The Maasai crater is a large volcanic caldera
that is located about 30 kilometres south west of the city of Arusha - Tanzania. From above, it is almost circular in shape, with a maximum length of about 1 kilometre, a minimum length of about 800 metres and a depth of about 200 metres. Most of it's sides have steep - rocky walls, with the exception of the northwestern and southwestern parts, where both of its only entrances are located.
The top part (crater rim) has near vertical rocky walls, with a small breach where the entrances are located.When approaching by car, or on foot - it almost always is hidden from sight right up until the last minute - appearing from nowhere, another wonder of this crater.
Apart from the rainy season, all other areas around the crater are almost always bone dry with a few thorny trees, shrubs and bushes; However, the crater always bears enough greenery inside to feed most of the cattle for the Maasai from the nearby villages. During the height of the rainy season, the crater floor does hold some water, but this drains away quickly enough - so no lake here, but rather a patch of long grass that can be seen to hang around well into the dry seasons. You my need the energy.
There are three hiking routes at the crater, one that takes you around it giving you a 360 degree view of it, the surrounding areas and villages. The other route goes into the crater but not all the way to the floor, rather ending starting the climb out of the crater after descending about halfway. The third route goes all the way into the crater partly using the same pathway as that of the second one.
The crater's two entry point can each either be used for either descending into or climbing out of the crater; However, the trail from the southern one is steeper than the other, usually requiring navigating through treacherous rocks and loose gravel and taking way longer. The trail from the northern entrance has a more gentle slope with loose dirt and less gravel. The two trails do meet at a point near the crater floor, using the same path or the last bit.
Once on the crater floor, there is only a short demarcated path that goes closer to its long grass filled centre. Any more exploration of this area would have to be done through grass although there normally are some pathways made by the numerous cows and goats that graze in the area.
According to the locals, there are some cave's inside the crater that serve as dens for hyena's making the cave an unsafe place after dark. This is one of the reasons why some of the cattle you may see inside the cave have to leave before dark and if need be return a few days later for grazing.
What to do there?Sightseeing and hiking into or around the crater. The crater itself is a magnificent sight, enough to dazzle anyone for a few minutes with how huge it is, so take a few minutes to admire this wonder. If feeling up to it, then take one of the three hiking routes, or take them all.
The hike to the crater floor provides more amazing views of it, but unless you are very fit, we recommend using the less steeper northern entrance for both entrance and exit. Also remember to use a guide for your own safety as well as pay the entrance fees at the village nearby, which is normally about TSHS 2000 for a Tanzanian citizen and TSHS 15000 for other nationals.
There also are some authentic maasai home and houses that you may visit when done. Here way you may get to experience the cultures and lifestyle of one of the few tribes that have remained unchanged throughout the years. Feel free to ask them any questions about their past and their day to day lifestyle.Best time to visit
Any time of the year that is not in the rainy season (March to June) as the roads in the area do become impassable and the trails unsafe. Any trips to the area should start early in the morning so as to be done before darkness, as the area is usually unsafe during this time, due to wild animals and the zero visibility in the almost pitch black darkness.Essentials to carry with you?
Some food and water along with a hat or other necessary items to protect you from the sun, especially if you intend to hike. Also some cash for tipping the locals may come in handy otherwise they do tend to get a bit grumpy. Please bear in mind that this is just a guide of what not to forget to carry and other items may also be necessary.Location of Maasai crater
The Maasai crater is located deep within Maasai territory, a semi arid plain with black clay soils and some rocky patches. It is also about 30 kilometres south west of the city of Arusha - Tanzania and also serves as the border between three wards and two districts. On the eastern part, we have Mateves (north) and Oljoro wards (south) of Arusha Rural district and on the western part we have Moita ward of monduli district and on the border between the Moduli. This is something that makes the locals a bit touchy as to who gets the proceeds from the tourist visitations into the crater.
There are several villages near the crater, with a school just a short distance east of the crater. For newcomers, the crater can be hard to find without the help of the locals as the final kilometre or two normally requires an off road drive to a place that can't be seen from a distance. There also is an army base about 2 kilometres south of it that you go through if using the Mbauda road route. For more information about the crater's location, please see the map below (click to start).How to get there?
At the time of writing (2017), there is no public transport method of getting all the way there and for safety both on the journey there and in the area, we recommend using a vehicle, whether private or hired to get there. An even better option would be to use a tours and travel company as they most likely would know the area and how to interact with the locals. They also would most likely know enough to safely get you there and back.
For those headed there by vehicle, hopefully this is a good 4x4 otherwise this is not a place you would want to be in when it rains (black clay soils). For better directions on how to get there, please use the map.
There are two roads that take you there, one of these goes south from the city through Mbauda and is for the most part an all seasons dirt road (at the time of writing 2017), although there is talk of it being upgraded to a tarmac one. This also is the much shorter one, whereas the other one goes through kisongo, with a turning point heading south - just before Meserani. This is the longer one but half of it is tarmaced while the other half is not to be traversed in the rainy season.
If headed there, we suggest using each of the roads, one for the journey there and the other for the journey back, as these would cover just about the same distance but take you through different sceneries. On a clear day you may also see mount Meru from afar, presumably north of where you are.