Everything You Need to Know to Visit Ngorongoro Crater Safari Guide

LAST UPDATED: 5/12/23 – Ngorongoro Crater Safari Guide

Without any doubt, the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania is one of the most amazing places I have ever visited.   In my opinion, a Ngorongoro Crater safari is the best wildlife travel experience you can have anywhere in the world.

Nowhere else can you find such an abundance of wildlife, all within a relatively small location, to view all year round.  Beyond the sheer beauty of the crater itself, that is what makes the Ngorongoro Crater so special.  More than anywhere else, you are almost guaranteed to see the wildlife you came to see when you visit Ngorongoro.

Ngorongoro Crater
Descending into the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania.

Unlike Anywhere Else in Africa

Unlike other wildlife regions across Africa, the Ngorongoro Crater is unique because there is water present inside the crater year-round.  This means that the grazing animals that are found inside the crater are mostly resident, and do not migrate.  Because there are grazing animals that stay year-round, there are also predators inside Ngorongoro year-round.

In fact, the crater is such a unique and providing envornment that many of the region’s bull elephants spend a majority of the year there. They only migrate out of the crater to mate, then return. Some of the biggest elephants we saw while in Tanzania we saw while on our Ngorongoro Crater Safari.

Ngorongoro Crater
A view of the Ngorongoro Crater from just inside the rim.

An All-You-Need Safari Ngorongoro Crater Guide

In this guide, I give you all the information you need to plan a Ngorongoro Crater Safari. I discuss the best times to visit this beautiful place and what you should bring along. You can expect to learn which animals you are likely to see, and which tours I recommend you use.

If you are wondering what time of year to plan your visit, I cover that as well. Not only that, but I explain what fees you need to pay for your visit and give you some safari tips. Most importantly, I outline the important things you need to do before you even leave.

Tanzania Entrance Requirements

Ngorongoro Crater
Safari caravan descending into the Ngorongoro Crater.

Before you can even start to think about your Ngorongoro Crater safari, you need to make sure that you can meet the Tanzania entrance requirements.

If you don’t meet the requirements, you will not be allowed entry into the country. This will put a huge damper on your safari plans. To assist you in ensuring you meet the requirements, I have outlined the passport and VISA requirements for you to review.

Tanzania Passport Requirements

One of the most important Tanzania entrance requirements you need to consider when planning your trip is Tanzania’s passport requirements.

According to the US State Department website, your passport needs to be valid for at least 6-months after your date of arrival. So, if your passport is set to expire within 6-months of your arrival date, you will need to renew your passport before you travel to Tanzania.

Tanzania VISA Requirements

You will also need to purchase a VISA to be allowed into Tanzania. This VISA can either be purchased ahead of time via as an e-VISA or be purchased upon arrival at your port of entry. The cost of a 90-day VISA for Tanzania for a US Citizen is $100 USD. For a summary of the Tanzania passport and VISA requirements, please refer to the table below.

Passport Validity Blank Pages Required Visa Requirement
At least 6-months beyond arrival date. 1-page. US citizens must purchase a VISA. The VISA cost is $100 USD and can either be purchased as an e-VISA or purchased upon arrival.

Travel Immunizations

Travel Medical Records

Important Note: I am not a medical doctor and do not have any medical experience. The information provided in this section is a summary of information that I got from the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States for travel to Tanzania. I am providing you this information to help bring awareness of the necessary vaccinations to you. However, consultation of my guide should not replace a discussion about your travels with your doctor or a travel medical clinic.

Before you leave for your trip to Tanzania to go on your Ngorongoro Crater safari, you need to make sure you have all of the proper vaccinations.  Not only to protect yourself, but to protect others.  In fact, depending on where you are visiting from and whether you are making any stops before visiting Tanzania, you might not even be allowed in the country without the proper vaccinations.

Travel Vaccination Advice

You may have questions on what immunizations you will need and what to look out for when you go to get them. In this case, I have included some general guidelines from my experiences below.

