Human History at Oldupai Gorge

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Around 30,000 years ago, intense geological activity combined with millennia of erosion exposed the area now known as Oldupai Gorge (once erroneously called “Olduvai Gorge”). Fast forward to July 1959, and paleoanthropologist Mary Leakey finally grasped the significance of what was exposed there when she stumbled upon an odd-looking skull lying in the dirt.

Fossils dating back to the dawn of mankind trace our history to Oldupai Gorge in the heart of Africa. The findings of Mary Leakey and her husband Louis show some of mankind’s earliest documented ancestors, who existed over a million years before the discovery of stone tools. This discovery has led to decades of intense study, which has helped shed light on the development of humans as we evolved over millions of years.

Many anthropologists and archaeologists theorize that all of Homo sapiens originated from Africa, the Mother Continent, some millions of years ago thanks to the findings at sites like Oldupai.

Oldupai Gorge and Ngorongoro Crater as the “Cradle of Mankind”

Oldupai Gorge is found in Ngorongoro Crater, a caldera that formed when a massive volcano collapsed upon itself.

To the southwest, about halfway to Lake Eyasi, lies Laetoli. Here, Mary Leakey discovered and excavated some of the earliest evidence of upright-walking hominids found on the planet. 3.7 million years ago, early Australopithecus afarensis hominids, of a similar species to “Lucy,” stepped in a mixture of volcanic ash and mud. This mixture hardened, preserving footprints later buried under millions of years of sediment and then uncovered.

From this evidence, the Leakeys and others were able to essentially reconstruct the development of mankind in the area over millions of years. Australopithecus remains lead to Zinjanthropus, the type of proto-human that Mary Leaker first discovered in Oldupai. There is also evidence of Homo habilis, who made some of the earliest stone tools found in Oldupai’s 1.8 million to 1.6 million year old deposits. From there, our brain sizes increased as we evolved into the more adept Homo sapiens, spreading knowledge of stone tools and early farming techniques as we became increasingly nomadic.

See Some of the Earliest Signs of Humanity at the Oldupai Museum

At the Oldupai Museum in the Ngorongoro Crater, you can find many fascinating exhibits documenting historic archeological finds. A set of the Laetoli footprints can be found based on an imprint mold taken just a few miles south. Evidence of animal remains, the early ones gnawed upon and the later ones bearing clear stone tool cut marks, can also be found.

The museum also documents Information on early human civilization as well as the later colonization of the Crater by the Masai people. Nearby, you can find a cultural Boma that can immerse you in the life of the Masai people. Handmade souvenirs bearing traditional art and patterns are available. There is also a lecture space, public toilets and refreshments. Guided tours are available into the crater or into the Oldupai Gorge itself.

You can see all of these sights on a trip to the Ngorongoro Crater — and discover the beginnings of humankind as we know it — when you book a Tanzania safari tour package today.

Jill Liphart for Roho Ya Chui, Travel Africa

Enjoy Canoeing Safari for a Change of Pace

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As you slide down the Okavango Delta, an egret dabs its beak into the shallow waters by the shore. It pays your canoe no mind as you slip past, your paddles gently splashing in the water. Ahead, the guide boat spots a hippo. You correct course. The hippo stares at you as you give it a respectfully wide berth. It snorts and blows some bubbles in reply.

Game drive safaris in an offroad vehicle are one of the most popular ways to experience wildlife during a trip to Africa, but canoeing safaris are a completely different breed. You can put yourself up close next to nature and feel truly a part of your surroundings. Your expert guides help you set up camp at night, and they cook simple but delicious homestyle meals over a campfire.

This method of traversing the wild African landscape has only grown in popularity over the past few years, but for now it still remains a relatively well-kept secret that only the most enthusiastic adventurers enquire about. You and your fellow travellers get to enjoy a wholly unique experience that will stick with you for a lifetime.

Immerse Yourself in Nature

As the imagined scenario above shows, canoe safari trips remove many of the barriers between you and the world you intend to observe. The water sits high upon the edge of your canoe, and you can see the lilies and reeds glide past, sometimes bumping softly into your boat as you navigate channels and marshlands.

Wildlife tend to be curious but largely indifferent to your presence. While roads and trails carve through their territory, putting yourself in the midst of the water means you are in theirs. Guides scout ahead to warn you of impending hippos and other concerns. If one is spotted, your guide will instruct you on how to avoid piercing their comfort zone. Sometimes, you must use punting poles to shove through marshlands to seek alternate passage. Other times, you wait. When animals do get too close, you and your guide slap paddles on top of the water, which ring out like gunshots and frighten them away.

