Olduvai Gorge, located in between the Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti Plains, within the wider Ngorongoro Conservation Area is a unique and fascinating stop on route the central Serengeti. A taste of something completely different, this 48 Kilometre long Gorge is one of World's most important sights for understanding our own origins.
Up until the excavation in Olduvai it was widely accepted that human beings had developed in Asia. This was all turned on its head by Dr Louis Leakey who began excavating the site in 1931, based in his theory that Africa was the continent where man had evolved. Huge amount of primitive tools were found in the gorge, dated between 1.2 and 1.8 million years old but it wasn't until 1959 that they discovered the evidence that they were looking for, the skull of an early humanoid, Australopithecus boisei, nicknamed Nutcracker Man due to its strong and highly developed jaws. Nutcracker Man was not necessarily our direct ancestor, but certainly shared many similar traits.
Further excavations also revealed two of our more direct ancestors, Homo habilis and Homo erectus that lived at the same time. To the South of the Gorge at Laetoli (although not open to the public) a trail of 3.75 million year old fossilized footprints were discovered, created by two adult and one juvenile Australopithecus afarensis. The footprints provided clear evidence that these large chimp like Apes were walking upright nearly 4 million years ago. On a more recent geological level fossils of human's have also been discovered here, demonstrating our presence on this area around 50,000 years ago.
Aqua-Firma can arrange guided visits to Olduvai Gorge's interesting museum and to the Gorge itself, where you can visit different clearly defined geological layers and fossil beds, either on foot or by 4 x 4. There is also a restaurant here, making Olduvai a good place to relax and a highly recommended break in long overland journey to or from the Serengeti.
For further information regarding Safari's incorporating Olduvai Gorge contact one of our Tanzania experts.