Posts Tagged ‘Tanzania’


There’s An Elephant In My Yard

Linda Lou Burton posting from Mbuzi Mawe Serena Tented Camp, Serengeti National Park, TanzaniaThere’s an elephant in my yard. That’s one thing I never expected to say. Live long enough and things you never knew you’d enjoy just show up. It happened today. I sat on my lovely little tent porch and watched an elephant grazing in my front yard. By the end of the afternoon, I’d also watched buffalo, zebra, antelope, and an orange-shirted jogger out there between me and the kopjes. The hyraxes scampered around my porch while this was going on. Who needs to go on a game drive looking for animals!

I was practically catatonic this morning when the gang headed for the 4x4s and a full day on the Serengeti. Rick promised to share his photos with me, so I slept. And slept. New Star, the lovely lady who had welcomed me in yesterday, brought me tea and breakfast, inquiring about my welfare (I suppose she’d been consigned to do so). She also offered her services for a massage, and we agreed on a time. Now, between a massage, a grassy lawn, and a slow munching elephant, a person is about as relaxed as a person can ever hope to be. So, totally relaxed, I give you your lessons for the day – about elephants, and kopjes.

My elephant today – I named him Fred – was a young male. Males leave their family groups when they reach puberty and live alone, or with other males, interacting with female family groups only when looking for a mate. Fred didn’t appear to be looking for anything today other than the next bite of grass; he was relaxed, contented, and unbothered (like me). Fred was a nice elephant! He was the first young male I’d spotted; I’d seen the matriarchal family units at Ol Pejeta, Maasai Mara, and Amboseli, either a female with her calves or several related females with offspring. The girls stick together, kicking the male calves out around the age of three. Some elephant factoids:

  • Elephants are the largest existing land animals and can live up to 70 years.
  • Elephant species existing today are the African bush, the African forest, and the Asian.
  • Elephant trunks are used for breathing, bringing food and water to their mouth, and grasping things.
  • Elephant tusks are used as weapons, and as tools for moving things and digging.
  • Elephants communicate by touch, sight, smell, and sound, using infrasound and seismic communication over long distances.
  • Elephants have self-awareness and appear to show empathy for dying and dead family members.

I already knew most of that about elephants, but I had never heard of kopjes (hoping my geology professor isn’t reading this, maybe I forgot!). Kopjes (pronounced KOP EES), are the rock formations making the backdrop for Fred across my grassy yard this afternoon. Massive rocks! Ancient rocks! They originally formed and cooled under the surface of the earth from volcanic activity; over millions of years the surrounding softer rocks eroded, leaving these incredible, beautiful “mountain islands.” Gneiss.

Why do lions, and leopards, hang out on the kopjes? What is nicer than a warm rock for a nap? Or what better vantage point for spotting dinner? A few more things make kopjes an interesting (and unique) environment.

  • Water: hollows and cracks in the rocks store water for a long time, so mammals, birds, and plants can survive even if it’s completely dry all around.
  • Plants: kopjes protect certain plants from mega-herbivores such as elephants and giraffe who can’t climb there; kopjes also protect plants from fires on the savannah.
  • Nutrients: leaf litter and animal dung collect in the cracks of kopjes; lions and eagles bring their prey to the kopjes; all resulting in a flow of nutrients on a grand scale.

Pretty cool, these kopjes. But one thing I can’t puzzle out: it makes sense that my little rock hyraxes (I named them Ethel and Lucy) thrive on the kopjes and scamper every which way all day long. But why, I wondered, were the zebras, antelope, and even buffalo grazing peacefully beneath the kopjes this afternoon, possibly within view of a hungry lion? And why young Fred? And lord help us, why the orange-shirted jogger! See all below.


PS I tried my darndest to spot a tusk or flat nails on the hyraxes today, and even asked them if they were related to Fred, but they refused to comment. Be sure to note Lucy on top of the tent pole above my lounge chair. Ethel preferred to hang out on the bottom rail, watching Fred perhaps? Wondering?

