AS Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA) plans to invest in its area to get more tourists who stay longer, it has initiated efforts to bank on Ngorongoro- Lengai Geopark for more revenue.
While strategising to have hotels, lodges and airport within its area, NCAA is turning into diversification geotourism attractions for tourists to enjoy and relax while the Authority and the government get increased income.
NCAA Cultural Heritage Manager, Engineer Joshua Mwankunda sees in the near future an increased stay time for tourists as well as getting a way for diversification instead of banking on trekking down the Ngorongoro Crater only.
As such, there are four additional Geo routes with 61 attractions, with the Ngorongoro- Lengai Geopark becoming an important additional reason why tourists should keep flocking in the world’s largest intact volcanic caldera and home to the highest density of big game in Africa.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) designated Ngorongoro-Lengai as a Geopark site in April 17, 2018 – the only one in Sub-Saharan Africa.
In Africa, there are two of them, another being M’Goun Global Geopark in Morocco. There are 161 Geoparks globally from 44 countries. The size of Ngorongoro as a whole is massive, with Ngorongoro Crater (250 km2), Olmoti Crater (3.7 km2) and Empakai crater (8 km2).
There is Oldonyolengai mountain, lakes Natron & Eyasi while Mount Olmalsin (3,648m) is the third tallest in Tanzania. Engineer Mwankunda lists some of Geotourism attractions that will leave tourists soothed as mountain ranges, rift valleys and great escarpments, volcanoes and volcanic eruptions, arid environment and landscape plains.
Others are craters and calderas; distinctive deposits such as Olduvai Gorge, Laetoli and Engaresero, Shinyanga diamond kimberlite and Mererani Tanzanite; gorges and canyons.
Interestingly, there is moving sand (at 17 metres each year) that is a sand dune in savanna – a rare formation in constant movement and is used by the Maasai as reconciliation monument in their traditional rituals.
There are also waterfalls, exceptional minerals and rock formations as well as geological and geomorphological process such as landfall, “For example, Olkarian Canyon represents the oldest rock formation in geopark territory dated about 540Ma. The rocks display unique features such as gorges and inselberg – vulture’s colony, Maasai water rescue site and oka source,” says Engineer Mwankunda.
He added that the Oldonyo Lengai (Mountain of God) stands as a unique and extremely fascinating stratovolcano that towers above the East African Rift Valley. It is the only one in the world to erupt the coolest black shining natrocarbonatite lava that turns white after few months.
Geotourism is a nature tourism focused on sustainable use of geological heritage and natural landscape as tourism resources to attract tourists, provide geoscience knowledge to the public and students and encourage appreciation and develop a sense of place and value for protection.
Geotourism uses geological heritage and its interaction with ecology and culture to enhance the geographical character of a place, such as the environment, esthetics, culture and sustainable development of communities.
NCA UNESCO designation provides complete picture of celebrating the heritage, at the same time conserving the world’s cultural, biological and geological diversity and promoting sustainable economic development. UNESCO Global Geoparks use geological heritage, in connection with other aspects of the specific area’s natural and cultural heritage to promote awareness of key issues facing society.
In particular, they increase knowledge and understanding of geohazards, climate change, and the need for sustainable use of earth’s natural resources.
UNESCO Global Geopark is the status awarded by UNESCO on a single, unified geographical areas where sites and landscapes of international geological significance are managed with a holistic concept of protection, education and sustainable development.
NCAA’s Senior Assistant Conservation Commissioner (Planning and Investment), Needpeace Wambuya says NCA is a popular tourist destination that on average receives 600,000 tourists per year. Visitors trend indicates that there is an average annual increase of 22,600 tourists per year.
“With the current trend and strategies, the Authority projects to receive 900,000 tourists annually by 2025. This trend necessitates demand for tourism infrastructure and supportive services,” says Commissioner Wambuya.
In 1979, the World Heritage Convention inscribed NCA in the list of World Heritage sites while in 1981 NCA was recognised as part of Serengeti- Ngorongoro Biosphere Reserve under UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme.
In 2010, the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO re-inscribed the NCA as a mixed property on the World Heritage List. The Authority offers a range of types of investment in accommodation from hotels/lodges, semi-permanent camps, tented camps, mobile camps and picnic sites to be put in place by investors – local and foreigners.
The public and private sector has been invited for such investments. “The purpose of the Authority is primarily to protect biodiversity and promote sustainable human benefits through tourism business. Only sustainable nonconsumptive utilisation of the biodiversity, cultural and geological heritage are promoted.
Tourism under NCA is mostly driven by private investors, so the role of the Authority is to regulate activities undertaken within the area due to the uniqueness, value and fragility of this natural asset,” says Mr Wambuya.