On Safari in the Serengeti
July 2023: Day 5

Ngorongoro Crater Reserve, Olduvai Gorge and on to the Serengeti


We had an early start from the Ngorongoro Farm House as I had asked if we could fit in a visit to Olduvai Gorge on our way from Ngorongoro Caldera to Serengeti. We drove up the steep road that climbs to the rim of the Ngorongoro caldera and promptly disappeared into the heavy mist that hangs around this part of the mountain at this time of year. We then drove west and north around the caldera rim to reach the one-way road down to the floor of the caldera. We were soon in the midst of the abundant wildlife with lions all over the road. Richard took us around the crater floor, then we drove back up the steep wall, around the west rim again and on towards Serengeti. We were now experiencing the famous "African Massage" of very rough, bumpy and dusty roads.

We turned off the main dust strip to deviate to Olduvai Gorge and the Mary Leakey Museum, where we had our lunch in the shade, looking over the gorge. The museum is an exceptional place and we were surprised at how few people actually visit it. Being the cradle of humankind where the earliest hominin fossils have been found it should be visited by all who travel this area. From Olduvai we had a long drive into the heart of Serengeti to our camp for the next 5 nights at Nykani Tented Camp.

Ngorongoro Conservation Area

Ngorongoro was within the original boundary of the Serengeti National Park when it was established in 1948, but it is a very different ecosystem and is the traditional site for the subsistence farming of the Maasi people. To allow the Maasi to stay, if only on the outer slopes, Ngorongoro was removed from the National Park in 1959 and given full conservation reserve status in 2009.

Entering the Ngorongoro Conservation Area
The Main Gate
The Barking Zebra Landcruiser
Tourists queued up for passes
Plain enough!
The start of the climb to the rim of the caldera.
Passing through dense bush
Standing on the rim. What a fantastic view!.
The obigatory photo of the view...
The dusty road
Richard's view of the dusty road.
The outer rim of the caldera
"Look closely at that big tree" said Richard. We needed binoculars to spot our first giraffe!
The Maasi farm the outer slopes.
Maasi village
We were not alone...
Maasi cattle corral - looks contrived for the tourists - it was!
Turning off for the road into the crater.
Counting people as they go into the crater.
Ngorongoro Caldera
Vehicles heading down to the floor of the caldera.
Candelabra trees
11% gradient - a bit steep?
Weaver bird nests.
Something's up! What are they looking at???
"What are you looking at?"
The lions were more interested in the wildebeest.
Even the Toyotas are social beasts!
The ugliest beast in Africa - warthog.
Zebra beyond the wildebeest.
Well if the lions are leaving so are we...
What's that lump?
"Who's calling me a lump?"
There's a hippo in my lake...
Climbing back up the crater's wall.
The road is paved to get enough grip.

The lions out for a stroll...

Olduvai Gorge and the Mary Leakey Museum

Olduvai Gorge (strictly this should be Oldupai but an early German explorer pronounced the "p" as "v") is synonymous with our understanding of early human evolution through the discovery of hominid fossil skulls and other bones in association with animal bones showing increasing sophistication in stone tool development. The earliest hominid fossils are about 1.9 million yeas old and were discovered by the Leakey family (Louis and Mary and son Richard). A monument was built in 2019 at the turnoff to the gorge to attract attention to the museum, started by Mary Leakey in the late 1970s. The museum today is a purpose-built strcture with excellent exhibits and detailed descriptions of human life from about 2 million years ago to the present. We were almost the only visitors there in early July, but the museum claims up to 3,000 visitors per day in "peak season". It has an attractive picnic area overlooking the gorge, with resident mongooses.

On the rim of Ngorongoro we were being watched.
Maasi on the roadside.
Maasi village
School or lining up for the tourists?
A rarity in these parts.
Selling bush honey on the roadside.
The Olduvai monument.
Entrance to the Olduvai Museum.
Looking out over Olduvai Gorge.
Ngorongoro Caldera
Scroungers at the lunch table.
Mural in the museum.
Cast of the famous footprints from Laetoli.
Entrance gate to the Serengeti.
Here we are...

The road to Nykani Camp - first glimpse of Serengeti

After an hour or so of the violent African massage we were near the centre of the Serengeti, close to Seronera Airport. Although it was getting late, near 5.30pm with sunset at 6.30pm, we were still able to stop for glimpses of the widlife - elephants, hyenas, and some hippopotami and a few crocodiles wallowing in "Hippo Lake" beside the road. We arrived at the camp just as the sun was setting, an event heightened by the smoke from controlled burnoffs of the grasslands. We were shown to our tents hidden away in the bush, with an invitation to take a "bucket shower" before returning to the main tent for dinner at 6.30pm. The shower required us to call the water-carrier using the 2-way radio, wait while he heated the water on a wood-burner; brought the water in buckets and filled our shower bucket before hoisting it high on a pulley. But it was worth it - we felt much refreshed.

The hyena in the grass.
Sunset - you can see the shower bucket on the 'T 'structure.

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Last updated: 10 August 2023