Mbuzi Mawe Serena Tented Camp

Serengeti National Park

Next Post: You’ll Never Guess


Tea And Slippers

Linda Lou Burton posting from Mbuzi Mawe Serena Tented Camp, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania– This time, a photo first! I stopped at the door (flap) of our tent for a picture before I even stepped inside. I wanted to remember what it looked like before we mucked it up with all our stuff. This was our third tent camp – remember Sweetwaters on the Ol Pejeta, overlooking the Water Hole? And Sarova in the Maasai Mara, with the monkey on the porch that overlooked a creek? I dearly loved both; for all the pretense of being a “rugged safari camp” while providing 24-hour room service, 24-hour hot water in a luxury shower, permanent rooftops and floors, they still managed to create a sense of wilderness privacy with a real-life soundtrack of the animal world. The tea and slippers? A touch of home.

It was 4 PM when we reached our tent; our day began before dawn. Packing, luggage out, breakfast, checking out. An hour for the traffic jam, an hour for the wildebeest watch. A few brief stops for quickie animal shots or random things such as paperwork at the airstrip, and helping someone with a flat tire. Two hours late for lunch, we were rushed into the dining room on arrival (they wheelchaired me in through the staff’s quarters where the only sidewalk exists). And so we ate, ordering from a menu no less, a menu encased in leather; courses served, slowly and politely. Finally, our tent! The rest of the gang was hurrying, yep, get back in the 4x4s for a game drive before dark! Basically everything I’d seen so far today was from third row back in a 4×4.  People! Crowded! Blocked views! Blurry photos! The rest of my day was an easy choice to make: tea and slippers, on my porch. See my unhindered view of the kopjes across my grassy yard? See the little hyrax, asleep on the other side of the rail? Now, there’s an idea, I’m thinking. I have a giant lounge chair to stretch out on for a nap of my own. Why would anyone be anywhere else in the world? Progressions of the day below.


The scoop on the rock hyrax, which lives on the rock outcroppings all around our camp. They resemble pikas, or marmots, but design-wise, are more closely related to elephants!

  • They are furry and rotund, with short tails.
  • They weigh 5-10 pounds and are 12-28 inches long.
  • Their tusks develop from incisor teeth as do the tusks of elephants; most mammalian tusks develop from the canines.
  • Their nails are flat, as they are on elephants, rather than curved and elongated as on most mammals.
  • There are several complex body arrangements regarding reproduction that are similar in hyraxes, elephants, and manatees (sea cows).

We were advised to keep the tent flap zipped at all times, as the little fellows are very curious by nature!

Mbuzi Mawe Serena Tented Camp

Serengeti National Park

Next Post: There’s An Elephant In My Yard


Famous Restrooms

Linda Lou Burton posting from Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tanzania– I thought of Glenny today. A coworker from way back in the 80s, she made the funniest remark about vacation photos I’ve ever heard. This was the era of the Brownie-Camera-Kodak-Film mode of remembering, when you couldn’t afford to take 20 shots of the same rock. Nor did you know how a shot would turn out until weeks after you returned home, got your six rolls developed, and stuck your 34 decent photos in an album. Glenny’s remark was “We always forgot to take pictures until we got out of the car at a restroom. So we’d ‘family group’ in front of the restroom doors and smile. My albums are Famous Restrooms of the World.”

My gangmates and I didn’t “group up” in front of restroom doors today, but we did take photos INSIDE a positively glamorous construction as we blathered on about IT (the restroom) without even having a clue as to WHERE we were. I suppose, having signed up for a “safari tour” that was designed to see as many wild animals in Africa as possible, it wouldn’t be part of the Guide Dialog to focus on archeological and/or cultural sites, so when our 4x4s turned right at the “skulls” and then stopped at a washroom, no mention was made that we were stopping at some part of the Olduvai Gorge-Leakey Research-Museum complex. We didn’t get to the Museum, but heck, I surely “went” where early people “went” a few million years ago, according to the Leakeys. “Well, good on ya’, Mary and Louis Leakey,” I thought to myself. “Glenny, here’s one for the Famous Album!”

