February 12: Oldupai Gorge -- Travel to Serengeti Camp

After another great breakfast the group heads out along the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater to the Oldupai Gorge, a steep sided ravine in the Great Rift Valley. The Crater is a volcanic caldera with a large salt lake situated in its middle.

It was in the Oldupai Gorge that the famous archaeologists, Mary and Louis Leakey, spent 29 years from 1930 to 1959 digging within the gorge in pursuit of evidence that man evolved from African soil. Through most of their time spent in the hot sun they uncovered mainly animal fossils and stone tools. However. on July 17, 1959 Mary decided to go out on her own to dig while her husband lay ill in bed with malaria. There semi-buried among the rubble was a Australopithene-type skull. Naming it Zinjanthropus boisei (Boisei being the name of the man who was sponsoring their work) the Leakeys proved that over 3.75 million years ago man walked the earth. Nicknamed Nutcracker Man, it is believed that he was a vegetarian with a very small brain. Later in 1960 fossil remains were found by their son, Jonathan, of a Homo Habilis or "Handy Man" near to the same spot. Dating to about 1.7 million years ago and with a slightly larger brain capacity, it showed an evolution of man with the ability to make tools. The previous vegetarian life style gave over to meat eating. Over the years since these great finds, many archaeologists and researchers have spent time sifting among the stone and soil defining the area as one of the most important paleoanthropological sites in the world. It has been highly instrumental in furthering the understanding of early human evolution.

The Gorge is closed to the general public due to the fact that it is an active dig site several months of the year. However, Ahadi had arranged for the curator of the local museum to give the group a private tour of the site along with an historical overview of the significance of the findings.

After experiencing the thrill of standing on the site where early man was discovered the group was reassembled and driven around the crater and down the slope onto the vast Serengeti Plains. In the early 1900's it along with the Ngorongoro Crater became a favorite place for Europeans to game hunt and many of the larger animals were almost decimated. The German colonists were the first to legislate regulations in an order to protect the wildlife, but hunting continued until 1928 when the British introduced an ordinance prohibiting hunting and agriculture in the Ngorongoro Crater. The Serengeti was still open target. In 1951 the Plains along with the Crater were declared a national park. In 1959 the the park was divided into two sections, the Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. The Masai who for many years had lived freely in the Serengeti were now forced to move to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and meek out a life in the semi-arid soil. The fertile lands of the Serengeti were now protected areas and no permanent living quarters were to allowed.

The home for the group for the next five days is the Serengeti Tent Camp owned and operated by OATS. Situated in the heart of the Serengeti the camp is placed to be near the location of the wildebeest migration, thus is moved every so many weeks to remain near the animals. Solar is the main source of power with each tent equipped to be able to have light for limited times. Flashlights and head lamps are a necessity. The tents themselves are spacious with a separate sleeping area, dressing room, shower, and toilet. While water is scarce in the Serengeti, showers are limited to a 5 gallon pail full per day per person. The toilets however, are flush with a throne like appearance! The animals freely roam the area so it is not uncommon to hear a hyena or lion during the night. The sides of the tent fold down so it is easy to see the countryside with the vast amount of stars shining at night. All cautions are taken to assure no one is injured or attacked by a visiting animal -- once in the tent at night "Don't Leave!". The customary whistle is hung strategically on the bed post and a kerosine lantern is hung outside the door. Early morning "Jambo" is the norm for a wake-up call with the sound of warm fresh water being poured into a canvas bag hanging just outside the tent door for "freshening up" before breakfast.

All meals are prepared by a chef and served in the "Dining" Tent -- any hint of the smell of food in a sleeping tent will bring unwelcome visitors during the night!

Ngorongoro Crater

Ngorongoro Crater Lake

Ngorongoro Crater Lake

Sue Taking In The View

Ngorongoro Crater

Masai Village

Masai Warriors

Camel (Imported), Not Native To East Africa

Our Land Cruisers

Fossils Found at the Oldupai Gorge

Our Curator at the Leakey Site

Plaque Commemorating Mary Leakey's Find

Fossils at Site

One Big Thigh Bone!

The Gorge

The Only Way In Or Out!

Driving Back Up To the Rim

Dust Spouts in the Crater

Thompson Gazelles

Tawny Eagle

Hyena with Saddled-billed Stork


Kori Bustard

First View of the Serengeti

Some Where Out There is Our Camp!

Saddled-billed Stork

Giraffe Greetings Us as We Arrive in Camp

Tent Row

Dining Tent

My Tent!


Throne Room!


Soap Dish in Shower

Wash Basin

View From Tent Entrance


Chef's Supply Room

Everything Is Fresh!!

Cooking Pantry

Kitchen Storeroom


Acacia Branches with Thorns to Ward Off the Animals!!