, SpotiStarehe.com, AVSIM Library, Tourism Update, epcp, George Lamson, The Luxury Safari Company, SophieStolle, Brocken Inaglory, George Lamson, Wild Secret Safaris