A caved in volcanic caldera, Empakaai Crater stands at 300 metres in height and more than six kilometres in width. Rippling at its heart is Empakaai Lake, an 85 metre deep alkaline pool that envelops three quarters of the crater’s floor. Standing at Empakai Crater’s imposing rim, you can see landmarks, such as the distant fleecy snows of Kilimanjaro far on the eastern side of the Valley, the Great Rift Valley, and Ol Doinyo Lengai volcano.
This full-day hike explores the dramatic Empakaai Crater. With a lake on the Crater floor and the entire caldera encircled by a steep, densely forested wall, Empakaai is a scene of vast natural beauty. On clear days the Crater offers views of Ol Doinyo Lengai, Tanzania’s most recently active volcano. The steep slope calls for a degree of fitness, but the walk through the lush forest, with its ancient strangler figs and rich birdlife, is well worth the effort. The trail continues to the lakeshore, where you can view flamingos and various other water birds.
Along your hiking sojourn, while taking in the glorious sights, you are sure to encounter some animals including blue monkeys, buffalo, bush buck, waterbuck, and an extensive array of bird life.
EMPAKAAI CRATER HIKE DETAILS
- Hike Distance: The total distance of the hike is 5km out and back (return trip)
- Hike Duration: The hike can be completed in about two hours depending on how long you enjoy the views while lake-side in the crater rim
- Hike Difficulty: This trail is quite basic as it is only 5 kilometers in distance. However, the trail is quite steep down the side of the crater rim with 300m of elevation on the way up. The other component to consider is that you may be doing much of this trek exposed to the sun so it may not be for everyone but it isn’t a huge undertaking and most who are capable of walking for 1-2 hours will be fine.
- Hike Incline: 295 meters.
WHERE IS THE EMPAKAAI CRATER
The Empakaai Crater is in the Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area, which is a five-hour drive from Arusha. Most people visiting the Empakaai Crater do so as part of a tour including a safari in Ngorongoro Crater and the nearby hikes of Olmoti Crater and/or Ol Doinyo Lengai (Mountain of God). I hiked Empakaai Crater as part of a four-day expedition of several hikes in the region with Let’s view Tanzania. Below you will find the map location of the crater but it is important to know (I will add the details in the section below) you cannot enter the crater by yourself without a ranger.
MY EXPERIENCE ON THE EMPAKAAI CRATER HIKE
The morning began with a beautiful little adventure to the Olmoti Crater for sunrise. After that, we had a bumpy one-hour drive from Olmoti Crater to Empakaai Crater. Along the way we passed countless herds of Maasai cattle and the young boys following behind, herding their livestock to new fields.
As we reached the rim of Empakaai Crater, we began to get some beautiful views down into the crater where we could see the lake. Steep walls covered in vegetation made it hard to believe that we would be able to find a route down. It’s surprising that the animals such as elephants and buffalo also make the journey down into the crater, especially considering it is a salt lake. Our guide stopped at the top of the crater rim so we could jump out and enjoy the view before we began our hike.