The Maasai pastoralists gave the crater its onomatopoeic name in reference to the sound made by the cowbell (ngoro ngoro). Numerous hominid species have lived in the region for three million years, according to fossil evidence discovered in the Olduvai Gorge.
A few thousand years ago, pastoralists displaced the hunter-gatherers. Around 2,000 years ago, the Mbulu arrived in the region, and the Datooga followed around 1700. In the 1800s, the Maasai drove both populations out of the region.
Before Oscar Baumann’s journey in 1892, no Europeans are known to have entered the Ngorongoro Crater. Adolph and Friedrich Siedentopf, two German brothers, leased the property from the government of German East Africa and farmed in the crater until the start of World War I. To amuse their German friends, the brothers often hosted shooting events. They also made an effort to eject the herds of wildebeest from the crater.
The first game preservation regulation, which limited hunting to license holders across Tanzania, was approved in 1921. Except for the old Siedentopf farms, hunting was outlawed on all of the crater rim’s territory in 1928. The Serengeti National Park was established by the National Park Ordinance of 1948, which went into effect in 1951. (SNP). The Ngorongoro Conservation Area Ordinance (1959), which divided the conservation area from the national park, was the consequence of issues this generated with the Maasai and other tribes. The number of Maasai and cattle residing in the Crater has increased as a result of the deliberate relocation of Maasai pastoralists from Serengeti National Park to Ngorongoro. : 48 The bulk of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area’s territory, including the Crater, is owned by the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority, which was created by the Game Park Laws (Miscellaneous Amendments) Act of 1976. In 1979, the region was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Wildlife Conservation Act of 2009 imposed more restrictions on how people might utilize Ngorongoro Crater while also establishing the legal groundwork for the political marginalization and forcible eviction of traditional pastoralists.: 57–59 Tension between the local Maasai populations and conservation officials is caused by the limitation on land usage. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is looking for ways to reduce conflict and strengthen residents’ participation in conservation activities.
Because it is the only conservation area in Tanzania that preserves wildlife while permitting human living, the conservation area land is multi-use and unique. To avoid having an adverse impact on the animal population, land usage is regulated. For example, anything but subsistence levels of farming are forbidden.
The region, which is a part of the Serengeti ecosystem, is bordered to the northwest by the SNP and the southern Serengeti plains. The Maasai’s transhumance pastoralism keeps these grasslands, which continue north into the unprotected Loliondo division, accessible to wildlife. Volcanic highlands may be found to the south and west of the region, including the well-known Ngorongoro Crater and the less well-known Empakaai Crater. The rim of the East African Rift wall, which also restricts animal movement in these directions, roughly defines the southern and eastern bounds.
Pliocene era The Gregory Rift Western Escarpment serves as the eastern limit of the Eyasi half-graben, which is bounded by the eight extinct shield volcanoes that make up the Ngorongoro volcanic complex. The half-graben is enclosed on the southwest by the Lake Eyasi escarpment. Three of the complex’s volcanoes have calderas, while five of them are dome-shaped cones. In the Ngorongoro Volcano (2.5-1.9 Ma), basaltic trachyandesite predominates. The Munge and Oljoro Nyuki Rivers feed the caldera, while the Ngoitokitok hot springs supply the Goringop marsh. A shallow (1.7 m) alkaline lake, Lake Magadi. Olmoti (2.01-1.79 Ma), Empakaai, Loolmalasin, Sadiman (3.7 Ma), Lemagrut, and Oldeani are some of the other volcanoes in the complex. The Serengeti Plains, the Salei Plains, the Oldupai Gorge, and the inselbergs of the Gol Mountains make up the conservation area’s northwest corner. These inselbergs are 800–500 Ma old quartzite and mica schist from the Mozambique Belt.
The Ngorongoro Crater, the biggest dormant, undamaged, and unfilled volcanic crater in the world, is the centerpiece of the Ngorongoro Conservation Authority. The crater is 610 meters (2,000 feet) deep and has a floor area of 260 square kilometers. It was created two to three million years ago when a sizable volcano erupted and fell on itself (100 square miles). The original volcano’s height is thought to have been between 4,500 and 5,800 meters (14,800 and 19,000 ft) high. 1,800 meters (5,900 ft) above sea level marks the crater bottom. In Arusha, Tanzania, in February 2013, Seven Natural Wonders selected the crater as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa. [Between 2.45 million years ago and 2 million years ago, the Ngorongoro volcano was active.
Volcanic eruptions like the one at Ngorongoro, which created Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Crater, were rather frequent. Olmoti and Empakaai also had collapses, albeit they were significantly less in scope and consequence. [Reference required]
Doinyo Lengai is still active and had significant eruptions in 2007 and 2008 of the two recent volcanoes, Kerimasi and Ol Doinyo Lengai, to the northeast of the Empakaai caldera. Lava flows and smaller ash explosions are progressively filling the present crater. Its name translates to “Mountain of God” in Maasai.
The major water source flowing into the crater’s seasonal salt lake is the Munge Stream, which empties Olmoti Crater to the north. The Maasai named this lake Makat, which translates to “salt,” and Magadi. The Lerai Stream supplies the Lerai Forest on the crater floor and drains the humid woods to the south of the crater. When it rains sufficiently, the Lerai also empties into Lake Magadi. The volume of water entering Lerai is decreased by around 25% as a result of water extraction by resorts and Ngorongoro Conservation Area headquarters.
The Ngoitokitok Spring, located close to the eastern crater wall, is the second important water source in the crater. Tourists may enjoy a picnic area nearby, and the region is home to hippopotamuses, elephants, lions, and many other animals. The area is also supplied by a spring. Around the crater’s bottom, there are several other tiny springs that serve as crucial water sources for the Maasai inhabitants and nearby wildlife, particularly during dry spells.  Before 2015, Masai were allowed to graze their livestock within the crater, but they were no longer allowed to do so.