The Southern Highlands of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area are less frequented and a lesser-known attraction that lies to the east of the conservation area. Unlike the Ngorongoro Crater, this area is not crowded with visitors and off-road vehicles, making it a unique excursion for those seeking a peaceful getaway.
To access the Southern Highlands, one can take the dirt road that runs along the southern part of the Ngorongoro Crater and leads toward the Irsimigiyo Hills. The route passes through various Masai villages, adding a cultural touch to the experience.
Another way to explore the area is through a walking safari across the grassland to the rim of the Great Rift Valley escarpment. The walk offers a breathtaking view of Eyasi Lake, which is home to the Datoga and the Hadzabe tribes. During the safari, visitors may also come across Masai villages. However, due to the presence of the Maasai and their cattle, the number of wild animals is relatively lower. Thus, visitors must be accompanied by an armed ranger for safety purposes.
For the more adventurous and physically fit, climbing Mount Lemagarut is an exciting option. The mountain is located to the west of the Ngorongoro Crater and requires a whole day to climb. Proper training is necessary to tackle the excursion as the climb is not easy.
Looking for an off-the-beaten-path adventure in Tanzania? Look no further than the Southern Highlands, where you can escape the crowds and experience the breathtaking natural beauty of this unique landscape. Unlike the Ngorongoro Crater, which is often teeming with visitors and off-road vehicles, the Southern Highlands offer a more secluded and authentic experience. In this article, we’ll explore the various ways you can explore these stunning highlands, from walking safaris to mountain climbing.
Exploring the Southern Highlands
Walking Safari to the Great Rift Valley
One of the best ways to experience the Southern Highlands is on foot. A walking safari through the grasslands up to the rim of the Great Rift Valley escarpment is an unforgettable experience. From the top, you can enjoy a magnificent view of the Eyasi Lake, the land of the Datoga and the Hadzabe.
During this walk, you’ll also come across various Masai villages. While wild animals are less in number due to the presence of the Maasai who lead their cattle to grazing, it is mandatory to be escorted by an armed ranger for safety reasons.
Climbing Mount Lemagarut
For the more adventurous, climbing Mount Lemagarut is an incredible experience. The mountain lies to the west of the Ngorongoro Crater, and it takes a full day to tackle the climb. Only properly trained visitors can attempt the excursion, as it is not an easy climb.
Departure is usually in the morning after breakfast, on a 4×4 jeep that takes you to the Irsimigiyo Hills. From there, escorted by an armed ranger, you can start climbing Mount Lemagarut at an altitude of 3,147 meters a.s.l. The climb itself takes around 3 and a half hours to cover the 4.5 km-long path snaking through woods, grasslands, and valleys covered with forests, with a vertical drop of 800 meters.
On a clear day, from the top, you can enjoy an all-round view of the endless plains of the Serengeti National Park, the Eyasi Lake, and the Ngorongoro Crater.
Getting to the Southern Highlands
To reach the Southern Highlands, you’ll need to take the dirty road that initially runs along the southern part of the Ngorongoro Crater and leads towards the Irsimigiyo Hills. Along the way, you’ll pass through various Masai villages, adding to the unique experience of this excursion.
What Makes the Southern Highlands Special?
A More Authentic Experience
Unlike the Ngorongoro Crater, which is one of the most visited areas in Tanzania, the Southern Highlands are far from the usual tourist trail. As a result, you’ll have a more authentic experience, with fewer crowds and a better chance to connect with the local culture.
Secluded Natural Beauty
The Southern Highlands are known for their stunning natural beauty, with rugged mountains, rolling hills, and sweeping grasslands. The area is also home to various Masai villages, adding to the cultural significance of this region.
More Adventure Opportunities
For those seeking adventure, the Southern Highlands offer an array of exciting activities, from climbing Mount Lemagarut to walking safaris through the grasslands. Whether you’re an experienced hiker or just looking for a unique experience, there’s something for everyone in the Southern Highlands.
Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit the Southern Highlands is during the dry season, from June to October. During this time, the weather is cooler and drier, making it more comfortable for outdoor activities.
The main regions of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area
- Central Plains
- Eastern Highlands
- Southern Highlands
- Northern Plains