Many agencies and tour operators show too little interest in the area of Olduvai - simply passing through: a cursory visit to the “Museum”- before rushing on to the Lodges of Serengeti or Ngorongoro – a convenient stop-over with toilets – not much more...
And yet at least a day spent in this unique and fascinating area, which is "off-track," would undoubtedly be amongst the most exciting and diverse of the "Northern circuit".
Olduvai Gorge and shallower side gorges off the main one, cut into the western edges of the Rift Valley on the Serengeti plains in the heart of the protected area of the Ngorongoro (NCA).
The area is of an exceptional archaeological interest:
There is evidence of much more verdant vegetation, even a lake, lake shore trees; climate changes over the millenia have led to very marked sedimentation - layers of earth and rock, obvious even to the lay person. This has continued over almost the last two million years and to a relatively rapid burial of many comparatively intact flints and other tools as well as faunal remains.
The intense volcanic activity of the time has caused different levels of volcanic “ash” that could be accurately dated - these “beds” also consist of other earth materials.
Over time this long sequence of movement and erosion from streams, small rivers caused runoff and then the widening and deepening of the various gorges and this in turn has cut through the layers, making them accessible to researchers. It is effectively a well-protected and monitored “living laboratory of pre-history” and still the focus of much ongoing research.
Although Olduvai is often cited as the "Cradle of Mankind", it should be remembered that other prehistoric human groups were present in many parts of Africa and that here, particularly, a combination of accidental local conditions and other favourable factors enabled the initial exciting discovery, careful conservation and long-established research of direct and indirect evidence of the existence of our forefathers at this magical, fascinating site.
A small well laid out Visitors Centre, known as the “Museum” tells the various major discoveries made on the spot.
It is possible to hike in the gorge, arranged at the Curator’s office and must be accompanied by staff who care for the site.
There are many fossil remains including prehistoric animals who lived between 200,0000 and 700,000 years ago and, of course conservation rules are strictly observed and it is forbidden to touch the artefacts or to pick them up and certainly not to take anything out.
From the site of our Olduvai Camp, guests can easily walk to the “Museum” - taking about two hours.