  • Most specialized travel clinics will not accept insurance, so you will have to pay for your travel consultation and immunizations and then request reimbursement from your insurance company later.
  • Some immunizations aren’t accepted by every insurance company, so check with your insurance provider before getting your immunizations.
  • Check with your regular doctor first, as often they can do a travel consultation for you and write you the necessary prescriptions for your immunizations, even if they aren’t able to give them to you.  This way you can ensure that at least your travel consultation will be covered by your insurance up-front.
  • Check with Walgreens or other drug stores that give flu shots to see if they have any of the immunization shots that you require before going to a specialized clinic that doesn’t accept insurance to get them.  Walgreens is able to give you many of the immunizations necessary for international travel, and they accept insurance up-front.
  • The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website can be a great resource for answering any travel immunization questions that you have.

Tanzania Vaccination Recommendations

You will need to consult with your doctor or a travel clinic on recommended vaccinations before you leave. I have compiled a list below of some of what you might expect your physician to recommend.

  • Antimalarial (Aralen, Qualaquin, Plaquenil, Mefloquine, or Doxycycline).
  • Typhoid (either a shot, which is good for 2 years, or live virus pill, which is good for 4 years).
  • Yellow Fever (be aware that some countries require a yellow fever vaccination if you are traveling from another country that is high risk, even if your stay in that other country was short).
  • Hepatitis A & B (if you haven’t had them).
  • Tetanus (if you aren’t current).
  • Rabies (if you are going to be working in close contact with animals).
  • Dukoral (gives you 3-month protection against travel diarrhea).
  • Flu Shot

Yellow Fever Vaccination Requirements

Depending on which country you are arriving from, you may need to have a Yellow Fever vaccination to enter the country.  If you are travelling to Tanzania from another country in Africa, please use the US Centers of Disease Control (CDC) website to determine if you will be required to have proof of the Yellow Fever vaccination to enter.

What to Bring

Safari Packing

If you are going on safari for the first time, you might not know what to bring with you. To help prepare for your Ngorongoro Crater safari, I have developed several guides that you should review.

What to Expect When Visiting Africa for the First Time

First, my article on the “20 Tips for Those Visiting Africa for the First Time” will help get your prepared. The article outlines what you can expect when you visit Africa for the first time. It outlines what you should and should not do while visiting. It also gives you some tips on what to expect during your first visit to Africa.

Then, as you prepare for your trip, you will want to review my “Essential Safari Packing List”. This guide will ensure that you have all the gear you need for your safari. It also outlines what you should not bring with you.

Finally, my last article covers taking pictures while on safari. My “Tips for Photography on African Safaris” guide will help you take the best possible photos of your epic adventure. Not only does it include photography gear I recommend, but it also covers my recommended camera settings.

Getting to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area

Ngorongoro Crater
The Ngorongoro National Conservation Area in Tanzania.

The Ngorongoro Crater is part of the Ngorongoro National Conservation Area. It sits just south of the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania.  Located due east of the major city of Arusha, and just south of the Kenyan border, the Ngorongoro National Conservation Area is in the heart of wildlife territory in Eastern Africa.

Tanzania Parks Map
Tanzania Parks Map

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In addition to being located just South of the Ndutu Plains of the Serengeti, the Ngorongoro National Conservation Area is also located in close proximity to a number of other national parks and wildlife areas in Tanzania and Kenya. 

Lake Manyara National Park, Tarangire National Park, the Maswa Game Reserve, Arusha National Park, and Kilimanjaro National Park are all close enough to work into one safari adventure trip. 

In addition, the Masaai Mara in Kenya is located just north of the Serengeti National Park, which means that it can also easily be incorporated into a safari trip to the area.

Ngorongoro Crater Area Map
Ngorongoro Crater Area Map

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There are two main gates by which to enter and leave the Ngorongoro National Conservation Area.  There is the Naabi Hill Gate, which is located just below the Ndutu Plains to the North. Then there is the Lodware Gate, which is located just West of Lake Manyara National Park in the South. 

If you are coming to Ngorongoro from the Serengeti, you will use the Naabi Hill Gate.  On the other hand, if you are coming from Lake Manyara National Park, Tarangire National Park, or one of the parks near Arusha, you will use the Lodware Gate.

Ngorongoro Crater

We used Tanzania Choice Safaris for our safari, and we absolutely loved them. We have relatives who lived in country and had used them on multiple occasions and had a lot of really great things to say about them.

