The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is a conservation area situated west of Arusha in the Crater Highlands area of Tanzania. The area is part of the Serengeti ecosystem, and to the north-west, it adjoins the Serengeti National Park and is contiguous with the southern Serengeti plains, these plains also extend to the north into unprotected Loliondo division and are kept open to wildlife through trans-human pastoralism practiced by Maasai.
The south and west of the area are volcanic highlands, including the famous Ngorongoro Crater and the lesser known Empakai. The southern and eastern boundaries are approximately defined by the rim of the Great Rift Valley wall, which also prevents animal migration in these directions.
The region is dominated by the massive Ngorongoro crater, which has formed the focal point of so many television documentaries. The crater floor itself is alive with game, particularly around Lake Magadi, which is also well known for its flamingo population. Aside from herds of zebra, gazelle, and wildebeest, the crater is home to the "big five" of rhinoceros, lion, leopard, elephant, and buffalo. The crater plays host to almost every individual species of wildlife in East Africa, with an estimated 25,000 animals within the crater. Elsewhere on the crater floor, predators roam freely, terrorising the vulnerable plains game that huddles in groups as the dusk settles. The views from the rim are spectacular and the fever tree forest, which characterises the area, is alive with elephant, leopard and buffalo, most of which descend into the crater to feed.
To explore this forest with an armed guide in search of smaller craters, mountain rivers and waterfalls is one of Africa's real treats.