The Tribes of Lake Eyasi

At East Africa Safari Ventures we are always looking for new and unique experiences that we can share with our guests and especially those which can make a family safari really special.  We recently took a Charleson family trip to the incredible Lake Eyasi in Tanzania.  The lake is a seasonal shallow salt lake that has no outflow to other rivers or oceans (endorheic).  During our visit in October the lake, which lies within the Great Rift Valley, butting up to the cliffs of the Serengeti Plateau, was almost completely dry. 

During our stay we were based at the beautiful Ziwani Lodge which is located in the heart of the community and on the edge of the local town.  Ziwani in Kiswahili, means “the lake” which is fitting given the lodges stunning location.  The property, while reminiscent of an ancient fortress has a Moroccan, coastal feel.  The design of the property was inspired by the local surroundings and is very open due to the limited use of glass, which also helps to keep the environment cool. 

One of the highlights of the property is the pool overlooking the lake.  An incredible way to cool off while enjoying the amazing scenery that the area has to offer.  The perfect antidote to long days spent in safari vehicles, in the nearby Serengeti National Park. 

The main reason for visiting this area, is the opportunity to spend time with the local tribespeople.  The Hadzabe Tribe, of only around 1,000 people are one of the last known true hunter gatherer tribes in Africa of which approximately 300 are surviving exclusively based on the traditional hunter gatherer ways of life. We were privileged to spend some time with members of the tribe during our visit, learning more about how they live.   Kian especially enjoyed learning how they catch small birds, shoot a bow and arrow and identify which arrows are best for which animals.  They use three types of arrows; to stun small birds – a small arrow with a blunt end and melted plastic ball; for larger birds – a sharp but small arrow head; for larger mammals – a larger poisoned arrow. 

If you listen closely to the video, where the hunters rest while smoking a pipe and retelling the story of their day, you will hear that Hadzabe language is similar to that of the Southern African ‘San people’ who speak the Click language.  The Hadzabe own only what they need for survival and live entirely off what they are able to hunt and gather from the land.   

They leave no trace of their existence on the landscape, moving their small camp consisting of 20 – 30 people every few weeks.  The Hadzabe are a stateless society, meaning there are no leaders, all decisions are made through discussions within the group, as was the norm in human prehistory.   

During our visit we followed our guides through the bush for 2.5hrs as they crept up on birds and other small mammals using various calls to alert others to their find and working together to capture their prey.  It was a special privilege to have the opportunity to witness this early way of life, broadly untouched by the modern world.  The hunting group who spent time with us were warm and very welcoming, proud to show us the way they live.  They were especially happy to involve Kian in their daily activities, answering any of his questions and taking time to satisfy his curiosity, by demonstrating the intricacies of their hunting activities.   

For children especially this is an experience that they will never forget, it is a glimpse into a different and historic world where school, electronics and the pressures of today’s world do not exist. 

There are some houses but many people still sleep in “outside beds”. The tribe wear a mix of traditional and modern clothes. Here they are pictured starting a fire so they can smoke pipes while they take a break from hunting.

We also visited the pastoral Datoga Tribe who are also accomplished blacksmiths.  They have a symbiotic relationship with the Hadzabe supplying them with iron tips for their knives and spears in exchange for animal skins, honey and fruit.  This tribe is much less remote than the Hadzabe, being located closer to the town.  They demonstrated how they melt down various metal goods that they collect into bars to then use to make jewellery, arrow heads, spears, swords, etc.  

A visit to Lake Eyasi offers one of the rare opportunities to enjoy a genuine and authentic cultural encounter with people who’s traditions and way of life today, vary little from those of ancient times. 

Lake Eyasi is located at the base of the Serengeti Plateau, just south of the Serengeti National Park and immediately southwest of the Ngorongoro Crater, thus making it an ideal and unique addition to any Tanzania based safari.