East Africa Travel Diaries | Camping & Safari in the Ngorongoro Crater

After a night camping in Lake Manyara we travelled onto the Ngorongoro Crater. Steve and I were super excited as this would also be our first self-drive game drive experience.

Travel

It’s about a three hour drive to the Crater from Lake Manyara. As you gradually drive up towards the ridge you’ll get an amazing view of the lake. Definitely look out for all the vultures hanging out in the trees (there’s so many of them!).

Tips

– Stop at the tourism centre before you get to the park gates. You might not want to buy any of the tourist focussed souvenirs but it does have a restaurant, amazing toilets and wifi, which we took full advantage of. 

– Self Drive in the crater is expensive, one night’s camping in Simba Public Camping Ground and a driving pass to go down into the crater set us back around $900 USD. They do however have a card machine, so don’t worry about taking out that much cash before you arrive.

-You are only allowed to self drive in the Crater with a guide. This is something we didn’t know and were not told when we paid at the entrance. We managed to talk our way through, but it’s something to bear in mind if you are thinking of self driving. If you are visiting this is something that would be good to organise before or try and get on a pre-booked Safari Tour of the crater.

-There are lots of animals around the Crater’s edge. After arriving at the campsite and putting up the tents it was too close to sunset to drive the 40 minutes to the entrance of the crater (for obvious reasons you’re not allowed down after dark). We decided to do a little sunset drive around the ridge of the crater and saw so many animals, it’s definitely worth going for a little drive!

It’s worth investing in a pair of binoculars, especially for looking out at the view point as you enter the National Park.

Accommodation

We stayed at Simba Public Campsite; a busy place as there are a lot of tours that also camp here over night. It has a super large eating and kitchen area, which we stayed well clear of and does get pretty noisy. However most people plan to head down into the crater at sunrise, so everyone goes to bed pretty early. There are rangers that patrol the camp overnight, which was a welcoming thought as we went to sleep listening to the sound of hyenas exploring the grounds!

Tips

– If you’ve got a roof top tent you have to partly park your vehicle on the road that goes around the campsite, if you drive to the furtherest point of the road away from the entrance of the campsite, you’ll get to the end where there’s space for a vehicle with a roof top tent and a tent to go on the ground too. 

– The bathrooms are super basic, so I would recommend flip flops if you’re going to shower, even though there were a lot of people camping we never had to wait for a bathroom or shower, which is good. 

– Bring all your food and drink with you, there is hardly anywhere to buy food in the crater so definitely come prepared for dinner and breakfast. 

– When we left for our sunrise game drive we actually left a lot of the our luggage in the ground tent to leave more space inside the car to move around. Would definitely recommend doing this as you have to drive back past the campsite on the way out to the Serengeti. 

The crater was my first real experience of a game drive; there was something really special about driving ourselves around the park, spotting animals or sitting and waiting for them to appear. The camping was great fun and the facilities (baring in mind they were in the middle of the park) were better than expected. The Crater however was expensive and in hindsight we probably would have bypassed it and gone straight onto the Serengeti, which is what I would recommend if you are choosing between the two.

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