The world-famous Ngorongoro Crater Area lies at the eastern edge of the Serengeti just west of Arusha in northwest Tanzania. The region—named a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its superlative-inducing natural wonders—occupies 102 square miles of pristine African wilderness including the crowning jewel of Ngorongoro Crater. This is the world’s largest un-flooded volcanic caldera, formed approximately two to three million years ago when a volcano exploded and fell into itself to create a huge depression some 2,000 feet deep. The blue-green vistas from its unbroken walls are as dramatic as they come, but the real magic happens when you venture down inside its boundaries into one of the world’s most unchanged wildlife sanctuaries.

The Ngorongoro Crater plays host to almost every individual species of wildlife in East Africa, with an estimated 25,000 animals within the crater. This unparalleled concentration of wildlife virtually guarantees sightings of zebra, gazelle, and wildebeest herds, as well as the marvelous Big Five of rhino, lion, leopard, elephant, and buffalo. The caldera also boasts around 30 endangered black rhino and the highest density of predators in all of Africa, setting the stage for natural drama to unfold as prey and predators graze and stalk through the open grasslands, swamps, and acacia woodland on the crater floor. The primary reason for all of this abundance in the Ngorongoro Crater is the presence of water, both from the permanent Ngoitoktok Springs and the rivers fed by run off from the crater rim’s forests. Their life-giving sustenance ensures that hippos and flamingos alike benefit from the idyllic setting.

Beyond the wildlife, what makes the Ngorongoro Conservation Area so unique is its careful multi-use balance between man and nature. It is the only conservation area in Tanzania that protects wildlife while also allowing human habitation—currently the Maasai pastoralists. Based on fossil evidence, various humans have occupied the Ngorongoro ecosystem for upwards of three million years, and it is the conservation’s belief that through careful research and respectful tourism, they can continue to do so for millions more to come.