Olduvai Gorge & Serengeti National Park
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Ngorongoro Crater gave us a taste of what was to come the next few days.
Once again we had a tremendous rain at night but the morning
turned out to be clear of clouds. A good sign for us since we were now in the beginning of the rainy season. We had breakfast and set
out for Olduvai Gorge, which was on the way to the Serengeti.
Olduvai Gorge has been referred to as The cradle for mankind. It is one of the most important prehistoric sites in the world and has been instrumental in furthering understanding of early human evolution. Excavation work there was pioneered by Louis and Mary Leakey in the 1950s and continued into the twenty first century by Professor Fidelis Masao of the Open University of Tanzania supported by Earthwatch. Millions of years ago, the site was that of a large lake, the shores of which were covered with successive deposits of volcanic ash. Around 500,000 years ago seismic activity diverted a nearby stream which began to cut down into the sediments, revealing seven main layers in the walls of the gorge.
Olduvai is also the theme of the Olduvai theory, which states that industrial civilization will have a lifetime of less than or equal to 100 years.
The variant "Oldupai" is the Maasai word for the wild Sisal plant that grows in the gorge; some claim the more common spelling "Olduvai" is the result of a mis-hearing of the word by colonial visitors. The latter spelling is not used locally.
Olduvai is the location of the first monolith in Arthur C. Clarke's 2001: A Space Odyssey series of books.
In 1960, Mary Leakey and son Jonathan found another, smaller form of hominid at Olduvai that they believed was different and more advanced. They called it Homo habilis (handy human) because it appeared to be the first human to use tools. The designation of these two new groups raised a great deal of controversy. Zinjanthropus has since been put by most scientists into the Australopithecine genus, which the South African finds also belong to, though in different species. Homo habilis is now widely accepted, dating back about 2 million years. The 1972 discovery by the Leakeys' son Richard of another Homo habilis (often called Turkana Boy or ER-1470), dated to 1,900,000 years ago, helped confirm this. It also supported L.S.B. Leakey's startling suggestion that the Homo genus did not evolve from Australopithecus, but that parallel lineages of hominids were developing at the same time.
The ravine where the Leakeys made their discoveries.
A view of what early man looked like millions of years ago.
Onto the Serengeti
We took in the museum and then it was finally time to make for our final
destination, the Serengeti.
The landscape changed again from the lush rain forest we'd spent two nights into a dry semi-desert plain. Yet, despite the desert like look
game and cattle were seen here and there. Heading north we cross creeks and rivers, some with water from the recent rains. We were
getting close to the park.
After a couple of hours of drive time on the gravel road we finally arrived
at the entrance to the park. The area, known as Naabi Hill is the main
entrance to the park from the south. Here our entrance fees were paid and we had a sack lunch plus a visit to the Happy House.
The sign at the main entrance. Joan, Edie and Mona ham it up for the camera at Naabi Hill.
Finally, we were in the park. After settling in it was time for a drink
and to make plans for our first game drive in the morning.
Our four day stay
in the park was incredible. The fact that we saw the Big 5 (lion, buffalo, leopard, elephant, and rhinocerous) on the second day atests to the the rich habitat
in the park. Yes, it is a tree-huggers paradise and one of top ten places in the world one should see. The park is roughly the size of the state of
Connecticut and within its boundaries a range of habitats abound.
The days that followed were filled with sights and sounds that would be
mere words. View the following albums to get a sense of what we were so
fortunate to see and experience. Most people's view of the Serengeti is that of the great migration and constant play of life and death on the endless
plains. While this is very much true, it is more than that. That nature can constant thrill, surprise and scare you every second is what make the park
a wonder in itself. The rules are simple. Stay in your vehicle or become part of the food chain. Stay in your tent at night or become part of the food
chain. Listen and see a part of our world that remains unchanged for millenium.
Over time I will add other pieces of the trip, video, maps and illustrations.
The view from our tent.
Maasai tending their cattle.
The End of the trip.
It was time to leave the park and Tanzania. We did a last game drive in the morning and headed back to Naabi Kopje.
At the main gate we took our final farewell look at the park.
Our great guides, Anglebert, Herbie and Salim.
The motley crew - Tanzanian style!
Want to go to Africa? Begin here.
© 2009 Anthony Galván III
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