Three million years ago, there slumbered a massive supervolcano in what we now call Northern Tanzania.
The mountain stood higher and mightier than nearby Mount Kilimanjaro. Its summit scraped the ceiling of Africa and its slopes were so vast they directed their own weather patterns and water flow. All was well with this sleeping sentinel until one day the mountain woke up. Then it fell down.
The volcano erupted with a blast so ferocious that it caved in on itself, an implosion creating a caldera spanning a hundred square miles: 12 miles wide and 2,000 feet deep. What had once claimed the highest peak on the continent was now a mere impression, inverse to its former glory.
But the glory returned. Over the course of a few million years this geologic divot filled with life. First, it caught pockets of fresh water. Second, lush vegetation developed, and third—you guessed it—the wild ones arrived.
Abundant water and grasses attracted ungulates, large predators, and countless bird species. Because of its enclosed topography, animals would descend into this bowl-shaped place and never leave. This was where the party was.
Over time the caldera teemed with sustenance, while also providing grazing lands for human tribes living along its edge. And so began the story of one of our planet’s most beautiful places, an unprecedented coliseum of biodiversity. Welcome to the Ngorongoro Crater.
nogorongoro crateranimalswildwild animalstanzanianatureafricawild africa