Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA), the jewel of tourism activities in the northern Tanzania tourist circuit, has refuted a widely-circulated report that it has banned over 30 tour companies from taking visitors to its crater over misconduct accusations.

Ngorongoro Crater is not only an internationally-important wildlife site, but also the flagship tourism feature for the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.

For three days now, the tourism industry in Tanzania has been gripped with fear over the report that 35 tour companies have been outlawed to take tourists into Ngorongoro Crater over fraudulent entry fees allegations.

The move prompted Tanzania Association of Tour Operators (TATO) to contact NCAA for clarification in a bid to allay fears to the industry’s key players and tourists enroute to Tanzania over the issue.

In its statement issued late on Wednesday, NCAA said as of now there was no single tour company which has been banned to take tourists within its area of jurisdiction as had been reported by one of the local Swahili tabloids.

“NCAA, therefore, would like to apologize to its tourism stakeholders for any inconveniences caused by the report,” reads part of the statement issued by the conservation agency’s public relations department.

In fulfilling its mandate of overseeing public resources, the NCAA through its Auditing Department in collaboration with state machinery, recently conducted a painstaking investigation where it had discovered that there were a number of tour companies that had cheated in paying entry fees through a previous electronic payment system known as SmartCard or Mypark, inflicting the NCAA and the government with a loss of revenue.

As part of its efforts to ensure that the public money was recovered as per government emphasis, the NCAA directly contacted the suspected tour companies to settle the discrepancies within a certain period, failure to which due punishment would have been taken against them.

However, the NCAA statement was silent on how much revenue was dodged through the electronic payment system. One of the accused tour company managers told eTurboNews on condition of remaining anonymous that the issue wasn’t even a fraud, but apparently there was a technical glitch, and operators were not competent enough on how to collect entry fees through the machine.

The NCAA said that as is the case with any other public institutions, its key priority now is to take all necessary measures to tighten the noose on loopholes for revenue loss.

However, TATO chief executive officer, Mr. Sirili Akko, said that tourism business is a sensitive undertaking in nature, urging both the public sector and media to treat with care all information on tourism before going public.

“Here we are talking about our dear tourists who traveled all the way from different angles of the world, only to find one-sided information that the tour companies that … host them, have … banned,” Mr. Akko explained, stressing that such kinds of information should be comprehensive.

Ngorongoro Crater is one of the world’s largest intact volcanic calderas. It is just one part of a much larger area of interrelated ecosystems.

Experts say that had it not become the world’s sixth largest unbroken caldera, then what is now known as the Ngorongoro crater could have been a towering volcanic mountain, as high as Kilimanjaro.

Ngorongoro Crater is a large, unbroken, un-flooded caldera, formed when a giant volcano exploded and collapsed some 3 million years ago.

The Ngorongoro crater sinks to a depth of 610 meters, with a base area covering 260 square kilometers.

The height of the original volcano must have ranged between 4,500 to 5,800 meters high.

Apart from the main caldera, Ngorongoro also has two other volcanic craters: Olmoti and Empakai, the former famous for its stunning waterfalls, and the latter holding a deep lake and lush, green walls.

On the leeward side of the Ngorongoro highlands protrudes the iconic Oldonyo Lengai, an active volcano and Tanzania’s third highest peak after Kilimanjaro and Meru.

Known to local people as the Mountain of God, Mount Lengai’s last major eruption occurred in 2007. At the mountain’s foot is Lake Natron, East Africa’s major breeding ground for flamingos.