Is Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Crater About to Hit Bottom?

Rhino-435 Beyond Green Travel is a blog written by Global Travel Editor Costas Christ. Read more NGA travel news in First In.

If Noah’s ark had off-loaded into a massive version of Yankee Stadium, the result would have looked a lot like the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania. The 102-square-mile caldera corrals great herds of zebras and gazelles and all of Africa’s Big Five. But recently, Tanzania’s chief tourist draw has started to buckle under the pressures of fame.

“In the 1970s, when the crater was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site, there were three or four vehicles inside it on any given day,” says Craig Sholley, a vice president of the African Wildlife Foundation. “Now it’s out of control.”

During peak season some 300 4x4s descend 2,000 feet into the crater daily. The local population has also skyrocketed. Today 64,000 people, many of them subsistence farmers, live within the Ngorongoro Conservation Area—double what the ecosystem can support, according to the African Conservation Foundation. Earlier this year, the Tanzanian government sent a team of legislators to meet with area officials, tourism stakeholders, and community representatives to discuss solutions. But whether they decide to relocate villagers or limit the annual number of tourists, the clock is ticking.

UNESCO has stated that Ngorongoro may be relabeled a World Heritage site in danger, unless the destructive trends of overdevelopment and human encroachment are reversed. In the meantime, some tour operators have taken matters into their own hands. “We need to dramatically cut back on the number of tourist vehicles going into the crater,” says Mark Thornton, a Tanzania-based safari outfitter who now encourages his clients to stay in one of the spectacular lodges on the crater rim but to avoid going down in. “The 5,700-square-mile Serengeti, which borders Ngorongoro, offers a lot more space and wildlife to see,” he says. “The crater needs time to heal.”

Photograph by Nicholas Parfitt/Getty Images


  1. lodging
    January 13, 2010, 12:02 pm

    That is just crazy! So good that measure are being taken! They must preserve this amazing place! I didn’t visit it yet, and I would like to get a chance- hopefully off season 🙂

  2. Dahl Tours and Safaris
    March 14, 2010, 3:40 pm

    Ngorongo is so nice it is a dream for animal watching.

  3. Car hire
    March 23, 2010, 8:09 am

    Tanzania is really great place to be!

  4. Ivan Malagurski
    June 11, 2010, 12:33 am

    The usual story, over-exploit something until you destroy it…I hope they manage to get things under control…

  5. Machu Picchu Travel
    August 26, 2010, 11:56 pm

    What a beautiful place to see animals in their native habitat. I am so glad that we are keeping the crater a special place!

  6. James Kimes
    November 14, 2010, 8:01 pm

    It’s an age old battle…preservation vs. development. Once wildlife is gone, it is gone forever. Thank goodness step are being taken to protect this beautiful, unique palce.

  7. Free Sample Resumes
    November 22, 2010, 1:10 am

    Wow Awesome place to visit and enjoy the holidays !!!

  8. John Dead
    January 15, 2011, 2:08 pm

    Maybe it’s time to introduce some restrictions on the number of tourists who can visit at any time so that the wildlife can recover.

  9. Travel Guide
    March 17, 2011, 9:43 am

    Africa is one place for animals to live and breed, here almost all the rare animals can be found …
    this is the miracle of the African