Two to three million years ago, the land was home to a massive volcano which collapsed upon itself during an extremely powerful eruption, completely wiping out all of the animals and plant life that was previously living within its realm. Many argue that this former volcano would probably eclipse the heights of Mount Kilimanjaro, with estimates ranging from about 15,000-20,000 feet tall. In its place, is the world’s largest intact caldera (a cauldron-like depression similar to a crater).
Often called “Africa’s Eden” and “the 8th Wonder of the World,” Ngorongoro is approximately 2000 feet deep and 100 square miles wide with an impressive ecosystem and some of the highest densities of wildlife found in the continent. An estimated 25,000 large mammals roam about the grasslands, forests and soda lakes, including endangered black rhino, giant-tusked elephants, black-maned lions, bright-pink flamingos, white-bearded wildebeests, uncommon horned large rhinos, gargantuan hippos and spotted leopards and cheetahs. Zebras, gazelles, buffalos, hyenas, jackals and rare wild dogs also run through the Ngorongoro. Over five hundred species of birds have also been recorded, including ostrich and white pelicans.
One of the most natural and majestic areas in the world, Ngorongoro is also unique as the first multi-use protected land, providing protection status for wildlife who live in harmony with the Maasai people who populate the area. Indeed, conservation efforts in the area are bolstered by the Massai who are always on the lookout for hunters and poachers. The Massai have lived here for about 200 years, herding cattle along with donkeys, goats and sheep. Spotting a Massai tending to his herd as zebras roam by is quite a spot to behold!