Masai village Tours
Mto wa Mbu cultural tour
Lake Eyasi – the Hadzabe and Datoga
Mulala village of Wameru
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Cultural tours in Tanzania

Cultural tours in Tanzania  : Cultural tours are some of the most interesting safari product in Tanzania that enriches a wildlife safari tour. Most cultural tour sites in mainland Tanzania were developed by the Tanzania Tourist Board in conjunction with the Netherlands Development Organization 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 visiting the African continent for purposes of cultural tourism need to be enchanted into the different and special experience of African cultures.

Thus endeavour to include visits to the local communities to get the opportunity to see first-hand the way of life in a typical African village. Visiting the cultural sites gives visitors an opportunity to 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 tourism sites to be visited in Tanzania include;

Mto wa Mbu cultural tour

Manyara – Mto wa Mbu, meet an array of tribes living together in a small area

Mto wa Mbu is one of the most popular cultural tour sites in Tanzania and it is basically an array of tribes living together in a small area it was one of the first cultural tourism sites developed by the Tanzania Tourist Board and the Netherlands Development Organisation.

Mto wa Mbu community is located on the foot of the Great Rift Valley bordering Lake Manyara National Park, across the famous Arusha – Serengeti route taking about 120 kilometres and 60 kilometres from Arusha and Ngorongoro conservation area respectively.

Following the setting up of irrigation systems in the early 1950s, the area has rapidly developed into a small town attracting a new wave of tribes from all over the country, each with its own cultural background. This is a unique cultural experience in Tanzania with so many different tribes settled in such a small area. Visitors can choose from

  • A walk through the farms and green oasis on the foot of the Rift Valley
  • A climb to Balala Hill, a view into the culture of the many tribes living in the area
  • A trip to Miwaleni Lake and waterfall where there is an abundance of papyrus
  • Visits to development projects that aim to improve agriculture and start income-generating activities for local farmers.

The Mto wa Mbu tour is a village walk, designed to provide guests with an experience of the rich cultural heritage in Tanzania, albeit in a short time of half day or one full day cultural experience.  The varied produces, handicrafts and activities that can be seen on the market place and in the village farms and lifestyle is an illustration of this cultural diversity.

Visitors may see Chagga people from the slopes of the Kilimanjaro brew their famous banana beer, Mbege and learn why out of more than 30 varieties of bananas cultivated here only two species are suitable for producing the drink; meet a farmer from Kigoma extract palm oil from palm trees that he brought from the shores of Lake Tanganyika; appreciate the Sandawe with their fascinating click language, similar to the Khoisan of the Kalahari Desert, making bows & arrows for hunting; interact with the Rangi from Kondoa using the papyrus from the lakes and rivers for weaving beautiful mats and baskets.

Visit the Mbugwe people from Manyara Region who will show you how they grind different grains to obtain flour using a traditional millstone; join the local people of Mto wa Mbu and learn how they construct mud huts, typical housing for most tribes around the area. You will be shown how to mix mud, rice husks and cow dung to obtain the right mud stuff for strong walls, and how local people roof their huts using dry banana barks and leaves.

Learn about traditional iron smelting technology, one of the oldest in Africa. The local people will show you how to make different tools like spears, knives, arrows. Learn from the local women how pots and dishes are made from clay soil and baked to make them hard. On the surrounding plains and woodlands to the north, east and south live native Maasai families in their traditional bomas (homesteads) while the warriors wander with their cattle looking for pastures and water.

Visits to Maasai Bomas / Villages in Ngorongoro

Tanzania has over 120 tribes each with its own culture affiliations. The Maasai in northern Tanzania are among the most popular ethnic groups in Africa and especially in Tanzania, they are proud people passionately attached to their cultural values and norms.

Ngorongoro is the home of the pastoral Maasai people of Tanzania who have been allowed to live in the conservation area as a pioneering experiment in multi-purpose land use where people live with their livestock and wildlife coexisting while sharing 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 conservation area wildlife safari, visitors are encouraged to include a visit to a Maasai Boma for example the Seneto Maasai Boma on the western slopes of the Ngorongoro Highlands about 200 metres off the main road to Serengeti national park is one of the most famous cultural visitor points for tourists.

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 are welcome to explore the huts where Maasai families live and learn a few things about their way of living. The huts are normally built by women and made of wood, mud and cow dung.

The cultural tour experience 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 or the Maasai warriors would challenge men to engage in a spear throwing match or perform a tribal dance. 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, some good hours’ drive from Karatu. Lake Eyasi is less visited as it 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. The waters here are hot and dry however it is surrounded by the Hadzabe people who 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) people of Cushitic who arrived about 2000 years ago in the area as well as the Datoga and Cushitic and other Maasai and various Bantu groups including the Nyakyusa, Nyamwezi, Chagga and Meru. This area close to Lake Eyasi 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 people are hunter-gatherer tribe living close to the shores of Lake Eyasi just like the Nilotic-speaking Datoga people 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. Some of the experiences to encounter while visiting the Hadzabe and Datoga people respectively include;

  • Processing poison from the poison tree
  • Different kinds of materials being used to make arrows – arrow sticks, the preparation of poison and the point of poison in the arrow
  • 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 tribe;

  • 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…

Ng’iresi village of Wa-Arusha tribe

Ngi’iresi Village is located about 7 kilometres from Arusha town on the lower slopes of Mount Meru which is the second highest mountain in Tanzania with a height of about 4,566 meters high. The inhabitants of the village are farmers of the Wa-Arusha tribe.

The Wa-Arusha are relatives of the Maasai people but have gradually shifted from pastoralism to mixed farming with agriculture being the main activity. There is the opportunity to gain an insight into the culture of the Wa-arusha tribe such as listening to age-old stories, visiting traditional houses with an option of enjoying a local traditional meal prepared by the Juhudi Women’s Group.

One can take a half day or full day guided tour to this village on the foothills of Mount Meru and visit some of the farms and several development projects in the village including soil conservation, irrigation, cross breeding, bio-gas production; coffee and tea that is served at Mzee Loti’s farm. Walk to the nearby “Bomas” to see the various styles of traditional Maasai and Wa-Arusha houses. Climb Lekimana hill from where you can have a beautiful view of Arusha town and the surrounding Maasai plains on a clear day Kilimanjaro is visible from here. The tour can include a climb to Kivesi Hill an old volcano with a natural forest at the summit.

Mulala village of Wameru

Mulala village is a typical rural setting on the southern lower slopes of Mount Meru, located about 30kms from Arusha town off the Moshi / Arusha highway near Usa River. Mulala Cultural Tourism Program is run by the Agape Women’s Group who offer a tour of traditional activities of about 1-2 hours where one can visit farms and learn about farming methods and various economic activities such as cheese-making, bread-making, preparing flower seeds, chilli growing and sewing.

Another cultural tour is the Marisha River Tour which takes about 2 hours with a local guide who will show you common medicinal plants used by the villagers, take you on to the Ziwa la Mzungu (White Man’s Lake) where a big colony of fruit bats thrives. Lemeka Hill Tour – where you can walk through the coffee and banana plantations and head up Lemeka Hill for breath-taking views of both Mounts Kilimanjaro and Meru and of the Maasai Plains and on the way back a visit to the traditional village healer.  There is also a place for overnight camping and simple traditional meals for those wishing to spend a night. The Mulala Cultural Tourism Programme is the only one completely launched, developed and implemented by women as a means to self-sufficiency.

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