Ngorongoro conservation area which was established in 1959 is located west of Arusha covering 8,292 square km it is composed of highland plains, savannas, savanna woodlands and forests. The area consists of the Ngorongoro Crater, the Olduvai Gorge and Ndutu, the Empakai crater, the Oldonyo Lengai Mountain and Shifting sand (this sand has half-moon shaped and moves on average of 17 meters every year).
The name Ngorongoro orginiated from the Maasai people which means cowbell. The area is shared with both wildlife and the semi-nomadic Masaai, the craters of Ngorongoro and Empakai are reserved exclusively for wildlife, while the rest of the conservation area is shared by wildlife, people and livestock. The Maasai are the main residents of Ngorongoro and are pastoralists who move widely with their herds of cattle, sheep, goats and donkeys in search of pasture and water. In recent years the Maasai have been encouraged to work on the land and supplement their traditional diet of milk and meat.
The Ngorongoro Crater ( which is the central attraction in the area) is the largest Caldera in the world that still has its walls intact. With a depth of 610 meters below the crater rim, it has an area of 304 sq. km, with a diameter of 19 km. the crater support more than 25 thousands animals such as wildebeest, zebras, gazelles, elephants, elands, a large predator population of lions, hyenas, jackals, black rhino buffalos, leopards, cheetahs, wild dogs and giraffes which are found in the conservation area as a result of the steep descent.
The Ngorongoro conservation area also includes The Olduvai Gorge (which originally was called The Oldupai Gorge meaning sisal plant) is an important paleoanthropological plant where the fossil bones of the earliest human beings were found by Dr. Louis Leakey and Dr Mary Leakey. Before this gorge, the area was made up of flat land below the lake but due to frequent earthquakes and rift valley systems the lake dried up leaving the gorge to be formed.