We left Ngorongoro Serena Lodge at 8:30, passed the skulls at 9:30,  and arrived at the Serengeti National Park Gate at 10:30, if you want to track our dirt-road route past all the things I mentioned in my last Post. Following are photos of what we saw, beginning with the giraffe on the Crater rim early on. Know why there are no giraffes IN the Crater? The descent is too steep for their long slender legs and neck. Note the herders and donkeys on their way to get water, the dry plains, the water sources, the everything. Funny – just as I said I’d never seen a dog helping with the Maasai herding, there was a frisky dog! Everyone waved. 


Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority

Mbuzi Mawe Serena Tented Camp

Next Post: Damn! That Traffic Jam


Squiggles On The Map

Linda Lou Burton posting from Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tanzania– This is about the NCA. Remember that map I bought at the Visitor Center? At the end of that overbooked day when Ben lectured so long we were two hours late getting to the Lodge? Well, truth be told, I didn’t retain much of what he said, but I have since been studying my $6 topographical map. So brace yourself to listen, here are some fascinating facts about “where I am.”

The Ngorongoro Conservation Area (hereafter referred to as NCA) in northern Tanzania was established 63 years ago (1959). It is an extension of the Serengeti (where we’re headed today). Seasonally, up to 2.5 million antelope, zebra, buffalo and wildebeests move around these two areas. The NCA is a UNESCO Mixed World Heritage Site and an International Man and Biosphere Reserve, and is often referred to as the 8th Wonder of the World.

Size: NCA covers over 3,200 square miles of Africa’s wildlife, people, and archaeological sites. The heart of the NCA, the Ngorongoro Crater, with an area of 100 square miles and walls rising to a height of 2,000 feet, is the world’s largest intact volcanic caldera.

Wildlife: NCA, together with Serengeti National Park and other areas supporting the Serengeti ecosystem, supports the greatest concentration of wildlife on Earth. From June through October, the Serengeti Plains are dry, bare and dusty. From November through May, the rainy season, they turn lush green and millions of animals flood this rich pasture.

People: Over the past few thousand years, a succession of cattle-herding people colonized this area from the North. The Maasai arrived about 300 years ago from Ethiopia, coming down the Nile River. Today, approximately 64,000 Maasai pastoralists live in the area with their cattle, donkeys, goats and sheep.

Activities in the Area: Walking, camping, and game viewing safaris. Cultural tourism experiences among Maasai and Hadzabe tribes. Visits to archaeological findings at Olduvai Gorge.

Olduvai Gorge (Oldupai = Maasai spelling) is the historic place where Mary and Louis Leakey unearthed a jawbone in 1959, which pushed back the beginning of human evolution well past the 1.5 million year mark. The different kinds of hominids found here show a gradual increase in brain size and in the complexity of their stone tools. The Oldupai Museum is open daily at the Gorge, where visitors can learn more details of this fascinating story.

We pass through Olduvai Gorge on our way to Mbuzi Mawe Serena Tented Camp today, but with an 80+ -mile-drive on rutted dirt roads ahead, I’m guessing we won’t stop at the Museum. I’m listing interesting sites I see on the NCA map; you can check Google maps too. We have to travel along the Crater’s rim before beginning our descent; we’ll pass the Senato Gate which controls the Senato Descent Road into the Crater (Rick doesn’t remember if that’s the one they took). We’ll pass by Loonguku and Kiloko Cultural Bomas, all in the Oldupai Gorge; we’ll pass the road leading to Oldupai Museum, the Leakey Camp Research Station, Archeological Excavations, and Archeological Camp near Naiprosuet Hill. Then we enter the Serengeti Plain and Serengeti National Park. At the moment, all of this is just squiggles on a map. By tonight, they’ll be places I’ve been. Or at least, passed by.

