Mbulu Plateau

From Manyara the road makes a steep ascent up the Rift Wall (don’t miss the fine views from the little lay-by near the top). The track then crosses the rolling Mbulu Plateau, rich farming country tilled by the Mbulu people (more properly the Iraqw). Beyond this lies the steep, thickly-forested side of the Ngorongoro Crater, arguably the most famous wildlife refuge in the world. From the lodges on the crater rim, at about 2400m (8000ft), you look down upon the near-circular crater floor, an expanse of flat, open grassland, forest and lake 14km (9 miles) across. Around it stands a ring of extinct volcanoes with poetic Maasai names, and within the beautiful irregularity of the bowl, something like 20,000 large or moderately large animals live out their lives. The crater (more accurately caldera) is a remarkable natural amphitheatre which properly takes its place as one of the essential highlights of East Africa.