Shifting Sand in Ngorongoro
North of Olduvai Gorge on the plains is a spectacular moving ash dune, famously known as Shifting Sands. It is a remarkable crescent-shaped, black dune, composed of volcanic ash from the active Oldonyo Lengai, reaching about 9 meters high and stretching about 100 meters at the curves. The dune is being blown slowly westward across the plains, at the rate of about 17 metres per year.
The Gol Mountains lie in the remote northern end of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, rising from the open short-grass plains to a height of 915m.
The mountains are a series of ridges described by geologists as some of the oldest geological formations in the area: they were formed millions of years before the formation of Ngorongoro Crater.
The surroundings of the Gol Mountains are lush green during the rainy season, from March to early June, hosting thousands of herbivores, and in the next dry months, the vegetation turns dusty brown.
The Olkarien Gorge (also written Ol Karien) is famous as a vital nesting site of the Ruppell’s Griffon Vulture. It is a place to see vultures soaring, circling and gliding down to their nests. The best time to visit the gorge is from March to April when the vultures are breeding.
The Olkarien Gorge is located in the northern end of Ngorongoro Conservation Area, just below the border with Loliondo Open Game Controlled Area, and to the east of the Gol Mountains. The gorge is deep and narrow and extends to a length of 8km.
Lake Ndutu and Lake Masek
Lake Ndutu and Lake Masek are close to the border with Serengeti National Park on the western side of Ngorongoro Conservation Area. The two lakes form shallow basins where water accumulates from the nearby areas of slightly higher altitude. The water in both lakes is extremely saline, and most of it evaporates during the dry season
The area around the lakes is the staging ground and take off point for the migration because it is surrounded by woodlands and the short grass plains, which provide ample cover and food.
Mounts Lolmalasin and Losirua
Mount Lolmalasin is the highest crater mountain in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, and indeed, it is the third tallest mountain in Tanzania, reaching a height of 3,700m above sea level. Attached to Lolmalasin, but rising as an independent mountain, is Mount Losirua (3,260m). The two mountains are located near the eastern border of the Conservation Area, opposite the Olmoti Crater on the way to Empakaai Crater.
Mount Lolmalasin can be climbed by first driving to the Maasai villages of Olturotowas or Nainokanoka near their base, and hiking from there towards its peak. Climbing the mountain normally requires a game ranger, and the whole trip takes a day.
The peak of Lolmalasin provides attractive views of the surrounding features of the conservation area.