Alphabetical Listing of More NCA Things To See

  • Empakaai Crater: Tiny crater, 2 square miles, lake and forest, great views over the Rift Valley and the cone of Oldonyo Lengai.
  • Lerai Forest: Small forest of yellow barked acacia trees on the Ngorongoro Crater floor.
  • Nasera Rock: Huge monolith 328 feet high in the Goi Mountains.
  • Oldonyo Lengai: Still active volcano; climb the steep slopes to see the steaming, bubbling activity.
  • Olkarien Gorge: Narrow Gorge in the Goi Mountains; during the rains, Maasai bring cattle here to drink.
  • Olmoti Crater: Shallow grassy crater and source of the Munge River which pours through a notch in a spectacular waterfall on the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater.
  • Shifting Sands: A little black sand dune marches across the plains, covering 56 feet a year; blown by a strong, steady wind, it maintains its size and elegant shape.


Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority

Mbuzi Mawe Serena Tented Camp

Next Post: Famous Restrooms


More From The Floor

Linda Lou Burton posting from Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge, Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania– Rick confirms: the Crater was a great place to spend a day. “The descent road was steep,” he said. “The 4×4 was right on the edge, good thing it was still dark.” He couldn’t give me specifics on the route they followed during the day; mostly a hodge-podge back-and-forth depending on where animals were spotted at a given point in time and information exchanged between drivers. “Not like Disneyland, where you know the Dancing Elephants will dance at 3:00 PM sharp and you buy a ticket for 3 PM!” They saw the lions having breakfast early on; they ate their own Boxed Breakfast – a boiled egg and pastries – “somewhere near a tree.” He switched between cameras; sometimes his phone; sometimes his Sony with the zoom lens. His photos illustrate what I observed from my balcony as I studied the map I’d bought the day before at the Visitor Center, trying to pinpoint specific places. The Crater has a variety of surprising landscapes! Ngoitokitok Springs with its picnic area is on the eastern edge of the Crater, east of Gorigor Swamp; Lerai Forest in the southwest, fairly close below the Serena Lodge. My map stars a number of Points of Interest: Old German Farm Ruins; Goose Ponds and Hippo Pool in Mandust Swamp; Tatoga Ritual Site on the western edge of Lake Magadi. Senato Springs. Ololowaru Springs. Approximately 25,000 large animals live in the Crater. Large mammals include elephants, black rhinos, Cape buffalo, and hippos. Other ungulates: blue wildebeest, Grant’s zebra, eland, Grant’s and Thomson’s gazelles, and  waterbucks; cheetah and leopard  are rarely seen. Absent are giraffe and crocodile. Although the Crater is a “natural enclosure” for most wildlife, many wildebeest and zebra vacate the Crater in the wet season. Cape buffalo stay; their highest numbers are during the rainy season. Take a look at some of the pictures Rick took on September 21, 2022,  down on the Floor. A variety of landscapes, a fair number of animals, and — other folks taking pictures!


Next Post: More About The Lodge and the Surrounding Area

Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge


A 10-Minute Slice

Linda Lou Burton posting from Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge, Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania– Another promise kept. Partly. I promised a Post with Rick’s photos from his day in the crater, but gee, when I started looking at his photos, one 10-minute segment rose to the top like cream in a bucket of fresh Jersey milk. So here goes, a Beatrix Potter kind of story. For background, you need to know this: the lion population in Ngorongoro Crater is denser than anywhere else in Africa. Not the most lions of any protected area, but the most per square mile of land. And, they have their own ingrown quirks. Remember this: the Crater is a CLOSED area. The caldera is 100 square miles of land filled with grasses, water sources, and cover, often called a Garden of Eden. In other areas, such as the Serengeti-Maasai Mara, animals migrate by the millions in a year-round cycle, following food sources. In the Crater, they don’t have to. Climb Every Mountain isn’t their theme song; they just stay put! Rick and the gang came upon this pride (family) of Mom and Kids at meal time. Does Roger get to keep his chunk of zebra meat? Do his brothers manage to snatch it away? How does Mom manage the standoff? A cute (and typical kids!) story, any way you slice it.


