The Shifting Sands of Ngorongoro is a unique and rare geological wonder that is composed of volcanic ash from the nearby Oldoinyo Lengai volcano. The dune is slowly moving westwards across the Ngorongoro plains at a rate of about 15 to 20 meters per year. The Larger Shifting Sands are about 8 meters tall, 30 meters wide, and 20 meters long from front to back. The shifting sands are moved by the strong winds that blow across the surrounding plains, a condition that sometimes creates a mini sandstorm in the areas that surround it, making it difficult to see or visit the dunes. However, when the wind calms down, it becomes possible to even climb to the top of the dune for photos or view the vast plains around it.

If you’re looking for a unique and breathtaking natural wonder, look no further than the Shifting Sands of Ngorongoro. This moving black dune, composed of volcanic ash from the nearby Oldoinyo Lengai volcano, is a rare geological phenomenon that slowly moves westwards across the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.

The Smaller Shifting Sands

The smaller version of Ngorongoro’s shifting sands, located about a 10-minute drive north of its larger sibling, is a unique natural phenomenon that’s slowly moving across the plains at a rate of 15 to 20 meters per year. The area offers visitors a chance to witness this incredible movement and take some stunning pictures.

Aside from the shifting sands, there are other attractions in the area that visitors can explore, including the Ngorongoro Crater and Olduvai Gorge. The best time to visit is during the

The History of the Shifting Sands

It is said that the Shifting Sands of Ngorongoro was created over 3,000 years ago from a massive eruption at Oldoinyo Lengai, an active volcano located about 60km northeast. Throughout the years, the dune has slowly crept along, sometimes changing shape and even direction. Records show that the dune’s movement was originally headed southwest towards the river in the nearby Olduvai gorge, creating fears among locals about its demise, only to change direction and head west. There is also another much smaller dune about 3km north that is said to have been part of the current one before splitting and heading in its own direction.

Why Visit the Shifting Sands?

The Shifting Sands of Ngorongoro is a unique and fascinating natural wonder that is worth visiting. It’s not just the natural beauty of the dune that makes it a popular attraction for tourists, but also its rich history and cultural significance. Many visitors come to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area to see the diverse wildlife, but the Shifting Sands adds another layer of intrigue to the experience.

Getting to the Shifting Sands of Ngorongoro

The Shifting Sands of Ngorongoro is located within the Ngorongoro Conservation Area in Tanzania. The easiest way to get to the dune is by hiring a local guide or joining a tour group. The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is a protected area, and visitors are required to pay a fee to enter the area. The dune is not easily accessible, and visitors are advised to wear comfortable shoes and bring plenty of water.

Best Time to Visit the Shifting Sands

Visitors can visit the shifting sands at any time of the year, as the area experiences a relatively stable climate. However, for those looking for an added experience, the best time to visit is during the wildebeest migration. This annual event sees millions of wildebeest, zebras, and other herbivores move from the Serengeti to the Maasai Mara in Kenya. The migration typically takes place between June and September, making it an ideal time to visit the shifting sands and other nearby attractions.

Location of Shifting Sands

The shifting sands are located in the northeastern plains of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, in northern Tanzania. As mentioned earlier, the larger of the two is located about 2 km north of Olduvai gorge, with the smaller one being a further 7km from the gorge. To get there, you’ll need to take a half-hour drive from the Olduvai gorge museum. The area is remote and difficult to access, so a 4×4 ride is necessary, especially since the road from the gorge to the sands is sandy and challenging.

Visitors can reach the shifting sands from various points, including Serengeti National Park, which is about two hours away by car. From Arusha, it’s a five-hour drive, while from Kilimanjaro International Airport, it’s a six-hour journey.

What to Do There?

Visiting the shifting sands offers a unique experience that you won’t find anywhere else in the world. The black crescent-shaped dune that slowly moves westward across the Ngorongoro plains is a wonder to behold. The area around the dune is a grassland that turns green during the rainy seasons, providing a stunning contrast to the black sand. It’s a great opportunity to take some incredible pictures or simply admire the beauty of the natural phenomenon.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the shifting sands is the distance it covers in a year. The sand moves slowly at a rate of about 15 to 20 meters per year, creating a fascinating spectacle that’s not to be missed. Visitors can witness this incredible movement by observing the dune over an extended period.

Aside from observing the shifting sands, there are other attractions in the area that visitors can explore. These include:

  • Olduvai Gorge: This is an archaeological site that’s been instrumental in uncovering the evolutionary history of humans. It’s a great place to visit to learn about the origins of human life and see some of the earliest human remains.
  • Ngorongoro Crater: This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most spectacular natural wonders in the world. The crater is a vast volcanic caldera that’s home to a wide range of wildlife, including lions, elephants, and zebras.
  • Serengeti National Park: This park is renowned for its incredible wildlife, particularly the annual wildebeest migration. It’s an ideal destination for those interested in wildlife viewing and safaris.

The History of the Shifting Sands

The shifting sands were created from a massive eruption at Oldoinyo Lengai over 3,000 years ago. The mountain is still an active volcano, and its ash is what makes up the shifting sands. The dunes are slowly moving westwards across the Ngorongoro plains, leaving a trail of black sand in their wake. Despite their small size, the sands are a significant attraction in Tanzania’s plains, and they have been the subject of scientific research for many years.

The Science of the Shifting Sands

The shifting sands are an example of a barchan dune, which is a crescent-shaped dune that moves across a flat surface. Barchan dunes are formed when wind blows sand particles in a particular direction, causing them to pile up in a crescent shape. Over time, the dune continues to move in the direction of the prevailing wind, leaving a trail of sand behind it. The shifting sands are unique because they are composed of volcanic ash that comes from volcanic activities from nearby mountains like the Ol Doinyo Lengai.


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