They were very courteous, well organized, and extremely knowledgeable about the parks and the wildlife. We would absolutely recommend them for anyone considering a safari in any of the national parks in Tanzania. If you are looking for a safari tour for the Ngorongoro Crater, here are some good ones I can recommend:

Best Time to Visit the Ngorongoro Crater

Ngorongoro Crater
The Ngorongoro Crater is much bigger than you would think.

One of the most incredible things about the Ngorongoro Crater is that there really isn’t a bad time to visit. Even during the wet season, which typically runs between March and May, the crater still delivers as a safari destination.

When you visit will ultimately depend on what you want to see. Are you coming to see baby animals? Is seeing the great wildebeest migration on the top of your list? These are the things you need to consider when deciding when to visit the Ngorongoro Crater for safari.

Average Temperature (℉)

Thanks to the mid temperate climate, the average temperatures inside the Ngorongoro Conservation Area are fairly consistent throughout the year. The Ngorongoro Crater is at a higher elevation, so you can expect cooler weather when you are on safari.

Overall, it doesn’t get much warmer than the mid-70’s inside the crater. This is a nice change of pace from the swelteringly hot safari days you could see elsewhere. However, it does get very cool in the mornings and at night. You will want to be sure you have a jacket with you when you visit.

Average Precipitation (Inches)

The wet season in Tanzania is between March and May. During this time, the country can get quite a bit of rain. This is especially true for the month of March, which is the height of the rainy season.  Most of the roads in the conservation area and the crater are made of dirt and gravel. As you can imagine, the roads can get quite sloppy when it rains quite a bit.

Though it can be quite wet between March and May, visiting during this time isn’t all bad. This is the offseason for safaris in Tanzania, so there are fewer crowds to deal with. This means less safari vehicles parked around the animals and obstructing your views.

In addition, the baby animals are typically born in February, so you will have a chance to see plenty of baby animals at this time. If you are willing to roll the dice with the weather, planning a trip during this time can have big rewards.

Best Months to Visit

If you are planning a Ngorongoro Crater safari, there really isn’t a horrible time of year to visit. However, depending on what you want to see, some months are better than others. For more information on what to expect in the crater throughout the year, please refer to the information I provided below.

= Excellent = Good = Fair = Poor

June thru October

  • There is typically a lot of sun and very little rain.
  • Because the weather isn’t as wet, malaria-carrying mosquitoes are less prevalent.
  • You will want to dress warmly as the mornings can be cold at this time of year.

November thru May

  • It is typically the least crowded in April and May, which is the park’s low season.
  • Bird watching is best as the migratory birds are visiting the park at this time.
  • There may be a lot of mud on the roads because of heavy rains.
  • March is the height of the rainy season.
  • December thru March is the Great Wildebeest Migration. This matters more if you will also be touring the Serengeti National Park.

Where to Stay Near Ngorongoro Crater

Rhino Lodge Ngorongoro Crater
The Rhino Lodge on the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater.

There are several very nice lodges inside and just outside the Ngorongoro National Conservation area to stay at, and I have highlighted the most popular options for you below. 

When we went on our Ngorongoro Crater Safari, we stayed at the Rhino Lodge, which is located just outside the rim of the crater.  This allowed us to get up bright and early and have plenty of time to see the wildlife inside the park. 

Really, you can’t go wrong with any of these options as they are all very nice, but if you have an option, I suggest choosing one of the lodges just outside the rim.

Ngorongoro Crater Map
Ngorongoro Crater Map

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Ngorongoro Crater Park Fees

Ngorongoro Crater
The Lodore Gate to the Ngorongoro National Conservation Area.

Important:  Make sure you read the section below carefully. You need to understand how long your permit for the Ngorongoro Crater is good for.  I have heard stories about people who had their trips ruined because they did not properly understand the rules.

If you are interested in knowing what the fees for visiting the Ngorongoro National Conservation Area are, refer to the Tanzania Parks website for the current fees.  Keep in mind, once you enter the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, your permit is good for 24 hours.  Because of this, I would make sure you plan your time inside the conservation area wisely.

For instance, if you arrive in the Ngorongoro National Conservation Area at 2pm and then check into your lodge expecting to have a full day of wildlife viewing inside the crater the next day, you will be surprised to find that your permit is only good until 2pm that next day.  You can stay longer than 2pm, but you will need to pay for an additional full day permit.  So, make sure you maximize the time that you have.

