Year 7 Oldupai Gorge Trip - A Reflection from Ms Doria

The Year 7 trip is designed to educate our young people about the geographical magnificence of where we live and, at the same time to learn about how valleys are made, rifts are formed and the role of various eco zones in maintaining a healthy environment. Alongside this, the children are also learning one of the most important parts of history – where do we come from?

Not only are the children learning all of that but also how to be team players, build a camp, be in the wild, overcome fears and self doubt and most importantly to feel freedom, discover and have fun.

There is no better journey than a safari to the world famous caldera, Ngorongoro Crater and the place of all our roots, Oldupai Gorge. These magnificent places are exemplary to all of the above. We are extremely lucky to be able to access them.

THURSDAY 4TH OCTOBER

After packing our bus with tents, mattresses and food, we sped into the morning, crossing the great Maasai Steppes, climbing the ragged Great Rift Wall and stopped for a picnic lunch at Panorama Campsite. Perched on the edge of the rift, with Lake Manyara twinkling far below, there seemed like no better classroom for a geography lesson. While we munched our delicious lunches made by Musa, Mr Wallace delivered a fascinating lesson on how valleys are made and how the Rift was formed.

Our next stop was the viewing point on the edge of the iconic Ngorongoro Crater rim. It is absolutely beautiful. The air is crisp and the light sparkles. The skies are wide. It is hard to find words which equate the beauty of this crater. It is dreamlike.

Once more, Mr Wallace gave an informative lesson on how the caldera was formed. In fact, it was so entertaining and interesting, even a few passing tourists paused a while to glean some new information.

We drove along the rim, looking down on tumbling forests on one side and the crater on the other, a veritable knife edge. Our driver, Joshua, was excellent and careful. We arrived at Simba public campsite and wasted no time in setting up camp. Ms Lulu, Ms Doria and Mr Wallace assisted the children in putting up their tents. We were impressed with how efficiently this was done. There was great team work involved. Mr Wallace conducted a tent inspection and scored each team.

After this, it was fun and games before night fell. Duck Duck Goose was a brilliant way in letting out some pent-up energy, a favourite game of the Year 7’s. We were also visited by a rather friendly bull elephant. The children had to learn to respect the wild, be quiet and keep their distance. . . The campsite was dotted with some fat, shiny Zebra who seemed not to mind the wild games and shrieks of delight from the children. It was a dream like place to be.

After dinner, immaculately prepared by Bro Musa, we sat under the twinkling stars and told a few ghost stories, Ms Doria’s winning the prize for the scariest. Soon we were all zipped into our tents safely until morning.

FRIDAY 5TH OCTOBER

At first light, children tumbled out their tents, bursting for the loo! After a tasty breakfast, over which some rather imaginative stories of the night were shared ( warthogs trying to scuffle tents, hyena sniffings and other rather wild and exaggerated tales which only indicate wonderfully vivid imaginations ) and another tent inspection by Mr Wallace, we were on the bus again, and this time to Oldupai Gorge!

The drive is absolutely splendid. We wound our way down the other side of the rim, the world falling away into the blue and beyond, with the Serengeti like a distant dream on the horizon.

Once again, Mr Wallace kept the children completely engaged along the way, teaching biology, geography and history in an innovative and captivating manner. It was so inspiring to see children engaged in their passing world and not in their screens, taking notes for their Deep Learning Projects.

Oldupai Gorge is, well, iconic and imperative to understanding who we are and where we all came from, all of us across the world.  It is hauntingly powerful and ancient. The new museum is outstanding! In fact, there is almost too much information to absorb in one visit. The children took their own tour, armed with pens, cameras and clip boards.  

After wandering around the circular tour of the displays we gathered in the beautiful auditorium, which overlooks the famous gorge where the Leakeys made their world famous discoveries, shedding light and truth on our ancestors and heritage. Here Ndegere gave us an informative lecture, the gorge a perfect backdrop.

After this, we munched our packed lunches in the restaurant area and then headed down into the gorge with Ndegere, finding fossils, bones and stone tools. It is utterly incredible to think how rich this place is in history. The children were brave and strong and walked down steep stony paths in the blazing heat without complaint, thrilled with their discoveries.

I for one, was sad to leave. James did mention, “ But Miss, you said this was going to be fun?”  I suspect he imagined zip lines and a fun park to be thrown in somewhere along the line…

We were happy to be back high up on the Crater where the air is cool and invigorating. That night, our friendly bull elephant called on us again, right in the middle of a marshmallow roasting party at our little camp fire. We had to walk quietly and quickly to the kitchen area. We returned to complete the sweet feast and then zipped ourselves up tightly into our tents.

Once silence descended our little explorative party, Mr Elephant soon tip toed out of the forest and,  under the quiet and tremulous stars, like a proverbial ship in the night, silently made his way past our tents, a beautiful tribute to the end of our safari.

SATURDAY 6TH OCTOBER

After breakfast, the children packed up their tents, under the eagle eye of Mr Wallace, and we headed home, our heads and hearts full to the brim from this incredible foray into our history.

How fortunate we all are to live in Tanzania, so rich in heritage and blessed with one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. And even more, how incredibly lucky we are to be able to share it with the next generation, hoping that they shall hold it gently and respectfully in their hands.