Research on Ngorongoro Crater Lions

This is KopeLion: KopeLion strives to foster human-lion coexistence in Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Here intensifying human-wildlife conflicts has been tough on the lions. In the last decades, the lions have begun to disappear entirely from their former ranges, separating the famous Ngorongoro Crater lions from the Serengeti. The area’s mission for harmonious coexistence is collapsing, with both people and wildlife losing out. KopeLion was founded in 2011 with the aim to change this trend. By working directly with residents, KopeLion strives for sustainable human-lion coexistence in Ngorongoro for the benefit of both people and lions. KopeLion, comprised of local experts and international scientists, employs former lion hunters to actively protect the remaining lions and reduce conflicts. Our work builds upon data collected over the last 50 years, representing the best-known, best-studied lions in the world. This offers the unique opportunity to measure the effects of our efforts on a population of lions, studied for generations.

The Ngorongoro Crater lion population is uniquely important. Studied almost continuously since 1963, it is the best-known, best-studied lion population in the world. Having become physically separated from the lion population in the nearby Serengeti National Park, the Crater lions have become a textbook example of the challenges facing an isolated inbred population. Our ongoing efforts to restore the connection between the Serengeti and the Crater offer a rare opportunity to measure the effects of lion conservation efforts in a population whose every member is individually recognized and observed over its entire lifespan. We receive a wealth of data on fine-scale movement, behaviors, and prey choice from a few “multi-use area lions” that we managed to GPS collar. One of the striking findings is lions’ capacity to adapt to living among people and livestock. While they clearly avoid areas with settlement and activities in the daytime, they seem to hesitate little to pass close by homesteads in the night.

Next Post: More From The Crater Floor


Double Cross Cross

Linda Lou Burton posting from Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge, Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania– It was 4:15 when we left Tloma school, all smiles and warm-glowy feelings. Such a good visit, such a happy buzz of conversation in the 4×4 as we headed down the road, stirring up a trail of red dust. I was calculating in my head: 25 miles to the rim of the Crater, we’d be checked into our Lodge and sitting on our balconies in time to see the sun set, oh yeah! (Sunset 6:30, keep in mind.) “But lo”, my scrappy angel said, “your 4×4 seems to be pulling into the drive of a small building just minutes from the school. And lo! Stopping.” Elephants and zebras and acacia trees captured on canvas, hanging on a line. Sailboats even! “We’re stopping here,” Ben said, “so you can browse around and find some nice paintings to buy. Some memories of Tanzania.” I looked at the scrappy angel sitting on my shoulder and vowed not to complain. Everyone else hustled out of the 4×4 and began browsing. Ben stayed with me. “Let’s talk about tomorrow,” he said. “We have decisions to make.” “Okay,” I responded, aiming for pleasant, “let’s talk.” Our schedule for tomorrow was ”All Day Game Drive in the Crater with Picnic Lunch.” Since the Crater was one of my main reasons for coming to Africa, I’d resolved since making my February trip deposit to go on THAT Game Drive if no other. Karen Blixen’s House and the Ngorongoro Crater, my two objectives.

I told Ben of my enthusiasm for the day ahead, a full day in the Crater, with picnic lunch. “We could do that,” he said. “Or, we could leave at 4:30 and be in the Crater before daylight. We could have BREAKFAST in the Crater and be back at the Lodge for lunch.” My scrappy angel shook a finger at me; warned me to stay cool. “We’ve had a really busy day today,” I said to Ben, in my most diplomatic tone. “A 4:30 departure in the morning would be a tight timeline. People would be more rested if we stuck to the original plan and departed at 6:30.” Ben nodded pleasantly and agreed. “You’re right, 4:30 is pushing it. We’ll stick to the plan.” We chatted more; he told about his studies; a Masters Program in Tourism (that school in Arusha I mentioned earlier); he told about his areas of interest; his goals after that.

The browsers returned (no purchases); our journey continued, dusty road to tarred road; at 5:30 we reached the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Visitor Center. “We’re going in,” Ben motioned to the other 4×4,  “so I can explain the Crater to you.” Inside we gathered around the giant relief map; Ben talked about the geology of the Crater; the Conservation Area today; the Great Migration; the wildebeests. “The wildebeests live in Kenya part of the year,” he said, “but they belong to Tanzania.” (Wildebeests have citizenship?) We fidgeted. My scrappy angel nodded off.

