Driving along the rim of the enormous Ngorongoro Crater in a 4x4 safari vehicle and then down into the crater affords breathtaking sweeping views - especially on a dawn game drive when the sun's rays gradually light up the crater floor. The world's largest intact caldera is 20 kilometres across and has walls more than 600 metres high. This protective perimeter supports some of the continent's densest concentrations of wildlife.
Lions and hyenas are frequently sighted on the open grassland that covers much of the crater floor, as are cheetahs, wildebeest and zebras. Elsewhere, Flamingos filter-feed in Lake Magadi, a shallow crater lake; hippos wallow in a permanent pool; and elephants forage among the fever trees of a swathe of woodland.
The Ngorongoro Conservation Area protects a large part of the surrounding Ngorongoro Highlands as well as the crater itself. Local Maasai tribes can be seen grazing their cattle in the region, although man's presence here goes back three million years. Fossilised remains at Olduvai Gorge proved this earliest known existence of hominids. The gorge is located on the road between the Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti and makes an interesting half-day excursion or picnic stop on Tanzania's northern safari circuit.