The Lerai Forest is a special refuge for many different species of animals. Look for sly leopards perched high in the tree boughs, hiding in the leaves and dappled light. Also, watch for massive bull elephants ambling through shady thickets. Lerai is a Maasai word referring to the tall yellow barked acacias. These beautiful trees are old, gnarled by years of growing back the bark stripped off by elephants. The forest is also a special bird habitat, providing food and nesting sites for hoopoes, cuckoos, and weavers.

Nestled within Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Crater, the Lerai Forest is a magical and unique ecosystem that serves as a home for various animal species. Visitors to the area can expect to encounter some of Africa’s most majestic and elusive creatures, including massive bull elephants and the sly leopard. In this article, we’ll explore the beauty and biodiversity of the Lerai Forest, as well as provide some helpful tips for those looking to explore this incredible natural wonder.


The Lerai Forest covers an area of approximately 5 square miles, making it a relatively small but significant ecosystem within the larger Ngorongoro Crater.


The Lerai Forest is primarily composed of yellow-barked acacia trees, with fig trees and a riverine area providing additional diversity to the ecosystem. The forest is characterized by its lush greenery, with trees and plants providing shelter and food for a range of animal species.

Main Species

In addition to massive bull elephants, elusive leopards, and entertaining vervet monkeys, the Lerai Forest is home to a variety of other animal species. These include:

Massive Bull Elephants

One of the highlights of the Lerai Forest is the presence of massive bull elephants. These majestic creatures can often be seen ambling through the shady thickets, feeding on the leaves and branches of the acacia trees. The Lerai Forest is one of the best places in Tanzania to observe these magnificent animals up close.

Elusive Leopards

The Lerai Forest is also home to the elusive leopard, one of the most difficult animals to spot in the wild. These sly cats are masters of camouflage and can often be found perched high in the tree boughs, hiding in the leaves and dappled light. Visitors who are lucky enough to spot a leopard in the wild are treated to an unforgettable experience.

Tree Hyrax

The tree hyrax is a small, furry mammal that is a common sight in the Lerai Forest. These adorable creatures are expert climbers and can often be seen perched on the branches of the acacia trees, feeding on leaves and bark.


The eland is a large and majestic antelope that can often be seen grazing in the open grasslands of the Lerai Forest. With their impressive horns and distinctive markings, these animals are a sight to behold.


The waterbuck is another common antelope species found in the Lerai Forest. With their shaggy coats and curved horns, these animals are a popular attraction among visitors to the forest.


The bushbuck is a smaller antelope species that can often be seen darting through the underbrush of the forest. With their sleek and agile bodies, these animals are a joy to watch in the wild.


The baboon is a common primate species found in the Lerai Forest. These intelligent animals are known for their distinctive calls and playful antics.

Lush Forest and Colorful Birds

The Lerai Forest is a lush and vibrant ecosystem, with a variety of trees and plants providing shelter and food for its animal inhabitants. Visitors to the area can expect to see a range of colorful bird species, including hoopoes, cuckoos, and weavers.

Entertaining Vervet Monkeys

Finally, visitors to the Lerai Forest will have the chance to encounter one of the area’s most entertaining animal species: the vervet monkey. These playful primates are known for their mischievous behavior and curious nature, and can often be seen playing and frolicking in the forest.

Exploring the Lerai Forest

If you’re planning to explore the Lerai Forest, there are a few things to keep in mind. First and foremost, it’s important to remember that this is a protected ecosystem, and visitors should take care not to disturb the plants and animals that call it home. Additionally, visitors should be prepared for the hot and humid climate of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.

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