The Ngorongoro crater, also known as Africa’s Garden Of Eden, is situated in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area which in fact gets its name from the crater. It is the world’s largest and inactive, intact and unfilled caldera (a caldera is a large cauldron-like depression that forms following the evacuation of a magma chamber.
The crater was formed two to three million years ago when a large volcano exploded and collapsed on itself. It is 2000feet deep and its floor covers 260 square kilometres. Located in the East African Rift System in northern Tanzania, adjacent to the Serengeti National Park, this crater has been voted as one of the Seven Natural Wonders Of Africa.
This crater is also an internationally important wildlife site as it has a great number of wildlife present (almost 25000) ranging from Masai lions, black rhinoceros, Grants’s Zebras, Tanzanian cheetah, to the wildebeest. The first foreign visitor to the crater was Austrian explorer Oscar Baumann in 1892. Another pair, Europeans this time, arrived in 1899 and tried in vain to drive the large game herds from the crater and also killed thousands of wildebeest in order to can their tongues.
Thereafter, they sold their lands to Sir Charles Ross in 1921. He was the first person to prohibit hunting on his part of the land as he regarded the crater as a sanctuary. In 1928, the crater became fully recognized as a reserve and hunting was prohibited on all lands within the crater.
The crater is approximately 19km and contains a seasonal lake, Lake Magazi and the floor is 1800 above sea level. It houses the Oldupai Gorge which is the most famous archaeological location in West Africa. West of the crater, hominid footprints are preserved in volcanic rock 3.6 million years old which represent some of the earliest signs of mankind in the world. Also in this crater, Australopithecus afarensis, with a height of 1.2 -1.4 metres high was found.
Little wonder why the crater is preserved and reserved strictly for viewing. Camping generally is prohibited in the crater and so there are luxury lodges situated within and outside Ngorongoro Conservation Area. The Maasai inhabit the areas around the conservation area and are allowed to take their wildlife into the crater for and water but not to live or cultivate there. About 42,000 Maasai pastoralists live within the conservation area with their cattle, donkeys, goats and sheep.