When you hear the word Ngorongoro, what is the next word that comes to your mind? Crater, perhaps? Yes, indeed the Ngorongoro Crater is rightly renowned for its outstanding natural beauty and abundance of wildlife. However, there is a lot more to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area than the Crater itself and many visitors leave the area without having had the opportunity to see more of what is on offer. The surrounding highlands include seven extinct volcanoes full of outstanding beauty and spectacular scenery. The best way to appreciate these attractions is by walking. Even a short walk of only an hour or two can be very rewarding and there are also many opportunities for longer hikes. After spending days sitting in a vehicle, some visitors do say that they would like to stretch their legs.
Crater Rim walk
Drive to the starting point on the Crater rim about 5 kilometres from Rhino Lodge. The walk is along the Western rim of the Crater past the Oloirobi viewpoint. There are patches of forest to begin with and later it opens up into thicket and grassland, giving beautiful views down into the Crater on your right and eventually equally good views towards Olduvai Gorge, the Serengeti and the Gol mountains to your left. This is an easy-paced walk with no arduous climbs, just a few short gradients. It lasts about 2 hours and can be done at any time of day. A good time would be either early morning before departure on a game drive, or late afternoon on arrival at the Lodge after a day’s game viewing.
Drive to the starting point about 8 kilometres from the Lodge on the road to Endulen. This is open grassland giving beautiful views of Mount Oldeani to the left and Makarot to the right. You will see several Maasai villages dotted around the valley, and you may well encounter men herding their cattle and goats. For about 45 minutes you climb gently upwards along the shoulder of Mount Oldeani, eventually reaching a spectacular view as the land falls away to Lake Eyasi, the western wall of the Rift Valley and the Serengeti plains. This walk can also be done at any time of the day. Total duration: about 2 hours.
From the Eyasi Viewpoint you walk directly uphill. This is a stiff climb taking about 2 hours. You climb about 900 metres to a height of 3,200 metres at the top. As you progress you will see a difference in the vegetation, the plants and the birdlife. It is all open grassland with no forest or thickets of dense bush. At certain times of year, the profusion and colour of the wild flowers will surely amaze you.
Eventually your hard work is rewarded by a spectacular panorama from the top with magnificent views in every direction: the Crater to the north, the Serengeti and Lake Eyasi to the West, Lake Manyara to the South, and the Crater highlands to the East. This walk can be done in about 4 hours if you walk at a steady pace and do not stop – except at the top. However, it can be easily expanded into a more leisurely, half-day excursion with a picnic lunch.
From Rhino Lodge you drive north-west along the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater, then past Olmoti Crater, the village of Nainokanoka and the Embulbul Depression with good views of Mt. Loolmalasin on the right; at 3648 metres, this is the third highest mountain in Tanzania. The drive is through open grassland dotted with Maasai villages. You will see lots of cattle, and a few wild animals such as zebra.
After about an hour and a half you reach the eastern rim of the Empakaai Crater. With a diameter of only 6 kms it is smaller than Ngorongoro, but very beautiful. This is a little-visited area and the only means of access to the crater floor is on foot. The walls are steep and thickly-forested. The walk down, along a good path, takes about 30 minutes involving a drop of about 300 metres and goes through patches of forest.
Look out for the two huge strangler fig trees as you approach the crater floor. Most of the floor is occupied by a soda lake, 85 metres deep. Depending on the season, there are numbers of flamingos, which congregate to feed along the edge of the lake. The lake is also a home to black-winged stilts, little grebes, and cape teal. You may not see many animals, but the tracks of leopard, hyaena, baboon and buffalo betray their presence. The more energetic visitor will enjoy a walk along the edge of the lake around the entire floor of the crater. This takes 2-3 hours and is a chance to soak up the quiet beauty of this magical place. Then follows the hardest part – the climb back up to the rim! A picnic lunch can be eaten either in the crater or on the rim from where you get a beautiful view northwards to Oldonyo Lengai, a still-active volcano of great religious importance to the Maasai. This excursion can be done in half a day if don’t walk around the lake. If you do, then it will take about 7 hours.
Mount Makarot (3130 metres)
This is also shown on some maps as Mt. Lemagarut. Departure after breakfast and drive down the road to Endulen as far as the village of Misigiyo. The walk starts from here in an acacia-filled valley, from where you emerge into scrub and grassland. It is a stiff climb of about 2 hours to a peak which gives good views back to Lake Eyasi and Endulen. From there you continue for another half an hour through some beautiful, high altitude forest. You may see signs of animals such as buffalo and baboons. Eventually you have to scramble up another 200 metres to the peak of Makarot itself. From there you will be rewarded with an outstanding view and the feeling you are standing on the roof of the world. In front of you the ground falls away to the Lake Eyasi, the western wall of the Rift Valley, Lake Ndutu, Olduvai Gorge and the plains of the Serengeti. In the distance you can see the Gol Mountains. To your left you can see Mt. Oldeani, and to your right the western part of the Ngorongoro Crater. Depending on the time of year, the beauty and variety of wild flowers is remarkable. You can eat your packed lunch while admiring the view. Then you descend either by the way you came or down the northern slopes of Makarot towards the Serengeti plans and rendezvous with your car on the road to the Serengeti. The Ngorongoro Conservation Area offers many opportunities for walking, but we believe that this is the best in terms of scenic beauty. The total walk lasts 5-6 hours.
1.This walk requires a reasonable level of fitness and bear in mind that you will be at altitudes in excess of 2,500 metres.
2.In some areas there are stinging nettles. It is advisable to wear long trousers and a long-sleeved shirt.
Endoro River Nature Trail
This is a 5km round trip, starting and finishing near Gibbs Farm which is situated just to the north of the small town of Karatu. This walk goes gently uphill into the Northern Highland Forest Reserve. The main attractions are the elephant caves, created by elephants digging up the earth to ingest the vitamins and minerals in the soil, and a 150m waterfall, from the top you get beautiful views over the agricultural country around Karatu.
The forest is home to elephant, buffalo, leopard, waterbuck, bushbuck and vervet monkeys, plus a variety of birds. This is montane, not tropical, forest and is a vital source of water for the wildlife and as well as the farming communities to the South. The trip should take about 2 hours to the elephant cave and back. This walk can be done before entering or after leaving the Ngorongoro Conservation Area en route from/to Manyara.
In order to ensure availability of a ranger, it is preferable to book walks in advance. A Maasai Elder who has been born and has lived in the Ngorongoro all his life can accompany your group on the walk to give you a cultural perspective of the area. It may occasionally happen that adverse weather conditions (low cloud and rain) make it impossible to do the walk.
We recommend good walking shoes or boots, a sunhat and a waterproof jacket – just in case of a shower of rain.
During these walks small numbers of animals will be seen but the main attraction of the walk is the beauty of the scenery, not the game viewing.
All walks are accompanied by an armed Ranger from the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority. Although the risk of coming into contact with a dangerous, large animal is tiny, it is a law that you are accompanied by a ranger – just in case…..!
Costs: Please enquire with us as costs depend on the number of persons in a group.
At Rhino Lodge we are happy to organise a variety of walks. Even a short walk of only an hour or two can be very rewarding and there are also many opportunities for longer hikes. Some can be done as a simple add-on either at the beginning or end of a day of game-viewing. Longer ones require either a half-day or a full-day with a second night at the lodge. The above are just a few options which Rhino Lodge is happy to organise for its guests.