If you are taking a guided Ngorongoro Crater Safari, your safari guide is well versed in the rules and regulations, and they are very good at working out the logistics to make sure you have ample time inside the crater.  Just make sure you listen to their instructions as they know what they are doing.  This may mean you need to leave a different park earlier than you would have thought, but there is likely good reason for that.  It’s likely to maximize the time spent on safari in other parks.

The Wildlife You Might See

Ngorongoro Crater
Lions resting in the mid-day sun inside the Ngorongoro Crater.

The Ngorongoro Crater is such a special area. Few other areas in Africa, if any, offer such a large variety of animals in such a small space.  While leopards can be more difficult to spot inside the crater, they are elusive animals and are difficult to spot pretty much everywhere you go. 

The Big Five of Africa are in the Crater

The other animals in the “Big Five” of Africa (elephants, lions, rhinoceros, and cape buffalo) are pretty hard to miss.  It is absolutely crazy how much wildlife you see when you descend into the crater on your Ngorongoro Crater Safari.

White Rhino
Black Rhino
Wild Dog
Very Rare

In addition to the Big Five, other animals you can expect to see in the park while on your Ngorongoro Crater Safari include spotted hyenas, zebras, and wildebeest, which are very abundant in the park. 

It is not unheard of to see giraffe inside the crater, but you are most likely to see them just outside the rim of the crater, which is where we spotted them when we visited. 

However, you do stand a relatively good chance of seeing cheetahs, hippos, Thomson’s gazelles, waterbucks, warthogs, osterich, jackals, and a variety of other small animals in the park.

Ngorongoro Crater
A bull elephant feeds near the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater.

Large Bull Elephants are Common in the Crater

As I mentioned previously, the bull elephants in the area tend to spend a great deal of their time in the Ngorongoro Crater, which means that you also have a great chance to see some very large and impressive elephants when you go on your Ngorongoro Crater Safari. 

We spotted the big guy above feeding on the hills near the rim of the crater.  You are going to want to make sure you bring binoculars and long lenses with you when you visit, as these guys don’t typically hang out near the roads inside the crater.  I cover this and some other helpful tips in the Safari Tips section below.

Ngorongoro Crater
Black Rhinos graze inside the Ngorongoro Crater.

More than anything else, the best tip I can give you is to just have fun.  A Ngorongoro Crater Safari should be a trip of a lifetime, and you should enjoy every single second of this adventure.  Don’t get caught up on the little things that might go wrong.  Before you know it you will be back at home and left with just the memories and pictures of your adventure.  Make those memories great ones!

Lake Magadi

Lake Magadi
Lake Magadi inside the Ngorongoro Crater.

One of the most notable landmarks within the Ngorongoro Crater is Lake Magadi, which is a permanent, year-round lake that supplies water to the animals of the crater.  There are no crocodiles in the Ngorongoro Crater, but there are plenty of hippos.  Lake Magadi is one of the crater hippos favorite spots to hang out and avoid the sun.

Ngorongoro Crater
A hippo peeks its head above the surface of the water in Lake Magadi.

There is also a picnic site near Lake Magadi, which makes it a popular lunchtime stopping point for most safari tours inside the crater as well.  When you are out of your vehicle near the picnic site, make sure you always listen to your safari guide and keep safety at the top of your mind.

Ngorongoro Crater Safari Tips

Ngorongoro Crater
A baby zebra sticks close to its mother inside the Ngorongoro Crater.

When you are on safari, especially while on a Ngorongoro Crater Safari where animals seem to be everywhere around you, it is easy to get lost in the experience.  Being on safari is such an amazing experience and you should enjoy every single second of it.  However, if you aren’t careful, you might not get everything out of the experience that you could have.

In order to make sure that you get everything out of your Ngorongoro Crater Safari that you possibly can, I have provided some general safari tips below for you to review.

Be Patient and Open Minded

When you are on safari, everything isn’t going to go according to plan.  The weather, the animal’s behavior, and other factors are going to impact where you go and what you see.

Safety First

It is really easy to get caught up in the safari experience and want to get the best pictures you possibly can.  However, safety should always be the primary concern.  To give you some help in how to remain safe while on safari in the Ngorongoro Crater, I have outlined some general safety tips for you to review later in this guide.

