While there are thousands of travel destinations, an African safari is by far one of the most beautiful, sought after vacations that should be on everyone’s bucket list.

There are safaris in quite a few African countries, and each of them boasts its own unique landscapes, culture, and wildlife. However, out of all the destinations in Africa you could choose for your safari, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area in Tanzania should be at the top of your list.

From the history of the Ngorongoro and its unique crater to the wildlife found within the area, this is your ultimate guide to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.

What is the Ngorongoro Conservation Area?

The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Arusha Region of Northern Tanzania. While established in 1959, it has existed for millions of years longer than that. Its centerpiece is the Ngorongoro Crater, the world’s largest caldera, which is a depression in the earth that forms from a volcanic eruption.

Land in the conservation area is protected while still allowing the habitation of pastoral tribes, although strict farming laws have forced many of the native Masaai people out of the area. It is the only area in Tanzania that allows human habitation while still protecting wildlife.

Wildlife in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area

The wildlife in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area is diverse and unique, and in this article, we will be going through many of the species that exist and thrive in this area.

Lion (Panthera leo)

The Ngorongoro Crater is home to the world’s highest density of lions, with 62 being recorded in the most recent study. The population of East African lions in the area has fluctuated over the years due to disease, reaching as low as 12 lions at one point.

Male lions in the Tanzania highlands are known for the distinctively large manes, which they have developed because of the cooler temperatures than the East African lions of the lowlands in eastern and northern Kenya.

While there were two famous man-eating lions in the late 1800s, the East African Lions are largely harmless towards humans, and mostly feared for attacking livestock. In the Ngorongoro, this isn’t much of an issue, and you’ll be able to witness lions in their natural habitat.

Black Rhinoceros

The black rhinoceros is one of the most sought-after wildlife sightings in East Africa, and they are relatively common in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. They are classified as critically endangered, however, the population remains fairly stable in these protected areas.

Despite the name “black” rhinoceros, their color generally varies between brown and grey. The main distinguishing feature between a black rhinoceros and a white rhinoceros is their lips. The black rhinoceros has a hooked lip, while the white rhinoceros has a square lip.


While hippos are less common in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area than some other regions of Africa, you’re still likely to spot a few.

These semi-aquatic animals don’t roam nearly as much as most of the wildlife here, which is why sightings are few and far between, but your trusted guides should know where to find them.

African Buffalo (Syncerus caffer)

The African Buffalo is one of the most common animals in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, and also one of the only species whose numbers are increasing.

These animals thrive in the protected areas since humans are their main predator. Due to their large size and fused bases, which create continuous bone shield across their head, which curves into two dangerous horns.

While you’ll see plenty of these animals during your safari, you’ll want to keep your distance. It may be surprising to you, but African buffalo are actually one of the most dangerous animals to humans you’ll encounter during your trip. According to some reports, African buffaloes gore and kill over 200 humans every year.

Blue Wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus)

The blue wildebeest is also one of the most common animals you’ll encounter on your safari, with numbers estimated around 7,000 during the most recent study.

While these animals are still common in the Ngorongoro Crater, their numbers have fallen by nearly 50% in the last 30 years. This decrease in numbers is thought to be partially due to the fire protection, which allows grass to grow longer, whereas wildebeest favor the shorter grass.

If you happen to take your trip in the summer, you can encounter greatly increased numbers of migrating wildebeest, with the total number of wildebeest passing through exceeding a million.

Grant’s zebra (Equus quagga boehmi)

Grant’s zebras are the most common species of zebra in the world, and the ones you recognize from film and television. These are also fairly common in the region, and you should have no trouble spotting them on your trip.

Like many species of wildlife, the Grant’s zebra population has been decimated in neighboring African countries due to civil wars, but have thrived in Tanzania under the country’s relative political stability and strong environmental protection laws.

The number of Grant’s zebras in the area was around 4,000 according to the most recent study and has remained stable over the years. Get your stripes on, and spot some zebras on your safari!

African bush elephant (Loxodonta africana)

The African bush elephant is one the most majestic creatures you’ll encounter on your trip, and also one of the rarest. While the numbers are small, as the largest living land animal, they won’t be too hard to spot.

The numbers of African bush elephants have been dwindling all over Africa, and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area is no different, with an estimated 29 elephants remaining.

However, there are efforts being made to protect these incredible animals from poaching, specifically in Tanzania. These elephants are being collared with GPS trackers so that their movements can be monitored, and protected from evil poachers.

Despite the small numbers, you’re likely to see a few African bush elephants during your safari, as they tend to congregate near the Ngoitokitok Spring, one of the major water sources in the Ngorongoro Crater.

Spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta)

You probably remember Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed, the hilarious villains from the Lion King. These slobbering, inept creatures are known in real life as spotted hyenas (or laughing hyenas). You’ll see plenty of them on your safari.

The spotted hyena, while menacing in look, is largely harmless towards humans. In fact, you’ll probably need binoculars to spot these animals, as they tend to keep farther away from humans than nearly every other predatory animal in the conservation area.

You won’t see many spotted hyenas during your time inside the crater, but they roam in packs in the plains in the rest of the conservation area, so you’ll definitely have a chance to experience these Disney goons in real life, and possibly even hear their laughs.

Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus)

The cheetah might be the fastest mammal on the planet, but you’ll definitely be catching up to them on your safari.

Like the spotted hyena, these predators are not dangerous towards humans and have been regularly tamed over their history. In countries like Egypt, they were commonly used as pet animals for royal families.

Also, like the spotted hyena, you probably won’t see cheetahs in the crater. They also roam the plains outside of the crater but don’t worry, you’ll still be seeing them during your safari.

Planning Your Safari To The Ngorongoro Conservation Area

Now that you know everything you need to know about the animals in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, I’m sure you’re already sold on this safari. But by booking through Earthlife Expeditions, you’re in store for much, much more.

Depending on which safari package you choose, you could be spending time lounging on the beaches of Zanzibar after your safari. It’s an amazing way to relax after days of chasing after wild animals you only thought you would see in your dreams.

Choose another more adventurous package, and you could find yourself trekking and climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. This package isn’t for the faint of heart, but it will be worth every second of the experience.

No matter which tour you choose, it’s going to be an experience you and your friends or family will never forget. If you need any more convincing, check out this heartfelt story of a family vacation and safari in Tanzania from the New York Times.

Travel is one of the most rewarding experiences in life, and nothing sounds more beautiful and unique than a safari in Tanzania. Don’t miss out, book your safari soon.