Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area


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Camping at "Simba A" on the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater

Written on: August 16, 2013   |   I visited in April 2012 Sometime last year, I had the privilege of working as the P.A of the head of security for a certain popular reality TV show whose name I can't mention least I get sued. The job mainly involved Lake Manyara National Park and Ngorongoro Crater. This is a review of the most popular public campsite in Ngorongoro and the wildlife in the crater. I'll write in two sections, one will describe the campsite and the camping experience, and the other will describe the game drive in the crater.

THE CAMPSITE:

I met my employer at the Ngorongoro airstrip on a fine sunny morning in April 2011. We were scheduled to sleep at the popular public campsite, Simba A, which is on the rim of the crater for the night.

It costs $30 a head for a night in the campsite and you can choose to bring your own tent and sleeping bags, or you can hire a tour company which will loan you one for your stay. We had already hired tour operators to work with us and they provided the tents and sleeping bags.

The campsite was surprisingly clean, although I am told there are months when it can get very dirty, particularly during the high season. It's on a grassy gentle slope with a kitchen, toilets, and showers. If you come with your own gear then be prepared to pitch your own tent. The tour company we hired had graciously pitched the tents for us and everything was ready for us. All we needed to do was our jobs.

I strongly believe that camping in Africa is not for everyone. Fussy travelers beware, you are not going to the Four Seasons. The toilets and showers are all obviously not very clean. Sure, they could be cleaner, but you should really be ready for the worst, that way any surprises will be pleasant ones.

The campsite was quite comfortable in my opinion and we had a spectacular view of the crater. Towards the evening as the sun was setting, a fog sort of lay over the crater and it created the most breathtaking rainbows. That beautiful sight itself is worth a camping trip in Ngorongoro in my opinion.

There were other travelers, most of them were quite happy with the setup. I didn't hear a single complaint from the people I met at the campsite. I worked with a team of more than 100 people. We had people camping in the public Simba A and the private Simba B.

Here are some tips for travelers planning to camp at Simba A:

-Carry toilet paper. Seriously.

-Don't forget your camera and try to carry extra batteries if you can. There was a place near the kitchens where you could charge your gadgets but it's pretty risky in my opinion. If you have a tour guide with you then ask them for help. Almost all their cars have sockets for charging electronic gadgets.

-Carry a heavy sweater or jacket. It was really hot in the daytime but it got REALLY cold in the night and early morning. Make sure you have a sweater ready for the cold nights in a tent.

-Carry a flashlight. It's super dark out there. The stars are a sight to behold if the sky is clear but you probably won't see a thing without a flashlight.

-Carry flipflops/slippers for bathing. I would not walk barefoot in those toilets or showers. Get some flipflops in town before you head out. They're pretty cheap and won't cost you more than 2,000Tsh (around $1).

-Stay within the camp limits at all times. There are rangers in the campsite areas so they're safe, but who knows what animals lurk out there. I saw a large lone male elephant in Simba B and had to sit still for a bit. They'll maul you if you make too many sudden movements I've been told. This happened at around 5pm.

-Carry some booze and cigarettes if you enjoy drinking or smoking. Those things are available, but they're really hard to find and expensive.

-Keep an open mind. You're at one of the natural wonders of the world and it's a pretty great experience.

The one thing I can't comment about is the food situation. Lunch and dinner buffets were specially prepared for the folks working with the TV show and I'm not really sure how regular travelers normally eat.

Simba A is really affordable and everything you get is really basic, but it has the best views in my opinion. Simba B on the other hand is much more highend, but I think you need to make special bookings to gain access. It's for the travelers looking to camp with a little luxury.

So then, how would I rank Simba A? I give it 4 stars. The toilets and showers could really be cleaner, but it should not be a problem if you are used to roughing it a little and at $30 a night I say it's a bargain. Much better experience than paying hundreds of dollars to sleep in one of the fancy lodges. It all really depends on the type of adventure you're looking to have. Remember, prepare for the worst and all your surprises will always be pleasant ones.

THE GAME DRIVE IN THE CRATER:

As I mentioned before, I visited Ngorongoro in April. I missed out on the Great Migration by one month and the dry season was slowly starting to creep in. The soda lake at the center of the crater had not started to dry up yet and there was plenty of wildlife. The day was really hot and I would recommend carrying sunglasses and a hat. Sunscreen too if you burn.

The wildlife I saw were the common ones; baboons, giraffe, elephants, zebra, impala, buffalo, wildebeest, and one elusive lion.

Our driver told us that you can see many of these animals all year round. The crater is also small enough to enjoy in one day or afternoon depending on how much time you have. There is a wooded area for picnics and such with toilets which is common stop for vehicles. Pack your lunch if you love eating in the outdoors and watch out for the baboons! They'll steal your food if you're not looking.

