Oldupai Gorge and Maasai village.

2 Jan. 2009 – Part 1

Ngorongoro Crater — Oldupai Gorge — Maasai village, Tanzania

(Part 2 is Guess the Critter!; Part 3 is Everything Under the Sun)


After waking up at the Highview Hotel in Karatu, we piled back into the safari vehicle and headed out for day 2 of safari!  To get from Karatu to the Serengeti, our afternoon destination, we had to go up in elevation and skirt around the edge of the Ngorongoro Crater.  (Being a WoW geek, I had only ever visited its digital cousin, the Un’Goro Crater.)  After that, we headed down to Oldupai Gorge (if you are confused by the spelling, never fear — all will become clear), stopped at a Maasai village, and only then did we make it to the Serengeti.  And WOOOOOW was it worth it!  So gorgeous…  everything, really.

And the Serengeti?  Yeah, it really does look just like The Lion King.  I’m not kidding.  Watched a clip on Youtube after we got home and cried.  Too amazing.  The wildlife really is that thick — thundering herds of wildebeest and zebra, giraffes, crocs, hippos, lions…  Just wow.  Fantastic conservation effort by the local government.  Well done, Tanzania, well done!  *applauds*

…but I am getting ahead of myself!  Let’s start with a peek at Ngorongoro.  Just a peek today, a fuller visit later in the week.  Promise!






What do you see, guys?



Ngorongoro Crater.


Dang. Wide angle all the way open gets vignetting. Pooh. Oh well, still pretty awesome.


SUPERZOOM reveals elephant-shaped specks!



Our driver and guide, Fabian.


He is an incredibly skilled driver, navigating around potholes, through mud, avoiding goats and cattle, bump starting the stopped safari vehicles of other groups, speeding along crater rims… and got us out of the national parks by closing time!


Roadside Maasai.


There were many groups of Maasai along the road, primarily women and children I believe, who would smile and wave and try to get us to stop. According to Fabian it’s to provide photo opportunities… for a generous tip, of course!  From this picture, it’s clear that Fabian was giving us no chance to give in — he didn’t even slow down.


Dario, our resident videographer, looks at a another group of Maasai along the road.



Stealth photo of Sean with camera.


Holding his camera, that is. Obviously it was taken with my camera! Sigh… you people.


Zebra outside of the crater, along the rim. I love the clouds behind them, so beautiful.


Ooo!  A Maasai village!


Can we stop, Fabian, can we?  Looks like other tourists are stopping!  …what do you mean no?  (We later found out that Fabian had a… ahh, favorite village he preferred to visit.)




Clever bird at the Oldupai visitor area.


Oldupai Gorge, aka, “The Cradle of Mankind.”


That’s right, not “Olduvai.” The German explorer who published the name wrote it down incorrectly. Now the whole world is confused!


Inside the museum at the gorge. Lots and LOTS o’ layers of pre-history here!


“The 3.6 million year old hominid trackway at Laetoli has been reburied for its protection and the site is not open to public visitation. A cast of the trackway with an accompanying exhibition that describes the discovery and conservation of the hominid footprints is on display at the Laetoli room of the museum.”


Cast of the trackway.


Looks like they had small feet like I do.  Wonder if they had the same trouble finding good shoes.


Covering up the southern trackway.


The text under the picture on the right reads, “After completion of the reburial mound.”  Reburial mound?  …do you think they had a moment of silence for the footprints?


Not flowers, birdies!


I had no birds in my hand, but how much do you think all of those in the bush are worth?


More clever birds who know exactly where the tourist eat their lunch!


Obligatory We Were There picture. ;)


Our trusty safari vehicle.


After leaving Oldupai, we headed to a Maasai village…


…where they were VERY happy to see us. They put on a bit of a show, sold us jewelry, and gave us a very well-polished sales pitch designed to garner donations for education. It’s amazing how much love and adoration an entry fee will get you!

Above is the men’s circle, as everyone performs a “welcome to the village” dance.


This was the women’s circle.



If I was a lion, I would be afraid to see all these warriors coming after me.


Award-winning, National Geographic-type picture. ;)


Sean learns the secrets of the Maasai Levitation Technique.


It’s all in the wrist, Sean, all in the wrist… Oh, and something I forgot! A little bit of pixie dust!


Maasai house.


As our host informed us, this is a VERY good house. Keeps the sun out during the day and the water out during the rainy season. It has been around for something like 12 years. A very good house!


Our host.


Sadly, I cannot remember his name, but he was 17 years old and quite adept at making his presentation. The inside of the house, btw, smelled really, really nice. Possibly from fragrant wood that is used for cooking.


A mini-Maasai decides that Dario needs to come to school.



She was just my size!  I failed to get her name, but she was one of the head jewelry makers.  That is, one of the top jewelry makers, not a maker of head jewelry.  Well, probably that, too — but not JUST that, y’know.  Multitalented and stuff.


Inside the school.


Note the conspicuous donation box.  Not shown is the star student who recited the alphabet and several number sequences.  They were all very well rehearsed.  I’m not at all sure it was coincidence the kids were just heading to school at the moment the visitors got herded in that direction.  Oh, well!  I am a sucker for education, so I put money in the box.  ;)


“Hey, mzungu! Try jumping in the middle of THAT!”


Just as we were leaving the school a very large dust devil appeared.


I wasn’t really concerned until I saw mothers picking up small children and moving quickly away (no, really!).


While running away from the dust devil, I got distracted by a dung beetle.


Sorry, but I’d only ever seen them on nature shows!  So cool — scarabs are dung beetles and I LOVE scarabs!  :D


Whew, passed by!


It had appeared to loop around for a minute before heading on its way. I thought maybe it smelled tourists and had come to purify the village or something.



And THAT is Part 1 of our day!  Can you believe that’s only the first part?  Wow, Tanzania is… awesome!  GO THERE SOME DAY!  You must!  It will change your life!  :D

Next entry will be our first afternoon on the Serengeti.  It’s…  awe-inspiring.  GO!  Go to AFRICA!

[Edit: Part 2 is Guess the Critter! and Part 3 is Everything Under the Sun.  Enjoy!]

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  1. Federico says:

    Wicked and scary twister…how strong were the winds?

    1. Hey, Federico! The winds were not that strong where we were, but the breeze did start to pick up. I think we were far enough away to be safe. It looked a mess near the center, though.

      The dung beetle story above is true. Despite possible impending doom, I stopped to take a picture of a dung beetle. I’m glad I did. It was the only one I’ve seen so far. Hoping for a few more in Morocco. :D

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