Ngorongoro crater and Maasai Mara
Ngorongoro Crater and Maasai Mara are some of the best game parks not only in East Africa but the entire world. The two parks are the home of the African big 5, easily viewed in the shortest time possible. Ngorongoro crater in Tanzania is found in the northern part of Arusha along the tourist circuit. Maasai Mara national reserve is found in Kenya in the far South in the border with Tanzania.
Maasai Mara National Reserve was established in 1961 as a wildlife sanctuary before it gained its national reserve status in 1974 after the expansion of the area from 520 square kilometres to1,510 square kilometres. The reserve is governed by the locals under Narok County. It covers an area of 1,510 square kilometres. The reserve is located in Narok Country in Kenya around Mara Region. The reserve was named in honour of the Masaai local people with the name coming from the local word Mara which means spotted. This is a great direct description of the dotted scrub of trees that are found in the open savannah grassland. The Maasai is famous for the world’s largest wildlife migration called the wildebeest migration that happens annually. The wildebeest cross the mighty Mara River from Serengeti national park to the Maasai Mara national reserve and vice versa. The reserve is a home of the exceptional population of Elephants, lions, cheetahs and leopards.
On the other hand, the Ngorongoro crater that was voted as the eight wonders of Africa is located in the West of the tourist city Arusha. The crater is around 180 kilometres through Karatu town along the plantations in the edge of the Rift Valley walls. Ngorongoro crater is under the management of the Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area Authority. The crater which is declared as a world heritage site is a home of over 25,000 wildlife with the highest concentration of predators in the word. Descending down to the unique crater floor through the scenic walls of the crater, having a great view of the forest, waterfalls and birds singing and playing at the treetops.
It is not easy to compare the incredibility of Ngorongoro crater and Masai mara national reserve. These are all giant game reserves not only in East Africa but the entire world where the largest live animal migration still happens. The three parks, Ngorongoro crater, Maasai Mara national reserve, and Serengeti national park form the great Serengeti- Mara eco-system. The great Serengeti ecosystem covers an area of 30,000 square kilometres.
The vegetation of Ngorongoro crater and Masai Mara
In vegetation, Ngorongoro crater and Maasai Mara are known by their open savannah grasslands with dotted Acacia trees that attract a wide range of wildlife with the most famous being the Wildebeests that migrate and rotate across these two parks through the endless plains of Serengeti national park. It is with this background that makes the Ngorongoro crater and Maasai Mara one of the most visited national parks in Tanzania and Kenya respectively.
The vast grassland of North Ngorongoro crater in Karatu area stretches up through Central open endless plains of Serengeti to Maasai Mara national reserves where it partly changes to grassier and hilly at the centre of the reserve. This variation on the vegetation is due to the difference in the soil type and texture as one approach near Lake Victoria.
When one goes as far as Ol Doinyo Lengai volcano the only active volcano in Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area. The South Ngorongoro highlands have a montane forest, grassland and woodlands. This is due to the high amount of rainfall received in this area compared to other parts of the Crater Area. While in central Masai Mara is covered and dominated by the sweeping plains of open short grassland. The vegetation tends to change as one approach to the Mara river that has river forest. The reserve has a wide range of habitats including the surrounding conservancies that are occupied by acacia woodlands and rocky outcrops called Kopjes.
If you want to explore and enjoy the African beauty with a wide range of scenic views while on your safari van. Look no further than any of Ngorongoro Crater and Maasai Mara for Tanzania and Kenya respective or even both as we have combining safaris of Kenya and Tanzania.
Wildlife of Ngorongoro crater and Masai Mara
With a variety of wildlife in Ngorongoro crater and Maasai Mara, it means the parks also have permanent residents on these protected areas. Serengeti ecosystem has a great number of animals especially the high number of predators that include over 3,000 lions, around 1000 leopards and over 8,000 hyenas. Ngorongoro crater has the highest concentration of lion per capita. The predators in Ngorongoro crater are permanent and are easily seen during the game drives at the floor of the crater.
The other animals are the grazers like wildebeest which travel annually from Ngorongoro crater to Maasai Mara through Serengeti. The movement is circular yearly following the climate calendar of the year. The predators sometimes follow these movements and mark them very well more than even humans. More animals found in these protected areas are Zebras, Giraffe (but found outside the Ngorongoro crater) various species of Antelopes, Warthogs, small cats and many more.
Activities in Ngorongoro crater and Masai Mara
The only activity that separates Ngorongoro crater and Maasai Mara is Balloon safari. Balloon safaris are only found in Maasai Mara not found in the deep steep Ngorongoro crater, this is a unique way of observing the aerial view of the Maasai Mara. With an eagle eye on the Reserve especially during the wildebeest migration.
Other activities that are done on both Ngorongoro crater and Maasai Mara is game drives. In Ngorongoro, a 4-wheel drive car is a must to descend down the crater while Maasai Mara national reserve where even 2-wheel drive is used for the game drives. Game drives in Masai mara can also be done at night though this is not available in Ngorongoro crater.
Ngorongoro crater and Maasai Mara are the birding paradise of Africa with over 450 bird species. Birders enjoy both migratory birds and permanent resident birds, the most favourable months of birding is rainy season months of April, May and November.
The locals of the two protected areas are the Maasai people that have the strongest culture untapped in Africa. Its nicknamed the true African where tradition overpowers modernization. The visit to Ngorongoro crater and Maasai Mara takes you close to the locals where you will enjoy their dance and cultural activities together.