“Oh, about tomorrow,” Ben said, concluding his wildebeest claim, “if we leave the hotel at 4:30 in the morning we’ll be down in the Crater before daylight, in position to see the animals as they become active. We can have the hotel pack a box breakfast, and be back at the Lodge in time for lunch. You’ll have a free afternoon. Sound OK?” Like lemmings led to the sea, the gang nodded, “Yeah, sounds great.” I stood up. “Wait! The original plan was LUNCH in the Crater, leaving at 6:30 in the morning, not 4:30. And that’s what you agreed we’d do.”

All eyes back to Ben. “Who wants to see the most animals?” he questioned. Eight hands rose. “Who wants to sleep in and see fewer animals?” he asked then, looking at me. Ah, well, my scrappy angel was dialing up KARMA at that very moment.

Next Post: Notes From The Balcony of Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge


Smiles At Tloma

Linda Lou Burton posting from Tloma Primary School, Karatu, Tanzania– Smiles. That’s the only word needed to describe our afternoon at Tloma Primary School, where our group of nine, plus two people from another Globus tour, visited this afternoon. Immanuel was the young fellow who ran out and took my hand, escorting me into the building with a sweet smile, walking as slowly alongside me as I needed. Inside, after a round of singing and story-telling from the children, led by a smiling teacher weaving her way around the room (if ever I’d had a teacher like that I’d know how to dance today!), we were invited to talk to the students about our part of the world, and to answer any questions they might have. Then, best of all, we got to sit with the students. My group of smiling boys called me Beebe (Grandma) and showed me their workbooks, pointing to the Swahili words for different family members: Mama and Baba for parents, on down the list. The singing show continued outside; the smiling did too; smiles exchanged, back and forth and around again. The adults had a sit down visit with three of the teachers after that, the blackboard behind filled with the facts of life: 815 students, 14 teachers. We were seated in the wooden desks they use; names of donors inscribed on each. Yes, the school needs help. Nothing there to smile about, except the fact that Tloma Giving is in place as a gateway for people to do just that. I’m choosing to send money to Tloma to be used for school supplies, thinking of those boys, and their notebooks, and their smiles. Photos of our visit below; see what I mean?


Tloma Primary School

Tloma Primary School is located in Tloma Village, a small community on the outskirts of Karatu, Arusha, Tanzania,  situated low on the outer slope of the Ngorongoro Crater. Tloma means ‘hill’ in the Iraqw language, the native language of many people in the Village. The school was established in 1978 and has grown from a few students to the present enrollment of 815 children in grades Kindergarten through 7. The school currently has 14 teachers. The smallest class size is 67 students; the largest, Kindergarten, is 144 students. Children are introduced to the national language, Swahili, in Kindergarten and subjects through Class 7 are taught in Swahili. The English class begins in Class 4; once students graduate from Tloma Primary School to attend secondary school, all classes are taught in English.

The School Motto: Elimu ni ufunguo wa maisha (Education is the key of life).

Students begin each day by lining up outside on the playground and singing the patriotic song “Tanzania Nakupenda Kwa Moyo Wote” (Tanzania I Love You With All My Heart).

Watch the students sing – video

Tloma Giving is a U.S. non-profit educational and charitable corporation under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Service Code. The purpose of Tloma Giving is to provide support to foster the health, education, social, and economic development of the residents and families of the low-income and underserved Tloma region of the Karatu District, Arusha, Tanzania. We provide funding and support for facilities, training, supplies, and personnel, designed to improve educational opportunities for the children of the Tloma region. For students we provide scholarships, help purchase school uniforms and supplies, and help fund school lunches for students. For the school we help the school purchase teaching supplies and assist in capital improvements.


