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Cultural Tours

Summary: Visit several different tribes in Tanzania and learn about their fascinating history and culture

Price: $20 per group

Duration: 1 - 2 hours

Location: Southern Serengeti, Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Olduvai Gorge, Lake Victoria, Arusha and Karatu

Background: Few places in the world can match the Serengeti’s long human history and this fact has earned this part of Africa the title of ‘Cradle of Mankind’. The earliest record is of a day 3.6 million years ago when three early human-like creatures (or hominids) walked across the Serengeti Plains, at a place now called Laetoli. A volcano had just erupted, blanketing the plains with ash, which a light rain then dampened. The prehistoric people left a clear trail of footprints. In a few days, another ash fall buried all the tracks and over time the ash hardened and became rock, preserving the tracks. Thousands of years passed before the soil on top of the trails eroded and luckily, archaeologists discovered them. The footprints reveal that early hominids walked erect and represent the earliest direct traces of hominids ever found.

The human story goes on, recorded in the ancient walls of Olduvai Gorge where several skulls and related fossils of early hominids were found. Some date as far back as 1.75 million years ago, while others are more recent. Waves of people have moved through the Serengeti ever since. Recently, about 150 years ago, the Maasai people came to the Serengeti. They ousted the Datoga people who undoubtedly pushed earlier people off the plains. And so it goes, back in time. No one tribe can claim to be the original inhabitants of the Serengeti.

The optional excursions listed below provide a chance to meet these latest inhabitants of the Serengeti Plains, called the Maasai. Other cultural tours listed below focus on different tribes in neighboring areas as well as modern Tanzanian villages. Our most popular excursion is the Olduvai Gorge Museum tour, which provides the best way to learn about the archaeology, history, and culture of this area.

Maasai Village: Tour a traditional Maasai Boma and learn about the proud and fascinating Maasai culture. A village chief will provide a tour of the Boma and explain their beliefs and way of life. You may watch or take part in a traditional dance. A $20 fee is required and paid directly to the village chief to purchase supplemental grain. Pictures are welcome inside the Boma. There are several Maasai Bomas that our guides have relationships with that are located approximately twenty minutes from the main road at Olduvai Gorge. The location provides for convenient access but is still far enough off the beaten path to avoid the main tourist circuit. A Maasai village tour can be incorporated into any itinerary enroute from the Serengeti to Ngorongoro Crater.

The Maasai are pastoralists and they live off their herds of cattle, sheep, goats, and donkeys. Traditionally, the Maasai move nomadically with their herds to find pasture and water; however, in recent years some of them have made more permanent settlements. It is becoming more and more common for Maasai to supplement their diet of milk, blood, and meat with grain. The Maasai live in peaceful coexistence with the surrounding wildlife. The Maasai are legendary for their independence, physical courage, and their ferocity as warriors.

Olduvai Gorge – Cradle of Mankind:
Learn about archaeology, history and our ancient hominid ancestors at Olduvai Gorge. Olduvai Gorge is a world famous archaeological site and anyone with an interest in mankind’s ancestors will be fascinated by the history of this extraordinary place. The gorge and the surrounding area are also extremely interesting from a wildlife perspective as the habitat supports many distinctive plants and animals.

Olduvai Gorge is a canyon carved by water through the southern part of the Serengeti Plain. Its chief claim to fame is the rich treasure-trove of human and animal fossils that it has yielded. The name of the gorge, properly spelled ‘Oldupai’, is a Maasai word that refers the wild sisal found here. Our Olduvai Gorge tour includes a visit to the museum and visitor’s center as well as a lecture by a department of Antiquities guide. The museum has several displays including a cast of the infamous Laetoli footprints along with other fossil bones and stone tools. This excursion can be incorporated into any itinerary enroute from the Serengeti to Ngorongoro Crater.

Lake Victoria Fishing Village: Visit a traditional fishing village on the shore of Lake Victoria. Lake Victoria, the source of the Nile River, is located just outside the western border of the Serengeti. This excursion can only be conducted while staying in the Western Serengeti at Kirawira Tented Lodge, Grumeti River Tented Lodge, or Mbalageti Tented Lodge.

Poli Village: Visit a traditional village in Arusha and learn about the culture and life of most Tanzanians. Poli is a village within the Usa River district and close to the offices of Africa Dream Safaris. Clients who wish to visit a non-touristy village will enjoy this 2-hour excursion to the nearby village of Poli. Clients will meet with the Chairman (Mayor) of the village or a representative from his village council and learn how a village of this size is managed along with the day to day issues. Site visits will include the primary school, hospital, courthouse and the village offices. This tour is usually a highlight for clients seeking cultural interactions and insight into the life of most Tanzanians. We highly recommend this tour, as the experience is very rewarding and highly educational. This tour can be easily included into any itinerary by adding an extra day upon arrival or departure at the Arumeru River Lodge in Arusha. Please see the ‘Arusha Layover’ section under Safari Options for more information.

Iraqw Underground House: Conduct a guided walking safari culminating in a cultural tour of a traditional Iraqw village in the Ngorongoro Highland Forests above the Great Rift Valley. The Iraqw people (not to be confused with Iraq) settled the Ngorongoro area some two thousand years ago. These people speak a Cushitic language with its origins in Ethiopia. The Iraqw had livestock and probably cultivated millet when they settled Ngorongoro. Today they are primarily agriculturalists and live along the hills and valleys of the plateau that stretches from the Ngorongoro Highlands south towards Lake Manyara. The Iraqw people are known for their unique houses that were built completely underground. It is thought that great wars with the Datoga tribe to the west led the Iraqw people to adopt this method of house construction in an effort of self-defense. Today you can tour these underground houses and learn about their way of life. The Iraqw Underground House tour requires an overnight stay at Bougainvillea Lodge and can be conducted enroute from Ngorongoro Crater to Lake Manyara on any itinerary.