At the end of a long day of paddling, your body feels weary but relaxed. You smell the juicy seared meats coming to the right level of doneness as they roast over a wood fire. Vegetables wrapped in foil quietly steam and simmer in butter and their own juices. Your guide regales you with stories of adventures past — a recap of their closest calls.

On some nights during your trip, you can slip into a plush lodge bed after sipping wine by a roaring fireplace, but tonight, your tent and watchful guards are all that separates you from the wilderness. These experiences make canoeing safaris utterly unforgettable and affect travellers in profound ways. After weeks of living life in the suburbs or city at a breakneck pace, safari-goers get to slow down and listen to what nature has to say all around them.

Book a Canoeing Safari in Africa Today

Whether you want to see the Okavango Delta, the Zambezi or other incredible waterfront locales in Africa, a canoeing safari is an incredible way to experience them from an intimate viewpoint. You can book your canoeing safari trip today along with other amazing activities when you contact us and create a custom itinerary for you and your fellow travellers.

Jill Liphart for Roho Ya Chui, Travel Africa

Beautiful Bats of Africa

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Bats are incredible, unique and underappreciated mammals that supply important roles in the ecosystem. Many suburbanites fail to recognize just how common bats are in their lives; bats’ high-pitched squeals tend to blend into other twilight sounds, and the fluttering black figure in the night sky could just as easily be a swallow or a nighthawk as it is a bat.

Yet, when you come to a continent like Africa where nature is often so much more visible, bats begin to reveal their piece in the puzzle of the great natural order. Africa has around 321 species of bats — around 25% of known global bat species — which help pollinate and plant some of the continent’s most characteristic flora while others manage insect populations to the delight of its fauna.

You can read on to learn about the different types of bats you can encounter during a twilight safari in Africa and hopefully come to a deeper understanding and appreciation of just how amazing and essential the bats of Africa bats can be.

All About the Bats of Africa

Bats are members of the order Chiroptera, which means “hand-wing” in Greek. They are the only mammals capable of sustaining true flight, whereas other animals like “flying” squirrels can only glide for short distances. Bats fly by using their hands, which have been modified over millions of years of evolution to have long, thin bones connected by leathery wings or “patagium.”

You can find bats in Africa all throughout the continent except in the arid, non-forested regions around the Sahara and Kalahari deserts. They tend to roost in large colonies at the tops of tall trees, although some live in caves like their New World counterparts.

There are over 1,200 species of bats worldwide, making them the second-most diverse mammalian order following rodents. Because bats require small, light, delicate bones to enable their flight, our fossil record of bats is spotty at best. The earliest records recovered date back 52.5 million years ago, when bats had already developed the capability to fly but lacked the echolocation abilities seen in modern microbats.

This discovery makes sense given that bats show several distinct differences at the genus level. Breaking these differences down into broad terms, we have the fruit-eating megabats with their more fox-like heads; and microbats, which have smaller heads, large ears and wrinkled noses — all of which make it easier for them to use high-pitched sound waves to locate insect prey.

Africa has these two types of bats as well as examples of more specific families of bats, which you can learn more about below.

Types of Bats in Africa

  • Fruit bats have fox-like heads and typically feed on nectar from flowers and fruits. The most widespread fruit bat species in Africa is the straw-coloured fruit bat, which lives in colonies of over 100,000.
  • Horseshoe bats use their radar-dish-like noses to emit high-pitched squeaks, helping them find their insect prey.
  • Old World leaf-nosed bats have specialized nose shapes like horseshoe bats that tend to be more textured, similar in appearance to a dead leaf.
  • False vampire bats are relatively large insect-eating bats with very prominent ears and a large, pointy nose. Africa has only one species: the yellow-winged false vampire bat.
  • Sheath-tailed bats are tiny bats with pointed faces and small tails covered in a sheath. The Egyptian tomb bat is one famous example, and its habitat range follows the Nile down to Ethiopia, although it appears in other areas of Africa and India.
  • Slit-faced bats have a split nose and tall ears. The Egyptian slit-faced bat is spread throughout Africa and the Middle East.
  • Free-tailed bats are small, agile flyers that have some of the fastest flying speeds of any bats. They are also noted for their dog-like faces that resemble mastiff breeds.
  • Long-fingered bats have bonier-looking arms and more noticeable digits at the tops of their wings. They tend to live in more arid regions than Africa’s other bats.
  • Vesper or “common” bats include the largest and most diverse range of bat species.

Meet Africa’s Bats

You can go see bats on safari in the early morning or at dusk as they venture out to find their food. You can also learn about how fruit bats help pollinate and spread seeds for some of the most important plant species we have.

Take a look at our safari vacation packages today to book your trip and meet your new flying, furry, squinty, squeaky friends.

Jill Liphart for Roho Ya Chui, Travel Africa