Visiting the Ngorongoro Crater on your self-drive safari

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Everything you need to know about visiting the Ngorongoro Crater on your self-drive safari

by Laura van Dijk

As self-drive safari experts, a question we get asked a lot at Roadtrip Tanzania is whether it's possible to visit the Ngorongoro Crater without booking through a tour company or going with a tour guide. If you're more of an independent traveller, Roadtrip Tanzania has the best tips on how to arrange your NCA park permits, avoid paying double entry fees, and where to stay for a better Ngorongoro experience. 

Covered in this guide to self-drive in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area: 

  • How much do I need to budget for a visit to the Ngorongoro Crater?
  • How do I arrange the Ngorongoro entrance permits for my self-drive safari in Tanzania?
  • Can I explore the Ngorongoro Crater without hiring a driver?
  • I'm designing my Tanzania itinerary. How many days should I reserve for the crater?
  • Camping and the best places to stay in Ngorongoro

How much do I need to budget for a visit to Ngorongoro?

Visiting Ngorongoro is always an unforgettable experience, both because of the unrivalled amount of wildlife you get to see in one day, and the high costs to see it... When planning your safari, take into account the following entrance fees: 

  • The fee for the Ngorongoro Conservation Area is $70.80 per person per 24 hours
  • The vehicle entry fee for your Roadtrip Tanzania rental car (locally registered vehicle) is 23,600 TSH ($10) per day for the RAV4 and 41,300 TSH ($20) per day for the Landcruiser.
  • If you want to enter the crater, you have to pay the additional Crater Service Fee of $295 per vehicle each time you go down the crater.
  • If you want to do a crater drive, it is compulsory to take a guide with you. You can pick one up from the NCA Headquarters building. The cost of hiring a ranger is $20, payable in cash directly to the guide. 
  • Public campsites are $35 per person/night. Special campsites are $50 per person/night.

For a detailed cost overview, check the official Ngorongoro Crater website

If you are planning to visit the Serengeti and just transit through the NCA, you still have to pay the NCA fee twice: on your way going to the Serengeti and on your way back from the Serengeti. The only way to avoid paying the NCA fee twice is by exiting the Serengeti via Klein's gate on the East, on your way to Lake Natron. Be aware, however, that it's a long and bumpy ride from Klein's gate to Lake Natron, and a solid 7-8 hours drive through a remote area. If you want to visit Lake Natron on your roadtrip in Tanzania, we advise driving to the village of Mto wa Mbu, which is on the main road from Karatu to Arusha bordering Lake Manyara, and take the road north to Lake Natron. From Karatu it will take about 5-6 hours to reach Lake Natron. From Mto wa Mbu the drive is about 3-4 hours.

Walking safari in the Ngorongoro Crater

Can I explore the Ngorongoro Crater on a self-drive safari?

If you want to do a crater drive in Ngororongoro, it is compulsory to take a ranger. You can pick up a ranger from the NCA Headquarters building, located on the main road towards the crater entrance gate. The cost is $20, payable in cash at the entrance gate. 

How do I arrange the Ngorongoro entrance permits for my self-drive safari in Tanzania?  

For the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, you need to obtain an entrance quote first, before you can go to the gate to actually pay for the park entrance. The NCA office is based in Arusha and Karatu and open Monday - Friday. It's not possible to obtain an NCA entrance quote online. Roadtrip Tanzania is happy to arrange the Ngorongoro quote on your behalf. We charge a handling fee of €30 / car for this service. This option is included in the online reservation form when you book a car with us.

To arrange the NCA quote for you, we need the following information: 

  1. Number of people (plus age if anyone is 15 or younger)
  2. Date of entering the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (on your way to the Serengeti)
  3. Date of exiting the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (returning from the Serengeti)
  4. When applicable: date(s) and visit(s) down into the crater. 
  5. In case you are not only in transit to and from the Serengeti, but also plan to spend more than 24 hours in the NCA, kindly provide the dates you will spend in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. 
  6. Name of accommodation (if you are staying in the NCA park overnight) 

I am designing my Tanzania itinerary. How many days should I reserve for the crater? 

The Ngorongoro Crater permit is valid from 6 AM to 6 PM. A half to full day is enough to cover the main tracks in the crater. 

Driving times to the Ngorongoro are as follows:

  • Arusha - Loduare Gate (NCA entrance) / crater rim: 3-4 hours 
  • Loduare Gate to Ngorongoro Crater entrance: 1.5 hours.
  • Ngorongoro Crater entrance to Naabi Hill Gate (Serengeti entrance): 2.5 hours.
  • Note that it's about a 3-4 hours drive from the NCA Simba Public Campsite to Naabi gate Serengeti (which is also the exit of the NCA). So if you want to avoid paying the NCA twice, whilst staying overnight in the NCA, you have to time your visit so as not to enter the NCA too early, but leave very early the next morning.

Best maps of the NCA:

  • Harms Verlag (IC) Ngorongoro Conservation Area Map

Camping and the best places to stay in the Ngorongoro

Karatu is a nice and affordable place to base yourself from when visiting the NCA and the Ngorongoro Crater. If you want to stay inside the NCA, the most affordable option is Simba Public Campsite A, on the crater rim.

The rest of the campsites on the crater rim are so-called 'special campsites', largely reserved by private safari companies, who bid on them for the season. As an individual traveller, you won't be able to stay there. The less interesting special campsites are not taken by the safari companies and are available for booking by individual travellers. Read more about how to secure you special campsite permits here. 

The most affordable lodge on the crater rim is Rhino Lodge - it doesn't have a view though. All the other lodges are very expensive; Roadtrip Tanzania's top choice among these would be Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge.  

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