If you look at most guidebooks and safari tour itineraries some will include a stop at Olduvai Gorge where the Leakeys found an incredible collection of fossils of early man (see my blog post of June 20, 2011). Olduvai is actually a misspelling of the correct name “Oldupai Gorge.” As legend has it a German entomologist Wilhelm Kattwinkel was searching for butterflies and accidentally stumbled into a gorge. He asked the indigenous Maasai people the name of the gorge. They did not understand what he was saying and thought he was referring to the sisal plant that grows in abundance there. The sisal plant, has tightly bunched leaves with a tall center stalk growing out of it. This stalk is used a lot in bush buildings including fences and roof beams. The plant is also used to make natural bandages, ropes and clothing.
The indigenous Maasai called the plant “Oldupaai.” Kattwinkel misinterpreted and mis-pronounced what they were saying by referring to the gorge as “Olduvai Gorge,” instead of Oldupai Gorge. Either way it is a wonderful place where so much about our early relatives were discovered.