The Ngorongoro area originally was part of the Serengeti National Park when it was created by the British in 1951. Maasai continued to live in the newly created park until 1959, when repeated conflicts with park authorities over land use led the British to evict them to the newly declared Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Land in the conservation area is multi-use, it is unique in Tanzania as the only conservation area providing protection status for wildlife whilst allowing human habitation.
As such land use is controlled to prevent negative effects on the wildlife population, for example cultivation is prohibited at all but subsistence levels. The area is part of the Serengeti ecosystem, and to the north-west, it adjoins the Serengeti National Park and is contiguous with the southern Serengeti plains, these plains also extend to the north into unprotected Loliondo division and are kept open to wildlife through trans-human pastoralism practiced by Maasai.
The south and west of the area are volcanic highlands, including the famous Ngorongoro Crater and the lesser known Empakai. The southern and eastern boundaries are approximately defined by the rim of the Great Rift Valley wall, which also prevents animal migration in these directions. The Maasai people had been grazing their livestock in the open plains which they knew as “endless plain” for over 200 years when the first European explorers visited the area.
The name Serengeti is an approximation of the word used by the Maasai to describe the area. German geographer and explorer Dr. Oscar Baumann entered the area in 1892. Baumann killed three rhinos during a stay in the Ngorongoro crater. The Serengeti is Tanzania’s oldest national park and remains the flagship of the country’s tourism industry, providing a major draw to the “Northern Safari Circuit”, encompassing Lake Manyara, Tarangire and Arusha national parks, as well as Ngorongoro Conservation Area.