Tanzanian Adventure: Wildlife and Bush Tribes

We were up well before dawn, leaving our tents with lanterns in the pitch-dark early morning. 

Here in the Lake Eyasi region of Tanzania, our Tindinga Tented Camp was an hour’s drive down a dirt road, from the nearest town or major paved road. And this morning, we were going even farther afield – to meet up with a local tribesman guide, Qwarda, who was going to take us to meet the Hadzabe. Our outfitter,African Scenic Safaris, had arranged both the tented camp accommodations as well as this Community-Based Tourism to the Hadzabe bush tribe. 

The Hadzabe are an ancient tribe, with ways little changed from 10,000 years ago. They are nomadic hunter-gatherers, moving camp every two to six weeks to follow the herds of animals which they hunt. They grow no food, raise no livestock, keep no land, buy no supplies, and live as far removed from the modern world as it’s just about possible to do today. They interact very little with others, only trading with the Datoga and Iraq, two other tribes in this region of East Africa. 

They are some of the very last of any bush tribes left in Africa. 

I have been in some pretty remote villages and fairly primitive huts and living environments, but this was like nothing I had ever experienced. Human existence at its most elemental, and perhaps noblest, form. Men and women squatted around fires, cooking and preparing for the morning hunt. Bones of small animals littered the ground, and it was then that I noticed the huge boabab tree, around which the Hadzabe always make their camp. The tree had skulls attached to its trunk; Qwarda said that the Hadzabe always left the skulls of the game they killed and ate. These skulls were all those of baboons; soon, the impala skull would join them. 

Visiting the Hadzabe during my safari in Tanzania was one of the most incredible experiences I have ever had, witnessing a way of life that has long ceased to exist for most of human civilization. But here, at the start of the Great Rift Valley which is known as the Cradle of Human Birth, is a people and existence from which we all sprung. 

With African Scenic Safaris, we were also able to witness some of the most majestic animals on the face of the earth, at Lake Manyara National Park. Stretching for 50km along the base of the rusty-gold 600-metre high Rift Valley escarpment, Lake Manyara is a scenic gem, with a setting extolled by Ernest Hemingway as “the loveliest I had seen in Africa”. 

The compact game-viewing circuit through Manyara offers a virtual microcosm of the Tanzanian safari experience, and is perfect for travelers with only a limited amount of time or money to spend. It is less than a half-hour drive from the Lake Manyara Airport (itself an easy flight or drive from Arusha, the main starting point for Northern Tanzania safaris); and African Scenic Safaris offers some of the most budget and mid-range itineraries available for an African safari, which can easily be one of the most expensive undertakings in travel. 

We stayed at the lovely Kirurumu Under Canvas, another tented lodge perched high on a rim overlooking Lake Manyara. Views from our luxury tent were exquisite, and it was a very short drive down to the park for our game drives. Sam, our guide, enabled us to view a multitude of wildlife up close and personal: elephants, hippos, zebra, giraffe, baboons and gazelle. Contrasting with the intimacy of the forest is the grassy floodplain and its expansive views eastward, across the alkaline lake, to the jagged blue volcanic peaks that rise from the endless Maasai Steppes. Large buffalo, wildebeest and zebra herds congregate on these grassy plains. 

Manyara also provides the perfect introduction to Tanzania’s birdlife. More than 400 species have been recorded, and even a first-time visitor to Africa might reasonably expect to observe 100 of these in one day. Highlights include thousands of pink-hued flamingos on their perpetual migration, as well as other large waterbirds such as pelicans, cormorants and storks. Squadrons of banded mongoose dart between the acacias, while the diminutive Kirk’s dik-dik forages in their shade. Pairs of klipspringer are often seen silhouetted on the rocks above a field of searing hot springs that steams and bubbles adjacent to the lakeshore in the far south of the park. 

One of the aspects I loved the most about working with Amanda and Simbo Natai of African Scenic Safaris is their commitment to conservation and the people of Tanzania. The couple also runs Path To Africa, their nonprofit foundation that provides volunteers and donors with a way of accessing and helping local projects without going through a third body, thus ensuring all time and money donated goes directly to the projects intended. 

The Natais donate a portion of their proceeds into Path To Africa, and many of their guests stay for weeks or even months at a time volunteering in their local projects such as a children’s center and a consulting project that helps teach basic business skills to locals. Many of the guests stay at Hostel Hoff, a hostel in Moshi that is run by the Natais and is a peaceful, community-driven and extremely affordable place to begin your African adventure, or delve deeper into a cultural exchange through volunteering. 

Details: 
Tindinga Tented Camp 
Apr/May: USD $245 for double room 2 adults 
Mar/Jun/Sep-19th Dec: USD $350 for double room 2 adults 
Jan/Feb/Jul/Aug/20-31Dec: USD $400 for double room 2 adults 

Kirurumu Under Canvas 
Apr/May: USD $105 per person per night
Mar/Jun/Nov 1-Dec 19: USD $170 per person per night
Jul/Aug/Sept/Oct/Dec 20-Feb 28: USD $190 per person per night

The above rates are based on full board (all meals) and double occupancy. Discounts are available on the above lodging when booking a full safari package through African Scenic Safaris.

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