Size: 8,288 sq km (3,200 sq miles)
The Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) is a conservation area and a UNESCO World Heritage Site located 180 km (110 miles) west of Arusha in the Crater Highlands area of Tanzania. The conservation area is administered by the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority, an arm of the Tanzanian government, and its boundaries follow the boundary of the Ngorongoro Division of the Arusha Region. The Ngorongoro Crater, a large volcanic caldera, lies within the area.
Based on fossil evidence found at the Olduvai Gorge, various hominid species have occupied the area for 3 million years.
The area is part of the Serengeti ecosystem and adjoins the Serengeti National Park and is contiguous with the southern Serengeti plains.
The annual great migration passes through the NCA, with wildebeest and zebra moving south into the area in December and moving north in June. This movement changes seasonally with the rains, but the migration will traverse almost the entire plains in search of food. The NCA has a healthy resident population of most species of wildlife: in particular, the Ndutu Lake area to the west has strong cheetah and lion populations.
The crater, which formed when a giant volcano exploded and collapsed on itself some two to three million years ago, is 610 m (2,000 ft) deep and its floor covers 260 sq km (100 sq miles). Estimates of the height of the original volcano range from fifteen to nineteen thousand feet (4,500 to 5,800 metres) high.
It creates a unique wildlife habitat, which concentrates a large number of animals into a small area, making it the highlight of an Tanzanian safari.
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, but there are no impala, topi, oribi, giraffe, or crocodile.