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The Ngorongoro Conservation Area (Crater), Tanzania

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Ngorongoro is not only an important UNESCO Heritage Site, but is also a unique conservancy that protects wildlife and at the same time allows permanent habitation for the local pastoral Maasai tribes, who have lived here for many centuries and have grown a sacred forest in the northwest of the crater. The Maasai tribesmen are allowed to herd their cattle in the crater during the day, but all farming activity here is strictly regulated in order not to harm local wildlife.

 

And the wildlife in Ngorongoro area is majestic. It forms part of the Serengeti ecosystem and is inhabited by the same species, although geological factors make Ngorongoro quite an isolated place. The crater has one of the densest populations of lions, and here you are guaranteed to see the females hunting and lazying around in the sun on hot days. Green valleys, dark edges of the crater and pristinely blue sky make Ngorongoro resemble the setting of ‘The Land Before Time’ cartoon, except instead of dinosaurs you are surrounded by (not less exotic) black rhinos, monochrome zebras and everpresent wildebeests.

 

Millions of years ago, Ngorongoro crater was a large volcano, almost as tall as now Mt Kilimanjaro, but a massive eruption made it collapse onto itself. In the south and east, the area is isolated from the rest of the plains by the East African Rift. Ngoitokitok Spring has a picnic site nearby, and the lake it forms houses various kinds of birds and a large population of hippos.

 

Finally, if you still do not believe Ngorongoro to be The Land Before Time, its Olduvai Gorge is considered one of the earliest human settlements, occupied by our ancestors about 1.9 billion years ago. This fascinating archeological site is a great place to see where the first humans might have acquired their hunting skills and learned to live as a community.

 

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