Don’t Get Stuck Behind Your Camera

Everyone wants to get great pictures while on safari, and you should absolutely bring your camera and take a lot of pictures.  However, if you spend your entire time in the Ngorongoro Crater looking thru your camera, you are going to miss out on some of the experience.  I would recommend setting your camera down every-once-in-a-while and just enjoy being in such an amazing place.

Ask Lots of Questions

Make sure you ask your guide a lot of questions while you are in the Ngorongoro Crater.  It is easy to get caught up in the moment and forget to ask which type of animal you are looking at or why they are doing what they are doing, but your safari guide is there to answer these questions for you.  And believe me, they enjoy answering these questions.  Don’t get home and regret not asking those questions.

Be Conscious of Time

You are going to see some amazing things while you are on safari in the Ngorongoro Crater.  However, as I mentioned before, the time that your daily permit is good for is limited. 

Don’t get too caught up in one place within the crater for too long as you might regret not having time to do other things later.  By no means am I suggesting that you should rush thru the crater, but you might not want to linger watching one thing for hours-upon-hours either.

Safari Safety Tips

Ngorongoro Crater
Lions will often use the safari vehicles as shade inside the Ngorongoro Crater.

Being on a Ngorongoro Crater Safari can be an amazing and exciting experience, but it can also be a very dangerous experience if you don’t follow the proper safety rules.  In order to ensure that your safari experience is a memorable and safe one, I have outlined some general safari safety rules for you to review below.

Obey Your Safari Guide at All Times

The most important safari safety tip of all is to listen to your safari guide and obey them at all times.  They are there to keep you safe, so let them.

Don’t Stick Anything out of the Safari Vehicle

It is never a good idea to stick anything outside of a safari vehicle.  Whether this be your arms, your feet, or your camera as you try to get a great picture, keep them inside the vehicle at all times.

Don’t Make Frantic Movements

When you are in the safari vehicle, the animals tend to think of the vehicle, and everything associated with it as one homogeneous entity.  However, if you make sudden and frantic movements, or do something else to make you stick out as apart from the vehicle, you may become an object of interest to them.

Never Get Out of the Vehicle

This point cannot be stressed strongly enough. Never, and I mean never, get out of your safari vehicle unless your safari guide explicitly instructs that it is safe.

Never Leave Your Tent or Lodge at Night

This is another point that I cannot emphasize strongly enough.  You should never leave your tent or lodge room at night without a chaperone.  The African bush can be a dangerous place, especially at night, so make sure you follow whichever procedures your safari guide gives you for getting assistance at night.  If they don’t mention this, make sure you ask ahead of time.

Walk, Never Run

If you do find yourself outside of your vehicle and confronted by an animal (hopefully this never happens), then make sure that you stay as calm as possible, walk away slowly (never turning your back on the animal), and NEVER, EVER run away.

Be Careful Around Lakes and Rivers

Unless you are explicitly told by your safari guide that the waters are free of hippos and crocodiles, you should never attempt to swim in a lake, river, or pond.  Even then, I would think twice about doing it.  Hippos kill more people in Africa than any other animal, and crocodiles are not far behind on the list, so you always have to be safe when even approaching bodies of water.

On Safari in the Ngorongoro Crater

Being on a Ngorongoro Crater Safari is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  If you would like to get a sense of what it is like, we put together a short video of our safari experience in Ngorongoro for you below.  Come along with us as we explore this amazing place!

The Ngorongoro is both beautiful and special.  With both beautiful landscapes and amazing wildlife surrounding you, it is a wildlife photographer’s dream.  Below is a gallery of just some of the images we were able to capture while on our Ngorongoro Crater Safari.

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  1. Thanks a bunch for this. I am too old now to go to Ngorongoro but I had my fun seeing wildlife in Africa ‘while on the job’ for the World Bank, like driving almost into a hippo crossing the small airport road at night near Bujumbura, seeing elephants in the Wild Life corner of Central African Republic, Congo Braza and Cameroon, or having to visit the CAR rainforest. In Zimbabwe, I nearly missed a huge elephant who had elected to use an asphalted road as its pathway. And I visited some parks in Tanzania and Kenya as well. Most striking were the crocodiles (caimans they called them) in the groove around Houphouët’s palace in Yamoussoukro, Côte d’Ivire, not exactly a zoo, but still wild as they devoured a gardener once who fed them. johnschwartzauthor.com/blog

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