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Ngorongoro Karatu
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Ngorongoro Karatu


... is a particularly attractive rural area which lies on the main safari route through Northern Tanzania.

Climbing up the main Rift Escarpment above Lake Manyara, the landscapes are immediately better watered and more widely farmed. It is about 30km along a good sealed road to the Lodoare Gate into the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. For the last 15km, approaching the tin-roofed agricultural centre of Karatu, this farmland becomes increasingly beautiful, with the mountainous cloud-forests of the reserve looming ahead.

The area is home to the Irawq people, who are agriculturalists and therefore very different from the pastoral Maasai who dominate the surrounding areas.

The area naturally experiences high to very high vehicle traffic, since the main road carries virtually all of the vehicles heading up to the park, as well as the regular traffic headed for Lake Victoria. But somehow this feels like much less of an issue as it does inside the wildlife reserves.

When to visit ...

When it comes to deciding when to visit, safari in this region is highly seasonal, but your choice to dates is more likely to be determined by what is happening out in the reserves than here at Karatu.

However is worth noting that this particular area does experience relatively high rainfall, very much more than the surrounding lowland areas. We therefore tend to deploy fewer nights here during the shoulder and green seasons Nov/May.

Read more about when to visit this area ...

How we like to include this area in trips ...

Karatu contains some really attractive accommodation options, the majority of which are situated on beautiful coffee plantations. These places can provide a very welcome change of pace in the middle of a safari, a chance to slow down and appreciate the pleasures of rural Africa.

In terms of activities, most of the lodges offer the chance to explore these beautiful farmlands on foot, to undertake various village and school visits, go on coffee plantation tours, enjoy hikes into the Ngorongoro Forest, mountain-biking and other such activities. It is also possible to undertake day-trips to the Lake Eyasi and Lake Eyasi areas from here.

Nights here are relatively cheap compared with nights inside the main reserves because there are no park fees, the accommodation tends to be lower cost and your vehicle will usually need to cover less distance each day. So it can be quite a cost effective way of spending longer in this wonderful region.

Gibbs Farm ... is the original farm-stay in this area, a genuinely upmarket option and probably still the pick of the accommodation.

Plantation Lodge ... is a high quality German-owned farm-stay which we tend to use most commonly when the above is unavailable.

The Manor at Ngorongoro ... is a more modern interpretation of the farmhouse theme and is certainly the most upmarket option which also offers excellent horse-riding.

Bashay Rift Lodge ... is more of a conventional lodge, set on a hilltop to the south, with a particularly nice swimming pool.

The area is usually accessed by road as part of an overland safari through the region, but can also be accessed by light aircraft into Manyara Airstrip, from where it is about an hour by road.

Most visitors tend to stay in this Karatu area for 1 to 2 nights in the middle of a safari, but longer stays of 3 to 5 nights can also work really well at the end of a safari, perhaps before heading down to the coast.

The majority of visitors combine nights in Karatu with surrounding areas such as Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Tarangire and Manyara to make a safari of 5 to 14 nights.

These safaris are sometimes combined with further safari in Ruaha, Selous, Katavi and Mahale, as well as treks on Mount Kilimanjaro. They are also commonly combined with nights down on the Tanzania Coast, especially on the islands of Zanzibar, Pemba, Mafia or Fanjove.

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Jay Hanson
Jay Hanson, Senior Safari Consultant
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