As many of you know, I’ve been in Tanzania of east Africa for the last 6 weeks on a university field school. This was a geology and paleoanthropology course studying various regions around the Serengeti planes and, most importantly, the Olduvai Gorge region. It was fantastic. I don’t really know how else to put it, haha. Today I just wanted to highlight some of the more exciting points of what we did there, things we saw, and what I learned.
Our group was fortunate enough to be camping in the exact spot that Louis and Mary Leakey camped while conducting their research at Olduvai in the 40s and 50s. This is now, not surprisingly, called the Leakey camp.
Let me start by saying I have never camped a day in my life. This made me a little nervous. Whether I loved it or hated it, I was going to be living out of a tent for 6 weeks. 6 WEEKS. That is a long ass time to live in a tent if you hate camping.
But, I didn’t hate camping. In fact, I’ve been home only a week and I already miss camping. This picture is a photo of our tent set up – mine is the red tent behind the green one in the middle. The tarp features our oh-so-glamorous bags of water that we used to shower with.
It helped that we were in a climate that it didn’t get too cold at night, only a bit windy. It helped that everyone my tent was surrounded by felt like family. It helped that behind our tents was the huge expanse of flat Serengeti planes. It helped that it was so dark at night that you could see the Milky Way in the sky. Part of me wishes I had a picture of the expanse of stars, but part of me is glad I don’t have one. For starters, my camera couldn’t capture it. But most of all, I feel like that view is best left to memory. The stars were one of the more special parts of being there, to me; and I like the idea of it not being captured by a camera and stuck on my computer.
I obviously knew that I would be spending a lot of time at Olduvai Gorge, but I didn’t realize I’d be hiking through it daily. Those are some hard hikes, too. Lots of uphill, getting your footing right, and it is hot hot hot. After flying home I realized I had lost 10 lbs on this trip, undoubtedly from all the hiking haha.
Not only did we hike through Olduvai Gorge, but we also climbed an active volcano! The picture below is me just before climbing Oldoinyo Lengai during the last week of our trip. THIS was the hardest hike of them all. It was uphill the entire way to our destination, and the changes in altitude made me nearly pass out, but I eventually made it (I may or may not have been the last person to make it up there) and it was one of my favorite places we went!
Another highlight hike we did was THROUGH a waterfall to get to ANOTHER waterfall. Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of this, because if I tried, my camera would be dead. Some of the hike was waist-deep in water, and to get back down from our destination we had to slide down another waterfall! It was fantastic. I’ve definitely got a newfound love for hiking, and have been researching trails in my area since coming home.
We went on two official safaris: one three-day game drive at Serengeti National Park, and one single-day game drive inside the Ngorongoro Crater. We saw 4 out of 5 of the ‘Big Five’ (rhino, leopard, buffalo, hippo, and lion; OR rhino, leopard, buffalo, elephant, and lion; depending on who you ask). No matter which model of the Big Five you prefer, we still saw 4/5 haha! The one thing we didn’t see was the rhino. Our biggest goal for the safaris were to see a rhino and a leopard, but especially the leopard because it’s considered the most elusive, and some people go their entire safaris without ever seeing one! For us, however, we started our FIRST game drive at the Serengeti and saw the leopard within 15 minutes of being on the planes.
Overall, my group had FANTASTIC luck during our game drives. I’ll just have to go back in the future to find that rhino.
Okay. I will try very, very hard to not make this section super lengthy. I’ll narrow it down to my Top 3 things.
I’ll start with our very last game drive at the Serengeti. We took this drive early in the morning before the sun was up, and got to watch the sunrise while lionesses and elephants and their babies. It really was the best morning of my life. I was standing in the back of our safari car that morning, and we watched a lioness approach our car carrying a cub by its muzzle and two more cubs following behind her. They ended up crossing the road right behind our car – so RIGHT in front of me. I was honestly crying like a little baby it was so majestic to witness haha. I’ve included pictures of those lions here, along with a nice elephant shot I got that same morning. It was so beautiful. It was so quiet on the planes, with just the morning sunlight and the chilly air around us.
My other two highlights just involve the every day life of camping on the Serengeti planes right next to Olduvai Gorge. Seeing the Milky Way and several shooting stars every night was incredible. Every morning, I would wake up and get a cup of coffee, and sit on the bench right across from our tents. From there, you could see a group of giraffes walk by on the planes as if to say good morning. It was such an extraordinary thing to wake up to and witness.
The last highlight I want to mention is the insane geology of Olduvai Gorge. Usually while we were actually inside of the Gorge, we were all hot, hungry, and grumpy haha. Sometimes it took some extra energy to remember where we were and how grateful we should be for it. I miss the Gorge so much. Our camp was surrounded by a boma (basically a fence of thorny bushes to keep out predators), and we had found an opening in the back of our boma that led straight to the edge of the Gorge. We would sneak out here and bring our books and journals, or play cards, or just explore. It’s weird when you start calling such a profound paleoanthropological landmark ‘home’. This is home.
SO WHAT NOW?
As many of you know, I am an archaeology student. I have always been more interested in archaeological curation rather than excavation, but I was open to the idea of excavating. Well, we did a bit of archaeological excavating on this trip. And the verdict is… I hated it. I hated it a lot, hahaha. I mean, I think a good chunk of what I hated was excavating in such a hot, arid climate, but still. I can tell you, I definitely did not want to become an archaeologist haha.
I also have the travel bug again. Not a bad thing, but I am BROKE haha. Since coming home I’ve been thinking about planning a trip closer to home, like a road trip around the US, or just going somewhere out west. I’ve never been anywhere on the west side of the states, so that’s my next goal I think.
I think that pretty much concludes the main things I wanted to share with you all about my 6 weeks in Tanzania! If you have any questions about my trip or about the area, I actually BEG you to ask me hahaha – I could talk about this trip forever, and narrowing it down to this blog post was kind of difficult.
This was truly some of the best 6 weeks of my life. I had so much anxiety about going to Tanzania and camping for 6 weeks, not to mention camping around dangerous animals, and knowing no Swahili (I now can make some very basic conversation!). But it turned out to be the most beautiful place I have ever encountered, and I don’t think it is a trip I could ever compare to anywhere else I will ever go. It really, truly was a life-changing experience.
Thank you guys so much for reading! If any of you have any recent travel blog posts, please share them with me – again, my travel bug is here again and I would love to read about your experiences in new places. Also, if anyone has any cool places in the western US that I should keep in mind, let me know that as well hahaha.
I hope you guys have been having a great summer! I’m so sad to have left my camp, but I’m also happy to be back.
Also, if anyone is interested in seeing some extra pictures I took, you can follow my Instagram here. 😉 I have to do a little bit of plugging, okay?