Empakaai Crater

  • Empakaai Crater - © William Mackesy
  • They"re shy - © William Mackesy
  • Empakaai Crater - © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • Empakaai Crater - © William Mackesy
  • Empakaai Crater - © William Mackesy
  • Empakaai Crater - © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy

Key information: Empakaai Crater

  • Hike 300m down to the floor of this dramatic collapsed volcano in Tanzania's remote Ngorongoro Highlands.
  • Gaze over the colourful salt lake (6km across) that fills the bottom. Study the tens of thousands of flamingoes that line the shore.
  • The cliffs around the caldera are lushly forested, and home to buffalo, hyena, occasional elephant and an assortment of birds.
  • This walk is in remote mountains, where you will have to be self sufficient. Come prepared.

Walkopedia rating

  • Walkopedia rating86
  • Beauty34
  • Natural interest18
  • Human interest0
  • Charisma34
  • Negative points0
  • Total rating86

Vital Statistics

  • Length: 3-5 hours
  • Maximum Altitude: 2,740m
  • Level of Difficulty: Strenuous
They're shy - © William Mackesy


The superb but relatively obscure Empakaai Crater lies some 40km north-east of Tanzania's famous Ngorongoro Crater.


This extraordinary caldera (collapsed volcano) consists of a ring of cliffs encircling, some 300m below, a salt lake around 6km across. Its colours range from vivid turquoise to sparkling marine to pewter, depending on the time of day and the mood of the cloudscape. 


A well-constructed path winds down the eastern rim, through the lush montane forest that clothes the crater walls. Marvel at some magnificent specimens, some organ-piped strangler figs in particular. You may meet buffalo (scary), hyena or the occasional elephant; as well as an assortment of birds.


The wildlife highlight here is, however, the multitude of flamingoes that form a salmon-pink band around the shore for most of the year. Bring binoculars: they are fascinating but are shy and stalk off or even take to the air if you get too close. Watch them parade en masse, feed and (most remarkably) fly. The rasping buzz of their massed ranks can be heard back into the forest.


Other than the proximity of the flamingoes, the shoreline is perhaps a tiny bit disappointing after the views from above. The salt crust by the lake is too flimsy to let you get near the water. The tough short grass is a bit depressed. The far shore can look very distant and the hillsides a bit hazy.  But it is nonetheless a remarkable place.


The walk down will take around half an hour.  Allow at least an hour on the floor -  it takes around 4 hours to walk round the lake.  It will take 45mins to 1 hr back up the steep path.


It takes around 3.5hrs on rough roads from the main Ngorongoro village to Empakaai, so it is a long days expedition.  Or you can camp here and take a two-day donkey trek toward Lake Natron.

Other accounts: share your experiences

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Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk.

Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.

Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.

Empakaai Crater - © William Mackesy

share your experiences

Add your experiences, suggestions and photos. We would be delighted to receive your writing and ideas (which will be attributed appropriately where published).

Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.

Empakaai Crater - © William Mackesy...

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