NGORONGORO NATIONAL PARK

Ngorongoro National Park Conservation Area, measuring 8,300 square kilometers, is also the only place on earth where mankind and wild animals co-exist in harmony. Ngorongoro became a Man and Biosphere Reserve in 1971 and was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1979.

Land within the area is multi-use, providing protection status for wildlife while also permitting human habitation. Its uniqueness lays in the fact that Ngorongoro crater is where man, livestock and wild animals live in peace: Maasai cattle can sometimes be seen grazing alongside zebras on Ngorongoro’s grassland.

Had it not become the world’s sixth-largest unbroken caldera, then what is now known as the Ngorongoro Crater could have been a towering volcanic mountain, as high as Kilimanjaro. It is a large, unbroken, un-flooded caldera, formed when a giant volcano exploded and collapsed some three million years ago. The Ngorongoro crater sinks to a depth of 610 metres, with a base area covering 260 square kilometres. The height of the original volcano must have ranged between 4,500 to 5,800 metres high. Apart from the main caldera, Ngorongoro also has two other volcanic craters: Olmoti and Empakai, the former famous for its stunning waterfalls, and the latter holding a deep lake and lush, green walls.

The area contains a large number of animals including black rhinoceros, wildebeests, zebras, eland and Grant’s and Thomson’s gazelles. The crater also has the densest known population of lions. Higher up, in the rainforests of the crater rim, are leopards, large elephants, mountain reedbuck and buffalos, spotted hyenas, jackals, rare wild dogs, cheetahs, and other felines.

Over 500 species of bird have been recorded within Ngorongoro. These include ostrich, white pelican, and greater and lesser flamingo on Lake Magadi within the crater, Lake Ndutu, and in the Empakaai Crater Lake, where a vast bird population can be observed.

At far end of the Ngorongoro the Olduvai Gorge archaeological site, widely regarded as the cradle of mankind and the most important prehistoric site in the world. It is at Olduvai where remains of Zinjanthropus, the world’s first humans, were discovered by Dr Louis and Mary Leakey over 50 years ago. The earliest known specimens of the human genus, Homo-habilis, as well as early hominids such as Paranthropus boisei have also been found there.

Main source: www.ngorongorocrater.org