Quickies: The Town

Linda Lou Burton posting from Mto Wa Mbu Village, Tanzania– The Quest For a Red Banana. Willy wanted to gas up the 4×4 and clean the inside a bit more from our morning explosion. Venita needed a bank. I wanted to see more of the banana trees we’d hurried past the night before. And Judy wanted to buy a red banana. Ben mentioned red bananas as something very “Tanzanian,” and Judy immediately said “Wow! Red bananas? Wow! How do they taste? Wow! RED bananas! Let’s go get some!” That’s why Willy turned right out of the Park and drove into Mto Wa Mbu, a touristy town in a handy dandy place for tourists halfway between Mt Kili-Arusha and the Ngorongoro Crater-Serengeti. Like us. The village is a crossroads for locals too; an agricultural hub famous for its crops of rice and bananas – yes, the distinctive RED bananas grow here. Red onions grow here too, as do tomatoes, coconuts, garlic, avocado, beans and more; trucks roll through town hauling the colorful crops. Add to this mix an incredible cultural diversity – 120 tribes live in the area; and the animal migration route — Mto Wa Mbu is in two wildlife corridors; and you can see this little town deserves a Wow!

A shame we only had 30 minutes to spend here. Time enough to see the colorful shukas hanging on a line outside the Park, the colorful tuk-tuks ready for a ride, the colorful produce by the basketsful, and the bustle of noisy commerce. Willy took care of the 4×4. Venita took care of her business at the bank. And Judy got her red banana. I saw the banana trees again, another quick wave from the highway, no tuk-tuk ride through the rows. But I did learn this (which I’d wondered about) – Mto Wa Mbu means “river of mosquitoes” in Swahili.

A few photos of our Quickie Visit to the town.


Mto Wa Mbu Village Information

Mto wa Mbu has a population of 12,000+; 40,000+ in the area. Settled by the Mbugwe, Iraqw, Gorowa, Irangi, Totoga, Chagga and Maasai, the area is the most linguistically diverse and complex in Africa. It is the only place in the continent where the four major African language families – Bantu, Khoisan, Cushitic, and Nilotic – occur together.

The main water sources in the area are the Mahamoud, Kirurumu and Magadini Rivers; the banana trees are watered by irrigation systems from these rivers. Green bananas grow in nine months; red bananas require one year, and each tree only produces one bunch.

Animals commonly seen in the area on the migration routes include elephant, hippo, giraffe, wildebeest, zebra, gazelle, monkey, and baboon.

Mto Wa Mbu Village has an active cultural program showing visitors the traditional way of life of the villagers through various activities and a range of community projects. You can visit top spots in the area, taste Tanzanian foods, and experience authentic cultural interaction. A fee is charged for each activity which is then used to support income-generating projects such as the production of energy-efficient stoves and the development of irrigation systems. Students will find the village and its people to be a great resource for information on Tanzania. Everyday topics can be explored as well as more complex subjects like politics, history and culture, wildlife and legends. There are a number of excellent walking, hiking and biking tours offered in the village ranging in length from a few hours to a full day (bikes can be hired in the village).

  • Village Tour – try banana beer, visit a traditional home, learn about Makonde carving
  • Village Lunch – enjoy a home-cooked meal the traditional way
  • Farm Visit – discover what the villagers grow and how they do it
  • Maasai Tour – visit a traditional boma (enclosure), interact with tribal members in various activities
  • Maasai Market -browse the weekly market on Thursday afternoons or the monthly market on the 22nd
  • Balaa Hill – climb up the Rift Valley Wall for magnificent views and good birding
  • Miwaleni Lake and Waterfall – see ancient baobab trees and swim in the pool below the falls
  • Lake Manyara – bike through a wildlife corridor to the shores of the lake

