Ngorongoro was part of Serengeti National Park until 1959 when the two were separated into two different Protected Areas with different conservation status. The Ngorongoro Conservation Area was established as a multiple-land use area, where wildlife could co-exist with the semi-nomadic Maasai, who move from one place to another insearch of water and pasture. The Maasai are a pastoral tribe that has managed to preserve its culture over hundreds of years, living in harmony with the wild animals. The NCA was therefore established as an experiment to maintain a balance between pastoralism, conservation, and tourism.
Before the arrival of the Maasai in Northern Tanzania in the 1800s, the Area was occupied by other tribal groups, beginning with hunter-gatherer tribes that were replaced by groups of pastoralists earlier on. During the colonial period, the Area was mostly a hunting ground to European hunters. In 1928, hunting was prohibited in the crater. The National Park Ordinance of 1948 (implemented in 1951) created the Serengeti National Park, of which Ngorongoro was part thereof. This, however, caused problems with the Maasai, resulting to the split of the two protected areas. The 1959 ordinance also created Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority, an administrative body to manage the Area as a parastatal organisation. The authority is under the supervision of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism (MNRT).
The multiple land use policy has made the Ngorongoro Conservation Area a unique Protected Area in Africa. The Natural and cultural endowment account for the reasons UNESCO accorded the Area the status of a World Heritage Site in 1979, and an International Biosphere Reserve in 1981. In 2010, UNESCO inscribed Ngorongoro Conservation Area as a property in the list of the Mixed World Heritage Sites.
Ngorongoro Conservation Area, the Kilimanjaro (the Highest peak in Africa) and Serengeti National Park made Tanzania the capital of Africa’s New Seven Natural wonders since 2013.
Ngorongoro has another UNESCO recognition, gained in 2018: it is part of a large geographical area in Northern Tanzania recognised as Ngorongoro-Lengai UNESCO Global Geopark. According to UNESCO, global geoparks are single, unified geographical areas where sites and landscapes of international geological significance are managed with a holistic concept of protection, education and sustainable development. Currently, the Ngorongoro Lengai Geopark boast of 117 attractions. The main geological features in the Ngorongoro-Lengai UNESCO Geopark are the Ngorongoro Crater, Lake Natron, Mount Oldonyo Lengai, Empakai Crater, Grimezk grave, Rim Forest, Malanja Depression, Serengeti Plains, Olduvai Gorges, Leakey Camp, Soitoo Quartzite hills, shifting sand, Bao Site, Nasera Rock, An’gatakiti Hills, Olkarien Gorge, Natural Stone Bridge, Ruppell’s Vulture colony, Accacia Rim Site, Gol Mountain, Lake Eyasi, Sacred Tree etc.