Saturday, September 13, 2014 – The Serengeti and Oldupai Gorge

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Our last morning in the Serengeti waking to the sounds of all the wonderful animals. The hyenas were pretty active last night which means that they probably found some kill to scavenge nearby and were fighting over it. It was another beautiful day with bright sunshine at breakfast and ready for our game viewing as we leave the park through the southern entrance at Naabi Hill that borders the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. I was in the Southern Serengeti two years ago in April watching the great migration there with huge herds of wildebeest with their babies and all the big cats that come with the game animals. Then it was green and lush with the heavy rains. Now it is brown and dusty and dry. It really reminds you of the seasons here – it is wet or dry.

A scary Cape buffalo

A scary Cape buffalo

Shortly after the start of our drive we came upon two cheetah hunting together. They were either two males or two females as the opposite sex do not spend time together in the cheetah world. They could have been siblings or just close friends joining forces. We watched them for a bit until we had to leave as we had to be through the Naabi Gate by 10 am and we still had a ways to go.

A pair of hunting cheetah

A pair of hunting cheetah

The view from up high on Naabi Hill is fantastic as you can see in all directions for many, many miles. It isn’t the border of the park, but where most visitors see the Serengeti for the first time. The actual border is a few kilometers down the road and is quite inauspicious.

Danielle, Abuu and me atop Naabi Hill

Danielle, Abuu and me atop Naabi Hill

Our next stop was to Oldupai Gorge which was a spur of the moment thing as I had been there once before but had never driven down into the Gorge which we were hoping to do this time. Oldupai (which is the correct spelling as the original and better known Olduvai was a misspelling by the first European visitors of the Maasai name for a plant that is all over the area and is the Oldupai plant) Gorge is the mecca of anthropological sites and is perhaps the most important site on earth. Louis and Mary Leakey (well, really Mary mostly) found a fossil there dating to 1.9 million years ago that was named Zinjanthropus and was the oldest fossils to date of ancient man. We went through the museum there and then listened to a short lecture by a local guide, Lucas, who was a local Iraqw elder from Karatu who knew an immense amount about the gorge, the Leakeys and anthropology. We drove down to one site to find fossilized bone fragments (of game, not humans) lying all over the surface from 1.6 to 1.9 million years ago. Then we went to the “zinj site” which is where Mary first saw the exposed jaw of Zinjanthropus and change the who world of anthropology with her find and continued to work there for many years, long after her husband’s death.

Collecting fossils in Oldupai Gorge (too bad I couldn't bring them home!)

Collecting fossils in Oldupai Gorge (too bad I couldn’t bring them home!)

Our guide, Lucas, me and Abuu holding some monster fossils at the site where Mary Leaky found Zinjanthropus

Our guide, Lucas, me and Abuu holding some monster fossils at the site where Mary Leaky found Zinjanthropus

After Oldupai it was back to FAME and the end of our fantastic journey in the Serengeti and the beginning of our next journey seeing patients and educating the doctors and nurses here about treating neurologic diseases.

Mike

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