Mto Wa Mbu Village


Quickies: The Park

Linda Lou Burton posting from Lake Manyara National Park, Tanzania– Tree-climbing lions! That was enough to get up early for. And no long drive to get there; heck, the Park was just at the bottom of the hill. Ten minutes to THERE. Out the gate of the Lodge, down the hill a thousand feet; into the gate of the Park. Easy Peasy Game Drive, no sloshing through mudholes and bumping across rocky plains. Just go. Ben the guide, Willy the driver, Otis and Venita row 2, Rick and me row 3, Judy row 4, along with the cooler and water supply. We were packed and ready. First animal spotting going down the hill: baboons, owning the road, babies, early morning action. The Park Gate, fees paid; top up on the 4×4, Judy and Rick standing up, looking out, scanning the trees for lions. Willy chatting with another driver, morning spotting so far? Baboons everywhere, bushes, vines; underbrush thick. Trees, dying trees, dead trees, four buffalo in the mud. Trees, sit and watch and wait for lions. Ben talking, telling stories, childhood lessons his mother taught. Time dragging. We were bored. Nuts! I remembered the nuts! The chocolate covered already gone; ha, wasabi peanuts left. I passed the bag around. No thanks, no thanks, nobody wanted wasabi heat. Except Willy. And then the scream! “Hot! Hot! Water! Water!” Excitement, finally, and then a brag. As Willy sucked the water down, Rick (Watch this! he said) took a wasabi nut, chewed slowly, swallowed it down. We nodded, impressed (only I was close enough to spot the tears); looked around for lions again. An explosion! In the front of the 4×4! Foam spewing, the windshield turning white, Willy yelling, Ben jumping what was going on??? Is the 4×4 on fire? Did the radiator burst? Should we bail? Willy opened his door, threw the spewing fire extinguisher on the ground. Ben moving fast, is Willy hurt? Is anybody hurt? “I’m okay,” Willy said. “The fire extinguisher blew up.” He began wiping down the inside of the 4×4, busy, cleaning up. “I’m okay,” he said again. “The fire extinguisher just blew up.” We could see, Willy was fine. Ben checked all around the 4×4, got back inside. “The fire extinguisher blew up.” Willy said again. “I don’t know why.” It was very quiet. And then, a burst of laughter, hoots and swoops of laughter, “Oh Willy, Willy, it was that wasabi nut!”

There’s nothing like a catastrophe to bond people together. We forgot about the lions, and the overall lack of animal spotting. We did see ONE fierce animal for the day. Ben noticed two tiny gazelles shivering nervously in the brush; his eyes looking past the vines, he whispered “Willy, stop!” A python curled there, swollen, huge. “A gazelle inside,” Ben said; “two grieving gazelles back there.” We sat and watched for a bit, but a python full of gazelle doesn’t move a lot. Our animal count for three hours in the Park: 1 python; 3 gazelles, 1 hidden in the python; 4 buffalo in the mud, 15 baboons hiney-end up. Star of the morning: wasabi nuts. Fire!

A few photos of our Quickie Morning Park Visit and the road in.

Yes, we had our own story to tell!

Lake Manyara National Park

Lake Manyara National Park is a protected area between Lake Manyara and the Great Rift Valley, administered by the Tanzania National Parks Authority, and covering an area of 80,000 acres. It is part of the much larger Lake Manyara Biosphere Reserve, established in 1981 by UNESCO as part of its Man and the Biosphere Programme.

Lake Manyara is a shallow alkaline lake at an altitude of 3,150 ft, formed in a depression in the Rift Valley System. When full, the lake is a maximum of 10 ft deep and covers two-thirds of the park. The lake has no outflow, but is fed by underground springs and several permanent streams. In extreme dry periods the lake shrinks as the waters evaporate and at times has dried up completely. Beside the lake are extensive marshlands, saline flats (that expand as the surface area of the lake shrinks) and a grassy floodplain. Near the park gate is a tall forest, sustained by groundwater, dominated by evergreen fig and mahogany trees. On the west side of the park, the rocky escarpment of the Rift Valley wall rises steeply to 6,000 ft. Large African baobab trees are scattered on the slopes and dense acacia woodland grows at the base of the Rift wall.

More than 390 species of birds have been documented in the Park, although in the dry season flamingos and other water birds are found in small numbers. Herbivores in the Park include zebra, bushbuck, waterbuck, Grant’s gazelle, impala, Thomson’s gazelle, Cape buffalo, giraffe, hippopotamus, baboon, warthog, and elephant. Predators in the Park include lion, leopard, African wild cat, spotted hyena, jackal, bat-eared fox, serval, honey badger, and mongoose. Cheetah and African golden cat are sighted occasionally.