Human Origins: Tanzania to South Africa

  • 14-day discovery of early human history in the company of top experts on human origins
  • Track chimps, view pre-historic finds, and go on game drives in Tanzania's Ngorongoro Crater

Expedition Details


Walk in the footsteps of early humans, from the highlands of the Great Rift Valley to the Eden of South Africa’s Western Cape, in the company of one of National Geographic’s top experts on human origins. Examine world-famous Paleolithic finds. Track chimpanzees and observe their humanlike behavior. Step inside prehistoric cave homes, examine crucial fossil finds at Olduvai Gorge, and encounter wildlife on safari in the primordial landscapes of East Africa.

Trip Highlights

    • Travel with a human origins expert, and meet prominent figures in the field throughout the trip.
    • Track wild chimpanzees at Jane Goodall’s original research site.
    • Gain private access to active archaeological digs and view pre-historic finds.
    • Spot legendary wildlife in the Ngorongoro Crater, one of the world’s largest intact volcanic craters.

Itinerary - 14 Days

Days 1 & 2 — U.S./Arusha, Tanzania

Depart for Kilimanjaro airport and arrive the following evening. Tonight, gather for a welcome reception with our expert.
Arusha Coffee Lodge

Day 3 — Lake Manyara National Park/ Ngoronogoro Crater

After breakfast, drive to Lake Manyara National Park—famous for its elephants, hippos, giraffes, and lions—and enjoy a picnic lunch. Continue to the Ngorongoro Crater and settle into our luxury ecolodge, perched high on the edge of the escarpment. Close to some of the earliest dwellings of man in Olduvai Gorge, the lodge’s décor is inspired by the early cave paintings.
Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge (B,L,D)

Day 4 — Ngoronogoro Crater

Embark on an all-day game drive in the Ngorongoro Crater, where the slopes shelter almost 30,000 animals. Keep an eye out for elephants, lions, rhinoceroses, cheetahs, wildebeests, buffalo, and much more. Return to the lodge for dinner this evening.
Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge (B,L,D)

Day 5 — Ngoronogoro Crater/Olduvai Gorge

Return to the Ngorongoro Crater for an early morning game drive. Then spend the afternoon at Olduvai Gorge, known as the “cradle of mankind.” Dr. Fidelis Masao, co-director of research at Olduvai Gorge, joins us on our visit here. Visit the precise spot where Zinjanthropus was found and where stone tools and remains of Homo habilis (the handy man) were excavated in 1960. Spend time in the Olduvai Gorge Museum, established by the renowned Leakey family to exhibit their important paleoanthropological discoveries.
Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge (B,L,D)

Day 6 — Kigoma

Fly by private charter to Kigoma and visit Ujiji, where Henry Stanley met the renowned explorer and inquired, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?” Visit the fishing village of Katonga. Later, browse Kigoma’s market for traditional cloth and spices.
Kigoma Hilltop Hotel (B,L,D)

Days 7 & 8 — Gombe National Park

Travel by boat into the heart of Gombe National Park, where legendary primatologist Jane Goodall recorded the remarkable parallels between chimpanzees and humans. Spend two days in the park, tracking down our closest living animal relatives in their natural habitat and observe their humanlike behavior. Hike back through the deep mountain forest to the rangers’ camp before returning to Kigoma by boat.
Kigoma Hilltop Hotel (B,L,D)

Day 9 — Dar es Salaam/Johannesburg, South Africa

After breakfast, fly by private charter to Dar es Salaam and connect to a commercial flight to Johannesburg, South Africa. Transfer to our lodgings, a quiet country hotel and spa set in the magnificent Magaliesberg mountains.
Mount Grace Country House & Spa (B,L,D)

Day 10 — Johannesburg

Spend today exploring the Sterkfontein caves, a UNESCO World Heritage site of more than 550 hominid fossils that have helped paleoanthropologists decode the span of human evolution stretching back some 3.5 million years. Our host, paleoanthropologist Ron Clarke, guides us through this vast history on-site and shares his current excavation of an Australopithecus—remains that may prove to be the oldest, most complete hominid ever found.
Mount Grace Country House & Spa (B,L,D)

Day 11 — Johannesburg/George/Mossel Bay

This morning, enjoy a private viewing of the world-famous Taung Child, the fossilized skull of an Australopithecus africanus youth. Meet with National Geographic grantee Lee Berger to discuss this important recent find, which may help unlock our understanding of the genus Homo. After lunch, take a commercial flight to the town of George, nestled at the edge of the Outeniqua Mountains. Drive to our hotel nestled on the Mossel Bay shoreline. Tonight we are joined by a local archaeologist for dinner.
Protea Hotel Mossel Bay (D)

Day 12 — Mossel Bay

Today, take a private, behind-the-scenes tour of the active excavation sites of nearby Pinnacle Point, where early man subsisted on life from the sea. Step into a 164,000-year-old cave home furnished with advanced Stone Age tools and artifacts. Enjoy a barbecue dinner overlooking the Indian Ocean.
Protea Hotel Mossel Bay (B,L,D)

Days 13 & 14 — Mossel Bay/Johannesburg/U.S.

Enjoy a morning at leisure to explore Mossel Bay. After lunch, transfer to the airport for a commercial flight to Johannesburg to connect with your return flight home.


This expedition is not currently being offered.

Note: The 2011 trip is one day longer and operates in the reverse direction.

Activity Level

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