Cultural tours are a popular product in Tanzania that is mostly sold as an add-on to enrich main safari tour programs. Most cultural tour sites in mainland Tanzania were developed by the Tanzania Tourist Board (TTB) in conjunction with the Netherlands Development Organisation (SNV), starting with selected villages around Arusha in northern Tanzania and spreading out into other areas. These are traditionally existing villages which have been made accessible to visitors who may have a glimpse of the authentic lifestyle of the more than 120 tribes in rural Tanzania.

Most visitors to Africa, especially first timers, find the continent and its people enchantingly different and a special experience. We at African Pangolin Safaris appreciate this fact and endeavour to include visits to the local communities to give our guests the opportunity to see firsthand the way of life in a typical African village.

Besides enriching itineraries and adding quality to the tours offered in Tanzania, the cultural tours are generating direct income to the local communities that are being visited, contributing to their development. Thus by visiting the cultural sites the guests would be giving support to community health, water supply, primary education and many other social and economic projects carried out at village level as well as reforestation and protection of environment.

Some of the popular cultural centres which may be tailored into visitor itineraries include:

  • Mto wa Mbu, a multicultural village-cum-town near Lake Manyara National Park
  • Maasai Boma and villages in Ngorongoro Conservation Area
  • Lake Eyasi: land of the Hadzabe and Datoga

Visits to Maasai Bomas / villages in Ngorongoro

Most visitors to Africa, especially first timers, find the continent and its people enchantingly different and a special experience. We at African Pangolin Safaris appreciate this fact and endeavor to include visits to the local communities to give our guests the opportunity to see firsthand the way of life in a typical African village. Tanzania has over 120 tribes each with its own culture. The Maasai in northern Tanzania are among the most popular ethnic groups in the area, a proud people fervently attached to their cultural values. Ngorongoro is the home of the pastoral Maasai, who have been allowed to live in the conservation area, a pioneering experiment in multi-purpose land use where people, their livestock and wildlife coexist and share the same protected habitat. The Maasai move widely with their herds of cattle, sheep, goats and donkeys in search of pasture and water. In recent years the Maasai have been encouraged to work on the land to supplement their traditional staple food of milk and meat.

While in Ngorongoro most of the guests on safari love to include a visit to a Maasai Boma (homestead). The Seneto Maasai Boma on the western slopes of the Ngorongoro Highlands about two hundred metres off the main road to Serengeti is one of the most famous cultural visitor points for guests. Another popular Maasai village is Irkeepus which is located in the Ngorongoro Highlands and a visit can be combined with a trek of Olmoti or Empakaai Crater. Visitors will be shown around the Maasai Boma, and are welcome to explore the huts where Maasai families live and learn a few things about their way of living. The huts, normally built by women, are made of wood, mud and cow dung.

The visit lasts about 30 to 45 minutes and at the end the villagers will show off and try to sell their colourful beadwork and other handcrafted wares. If time allows the Maasai warriors would challenge men to engage in a spear throwing match or perform a tribal dance, and ladies may choose to participate in beadwork. This is intended to expose visitors to the Maasai culture though briefly and enrich them with some authentic African experiences.

Lake Eyasi – the Hadzabe and Datoga

Lake Eyasi is a very scenic soda lake found on the southern border of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, a couple of hours drive from Karatu. This less visited lake lies at the base of the Eyasi escarpment on the western Great Rift Valley wall, bordered by the Eyasi Escarpment in the northwest and the Kidero Mountains in the south.

This is a hot, dry land, around which live the Hadzabe people, often associated with the Khoisan languages in Southern Africa because of their click language. The Hadzabe are believed to have lived here for nearly 10,000 years and continue to follow hunting-and-gathering traditions. Also in the area are the Iraqw (Mbulu), a people of Cushitic origin who arrived about 2000 years ago, as well as the Datoga also Cushitic, the Maasai and various Bantu groups including the Nyakyusa, Nyamwezi, Chaga and Meru. The area is Tanzania’s main onion-growing centre, and there are impressive irrigation systems along the Chemchem River drawing its water from natural springs.

The Hadzabe, a hunter-gatherer tribe, live close to the shores of Lake Eyasi, as do the Nilotic-speaking Datoga tribe who are pastoralists. Visits to these tribes are possible on half day or full day excursions which would include a visit to their homesteads, learning about their way of life, medicinal plants, and even animal tracking with bows and arrows with the Hadzabe hunters.

The Hadzabe – what you can learn from the Hadzabe

  • Different kinds of materials being used to make arrows – arrow sticks, the preparation of poison and the point of poison in the arrow
  • Processing poison from the poison tree
  • Fruit, root tubers and honey collection
  • Shallow wells prepared by women for water collection from the ground for home use
  • Traditional dancing
  • Barbeque preparation of fresh meat for the lucky days of hunting, normally about 2 -3 days of big kills per week but small kills are regular and common
  • How to make fire the traditional way, in the ancient hand-drill method using palms of the hands and two pieces of sticks / wood
  • Training and exercise in arrow shooting and targeting
  • Preparation of huts for the women (being made of branches of trees)
  • Studying the availability of animals for hunting and timing too, as hunting is normally done early morning, and at night for the baboons and traps – common animals are monkeys, baboons, dikdik, kudu, impala, guinea fowls
  • Life in the caves in the rainy season, and under trees in the dry season
  • The monogamy practice for the marriage
  • Training of youngsters in hunting & targeting

The Datoga – what you can learn from the Datoga

  • General life style of the Datoga
  • How mud & cow dung huts are being prepared by women
  • Preparation of the boma ( the cattle fence)
  • Learning the way men and women dress
  • Learning the art of women like jewellery making – e.g. necklaces, bracelets, beads, skin skirts etc
  • Learn about black smiths, weapons & weapon making
  • Cow milking and preparation of local butter
  • Learn the history of polygamy in the Datoga tribe
  • Flour making by women using grinding stones
  • Preparation of “gissuda” – a local beer – for ceremonies, weddings, prayers to gods & ancestors. The type of honey used is absolutely natural and women are not allowed to drink this local beer made out of honey & some natural tubers.

Learn the history of underground springs in Lake Eyasi, these springs have the extension of about 1km forming Chemchem River which sustain all irrigation in the basin

The tribes who farm the Lake Eyasi basin include the native Iraqw, the Nyakyusa, Nyamwezi, Chagga, Meru mostly living around the main settlement in the area .Crops being grown around Lake Eyasi include maize, cassava, bananas, potatoes, beans, and onions which is the chief commercial produce found in irrigated farms…

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