Olduvai Gorge

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Olduvai Gorge makes an excellent day trip for anyone interested in archaeology, geology, or paleontology.

Located in the Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area, Olduvai Gorge is a steep-sided ravine of approximately 50 km (30 miles) in length and 90 m (300 ft) deep at its deepest point. Locals use the Maasai word ‘oldupai’ which is the word for the wild sisal plant that grows in the ravine. Olduvai is actually a mispronunciation of the Maasai word and it stuck and we have been saying it incorrectly forevermore.

The time span of objects unearthed at the site date from as old as 2,100,000 years to 15,000 years ago. The fossil remains of more than 60 hominids have been found here. The most famous fossil is a 1.8-million-year old skull, Australopithecus Boise, or commonly referred to as zinjanthropus. This fossil was discovered by British archaeologist Mary Leakey in 1959.

More recent discoveries since the 1970s have yielded many skull and teeth remains, with over 500 pieces of fossil bones and teeth excavated. The famed ‘Lucy’ skeleton was discovered in 1974 by Donald Johnson. There is a small museum at Olduvai Gorge. At certain times of the year it is possible to go down into the gorge and see the excavation area.

Nearby, there are Maasai villages to which a visit can be arranged. We highly recommend a visit to a local Maasai village at least once, especially for those who enjoy portrait photography.  For as you might think of taking photos of locals, it is always recommended to ask permission beforehand. Most will be very grateful to cooperate if you are willing to offer a few dollars’ tip, however.