With over 120 resident different tribes, there is plenty of local history and colour to be found in all areas of Tanzania. Everyone has a story to tell! There are masses of stories and histories behind every face, but while Tanzania has integrated its diverse peoples impressively well, there remain a couple of groups who have clung to their own culture and traditions and resisted the modern age of assimilation.
Possibly the best-known resident Tanzanian tribe are the Maasai, victors of the Nilotic pastoralist tribal and cattle-raiding wars and that raged in this region in the 1800s. Their pride, arrogance, and fearsome reputation as warriors and lion-killers has earned them special reverence in the eyes of the world.
There are opportunities to spend time with Maasai in one way or another. Ngorongoro Crater Highland region is designated as an area in which the Maasai live in as traditional style as is possible. Here they herd their cattle, or even taking them into the crater to drink. While you are on safari here, it is possible to appoint a Maasai guide for walking or trekking in the highlands here, or to arrange a visit to a nearby boma. There are also a number of ‘Cultural Tourism Programmes’ (see below) into villages in the Maasai plains outside Arusha.
The people with perhaps the longest history and most ancient traditions are the Hadzabe, a tribe of hunter-gatherers now settled around Lake Eyasi in the North of Tanzania. As mentioned previously, the livelihood of this group is threatened by modern life, but the Hadza people have been allocated an area of their own, in which they may continue a lifestyle as close to the traditional style as possible.
Guests staying at the fabulous Serian camp in the southern Serengeti are able to visit the Hadza who live on the north eastern portion of Lake Eyasi, and to spend time hunting and tracking or preparing weapons with the men, or preparing the homestead with the women.
Alternatively, well outside the National Parks, for a more cultural focus with less safari style, the Kisima Ngeda Tented Camp on the north-eastern shores of Lake Eyasi. Located about 4 .5 hours drive from Arusha, the camp is 2 hours away from the Ngorongoro Crater and about a half day’s drive to the Serengeti.
The Netherlands Group SNV started a worthwhile Cultural Tourism program in Tanzania, encouraging small groups of individuals to start small, personally profitable tourism initiatives in which they select their own guides and show foreigners the Maasai/ Hadza/ Irawq/ Barbaig traditions. A good range of these are accessible on a day trip from Arusha. The Cultural Tourism Programme provides visitors with authentic cultural experiences that combine nature, scenery, folklore, ceremonies, dances, rituals, tales, art, handicrafts and hospitality that give a unique insight into the people’s way of life.
- Take some time to explore local culture
- Enjoy the history, traditions, food and artworks of different people
- Discover the heart of the country that you are visiting