Thrill with your own Out of Africa-like experience with a visit to Tanzania’s UNESCO World Heritage Site the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.

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!

Also of note, is the vibrant greenery that abounds in this lush paradise. Unlike the drier Serengeti nearby, the Ngorongoro crater charms with its lush greenery, dense forest, breath-taking soda lakes and vegetation. It is this sophisticated ecosystem that draws tourists, wildlife and the Massai people.

Ngorongoro is also thought to be one of the most important prehistoric sites in the world, as the remains of Paranthropus Boisei and Zinjanthropus were unearthed here by anthropologists in the area known as the Olduvai Gorge. These remains are thought to date back to as many as 2.5 million years ago, making them the first-known specimens of the human genus, called Homo habilis. You can trace your family heritage back to the beginning and perhaps walk the same grounds that the original ancestors first moved through!

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