I spent a few hours down there and I saw a lot of wildlife. A drive through the crater is an opportunity no one should miss and I highly recommend it, especially if you're heading to the Serengeti.

It might sound expensive but it won't be if you choose to camp instead of staying in one of the five star lodges on the rim. It'll probably set you back $100 or so and it'll be a much more fulfilling experience.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time there even though we only spent a few hours in the crater before moving on to Manyara.

If you're in the area or if you're planning to head to Serengeti then spend a day and night in Ngorongoro. The view from the rim is enough to make the trip to this natural wonder of the world worthwhile.
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** Safari guru **

(5/5 stars) Written on: Mar 08, 2017   |   Visited: Jun 2015.
Ngorongoro Crater and Neptune Luxury Lodge – are OK, we don’t know what to gush about more, Ngorongoro Crater or Neptune Luxury Lodge. Neptune was absolutely awesome, maybe one of the best hotels we’ve ever stayed in anywhere in the world. Cheerful and well trained staff that I have ever encountered; from the moment our group arrived we were made to feel special. ... read more
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(5/5 stars) Written on: Dec 18, 2015   |   Visited: Feb 2013.
Ngorongoro, as you read about in books, is paradise on earth. And I am here, still heart to believe I am really in Tanzania and walking in a crater!

It's marvelous to see animals everywhere! There's a lioness with a GPS on so they can follow her. We see other lions off in the distance. Many cars are behind each other. Suddenly, my guide turns. I know the group,... read more
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(5/5 stars) Written on: Dec 16, 2015   |   Visited: Jun 2013.
Ngorongoro Crater is jewel for viewing, wildlife, photography and beauty. It has breathtaking views as an unbroken largest caldera in the world. The lodges at the crater rim has a view to savour for the lifetime. We find it one of the must see things in Tanzania. One can never forget the experience of the crater floor and can never find that experience anywhere els... read more
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(5/5 stars) Written on: Dec 14, 2015   |   Visited: Feb 2015.
This year, 2015, I was for the 2nd time in Ngorongoro. This time for 3 days. Its amazing there. The 3 days I saw so many animals but also a wildebeest calf was born, an other wildebeest deep in the mud and the hyenas already waiting for his death, lions, so many cross the road. We have been there I think half an hour and small, middle and adult lions around the ca... read more
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(4/5 stars) Written on: Jun 19, 2015   |   Visited: Jun 2015.
Got to see a few rhinos in this park. Was stoked. It's amazing how many animals are packed in this crater floor. Also saw a ton of zebra and warthogs. Only spent a day here and then drove off to a lodge not on the crater rim.
Biggest downer: crowds! Even the animals are used to them. read more
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(4/5 stars) Written on: May 06, 2015   |   Visited: May 2014.
The sweeping views of the overhead lush greenery, yellow flowers and cool winds as we descended into the crater floor made this my most favored park!

We were quickly greeted by a group of lions who leisurely crossed in front of us to the other side of the road. Other lions plopped down in the middle of the road in the shade of safari vehicles necessitating my ye... read more
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(4/5 stars) Written on: Apr 21, 2015   |   Visited: Jan 2015.
When you are coming from Arusha, the tarmac road ends as you reach the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.

The dramatic landscape of the Ngorongoro Highlands is the perfect complement to the flatness of the Serengeti. Populated by Masai tribes, this area of grasslands, volcanoes and forests makes utterly superb hiking terrain. The area includes the Oldupai Gorge, the ... read more
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(5/5 stars) Written on: Mar 30, 2015   |   Visited: Feb 2015.
With the light of a new dawn progressively streaming out across the floor as we made our way down the side of the crater, we rapidly understood what an animal ‘paradise’ the crater is.

They are all here except for cheetah, giraffe and leopard, the latter which can be found up around the top of the rim of the crater if you are very, very lucky. The animals can... read more
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(5/5 stars) Written on: Jan 13, 2015   |   Visited: Apr 2013.
It takes about a 3 hour drive from Arusha to get to the Ngorongoro Crater. The Ngorongoro Conservation Area includes the crater, the majestic Ngorongoro Highlands, wildlife and a high concentration of Maasai settlements. Maasai graze their cattle throughout the Conservation Area. This area also includes Oldonyo Lengai, a Maasai holy site which remains an active vo... read more
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** Safari guru **

(4/5 stars) Written on: Dec 23, 2014   |   Visited: Jan 2011.
Ngorongoro Crater is a must-see for anyone visiting norther Tanzania. I found this park especially good for photographing wildlife. There's such a high density of tourists going through here, that the animals aren't nearly as skittish and will come much closer to the vehicles. I got some great zebra shots.
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