Friday, 4 June 2010

Manyara, Eyasi and the Hadza

So...our camping trip. It has been Kitty's half term this week and we wanted to get away somewhere special but without paying expensive lodge and park fees the whole time. A nice combination proved to be a day in Lake Manyara National Park with friends who have only just got a vehicle and therefore are now able to safari independently, followed by 3 nights camping at Lake Eyasi. Mr B had made contact with the owner of a lodge there who is also keen on birds, and they had very kindly invited us to use their campsite for free.

We got off to a bad start by arriving at our, according to the guide book, middle of the range tented lodge, and finding it completely unprepared for the tourist season. The tents hadn't actually been checked over and after rejecting the first on the basis of a non-functional toilet and, in fact, no water at all, and the second as it had a large and vigourous growth of mould inside, a leaking pipe flooding the toilet and water only from the tap at mid-calf level, and the others as they were twins only and we had two families to accomodate... we moved on and found some other accomodation.

However, we had a great day in Lake Manyara National Park, all the more fun for being with friends. We even made it down as far as the hot springs, which were inaccessible due to mud when we first visited the park with the Wicked Uncle.

Red and Yellow barbet, several of which were hopping about under our feet at the picnic site

very muddy elephant just been wallowing

the hot springs

The drive on to Lake Eyasi involved 40 minutes or so on an excellent road and then over an hour on a bumpy dusty track that seemed to lead through more and more barren territory. Where were we headed anyway??

However, when we arrived at the lake and campsite, it proved to be a wonderful location and we quickly settled into enjoying the whole campsite to ourselves and getting into the swing of camp life and routines.

Eyasi is a soda lake, but a natural spring right by the lodge feeds a stream down to the lake, creating a little green fresh-water corridor across the sandy shore. We could wander out from our campsite across grass and sand and follow this down until it got too muddy to go nearer the lake itself. Storks, flamingos, spoonbills, goliath herons, plovers of many descriptions... It was a lovely walk and the children were happy finding shells, 'fishing' with sticks, racing stick boats down the fast-flowing sections etc. The rift made a spectacular backdrop to it all.

Mr B spotted a Kittlitz's plover with chick and we managed to locate it. A reminder of those baby Kentish plovers on the Alvor dunes in Portugal.


On another wander from camp we explored more of the woods surrounding the lodge and climed the rock immediately behind it. Wonderful views over the lake and to the rift
and also a view down to a striped hyena sleeping outside her den with her cubs. We first spotted her as she wandered past camp on the first evening while we were eating our dinner.

The lodge, called Kisima Ngeda, is run by a fascinating and extremely friendly couple, C who is German but grew up here and N who is from Argentina and met C in a bar in Arusha having been travelling the world for 5 years. They have two sons, 8 and 10, and a beautiful house in between the lodge and the campsite. They were exceptionally welcoming, offering us the use of the lodge pool plus the use of their own garden as often as we wanted, so that we could sit and drink coffee while the kids played on the trampoline, slide, climbing frame, tree house and, best of all, giant ride-on toy tractor!! They even had us over for dinner on our last evening and we had a lovely time over some chicken and nice red wine with the kids sound asleep in the tent watched over by a friendly Askari.

Still the best was yet to come though. The most amazing part of our holiday, which made us feel as though we were taking part in a living National Geographic article, was our visit to the Hadza on our last morning. The Hadza are the last tribe in Tanzania to still live a true hunter-gatherer lifestyle. They speak a click-based language, in the same family of languages as that of the better known San Bushmen of southern Africa.They live in nomadic family bands and move around, settling in rudimentary encampments for a few weeks before moving on. Animal skins are still a very important part of their dress. We saw people wearing baboon skins, impala and what looked like Dikdik, and a dog slept on a kudu hide. Beaded necklaces, headbands and other jewellery were also much in evidence. There are almost certainly fewer than 2000 Hadza left and it was an immense priveledge to be able to visit with them and see the way they live.

Our guide, who came with us from the lodge, explained a lot of the traditions to us. Such as the different arrows used for hunting different game or birds.

including poisen tipped arrows for larger animals
We were treated to some music

and watched an arrow shaft being created

Then we were shown how to make fire, with special woods chosen for the stick that is rotated rapidly and the wooden base receives the friction and creates the spark

 Mr B and I both had a go, and, after a bit of tuition and a lot of effort, managed to make fire!

We also went to meet the women and babies, who sat apart, creating jewellery and planning the division of labour for that day's tasks: water collecting, root digging, berry gathering etc.


Then it was time to get ready for a hunting and gathering expedition. Some of the men and boys led the way, with their bows and arrows in hand and dogs in tow. We followed close behind and three girls brought up the rear, chatting away and carrying their digging sticks.


One of our first stops was at a huge baobab tree. One of the Hadza had spotted the miniscule entrance made by wild bees into a cavity inside a rotten branch. Honey!

This went down very well with everyone

The Mancub was so keen he joined the Hadza boys (and their dogs) in trying to extract the last sticky drops

We also tried some berries, baobab fruit (very tasty) and some roots that are full of moisture and hence a life-saver in times of severe drought.

We didn't managed to catch any animals or birds, but a few attempts were made, including a near miss for a stork

On arrival back to camp it was obviously time for some archery practice

And then music again, and dancing!

We were all invited to join in. It felt a bit like Music Makers with a difference, especially as we seemed to be doing the hokey cokey, albeit without the 'left leg in' bit.

The Mancub fancied a go with the snake-skin belt covered in bells. By jumping up and down he could make a good noisy rhythm, and the Hadza danced to that for a while

Finally it really was time to say goodbye. We bought a couple of beaded bracelets for Kitty and I, and then wended our way back to the car past the sleeping quarters

It was a wonderful end to a great holiday


  1. Wow wow wow. Wonderful pictures. And what a privilege to be made welcome by all these different types of people.

  2. Hi

    I came across your blog while searching on Google for articles relating to the Hadza.

    I run a bushcraft company and one of the trips we organise involves a visit to the Hadza for several days to learn some of their bush skills and their understanding of the land.

    I just wanted to say I really enjoyed your blog, particularly the photos of your kids licking honey from their hands. I like your characterisation of the 'Mancub' and I think the photo of him getting stuck in with the local boys shows how naturally these activities come to youngsters.

    Thanks for sharing.

    All the best,