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The famous Ngorongoro Crater is a World Heritage Site, since 1979, situated at the eastern edge of the Serengeti in northern Tanzania. The crater is the largest unbroken ancient caldera in the world. Nearly three million years old, the once-volcanic Ngorongoro is now considered " Africa's Garden of Eden" - a haven for thousands of wild game, including lions, elephants, wildebeests, zebras, rhinos, Thomson's gazelles and buffaloes. It is considered by some as the Eighth Natural Wonder of the World.
The crater is ringed with steep walls and shelters forests, grasslands, fresh springs and a large soda lake at its centre. The Ngorongoro volcano before it exploded and collapsed 2 million years ago, was one of the world's tallest mountains. The crater measures about 19 kilometres (12 miles) across and the rim is 600 metres (2,000 feet) above the crater floor.
The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is inhabited by 30,000 animals, all protected within the confines of the crater walls. Resident zebra, wildebeest, Grants and Thomson's gazelle are a predator's dream. Tanzania 's few remaining black rhino are protected and regularly sighted in the crater, as are large herds of buffalo. Huge tusked elephants, black-maned lions, cheetah and spotted hyena are also found, as well as thousands of lesser and greater flamingos in the soda lake.
The Maasai people live within the conservation area around the crater. Known as nomadic herders and warriors, a visit to these traditional, temporary villages "enkangs" is a highlight for all visitors to the area. Get a glimpse of their fascinating culture: see them in their bright red robes, watch as they create ornate beadwork and how they live off the land by utilizing cattle. The nomadic Maasai have grazing rights of the Ngorongoro Crater and treat cattle as a sign of wealth.
The magnificent Serengeti National Park is probably what most people envisage when they imagine "real" Africa. Wide-open plains teeming with wildlife, animals roaming freely in search of food and water and beautiful and dramatic landscapes as far as the eye can see - this is the heartbeat of the Serengeti. The Serengeti harbours the greatest remaining concentration of wild game in Africa and is home to the annual phenomenon where millions of herbivores migrate en masse across the plains of Tanzania.
"Serengeti" is derived from the Maasai word "Siringit" which means an extended place. The region is home to approximately a quarter of a million gazelles, two hundred thousand zebra and thousands of other herbivores, as well as huge prides of lion, high densities of cheetah and solitary leopards. The Serengeti region encompasses the Serengeti National Park itself, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Maswa Game Reserve, the Loliondo, Grumeti and Ikorongo Controlled Areas and merges with the Masai Mara National Park in Kenya.
The Serengeti's unique ecosystem and abundant flora and fauna have inspired writers, photographers and filmmakers and it's not difficult to see why. Considered the longest and greatest show on earth, the Great Migration takes place every year and is quite a spectacle to behold! The 800 kilometre-long trek begins suddenly in late May or early June, depending on the weather conditions. Millions of wildebeest, zebra and Thomson's gazelle move away from the short grass plains between the Ngorongoro Highlands and Seronera and head towards the north and west in search of water and fresh grass. In their wake follow predators hungry for an easy kill: lion, cheetah, hyena and hunting dogs, which ensure that only the fittest of herbivores survive. Vultures and other birds of prey also descend upon the weak and dying, or scavenge on the kills left by the predators. The Migration moves west, then north crossing the Grumeti and Mara Rivers where hundreds more die through drowning, or being taken by predatory crocodiles. The survivors settle in the Western Corridor and northern reaches of the Serengeti and in the Masai Mara National Park in Kenya.