MESO offers a number of exciting
trips to the Great Rift Valley region of Northern Tanzania. All aim to
improve the economic well being of local communities; to preserve and
conserve the environment; and to enhance cross-cultural exchange. Trips
are tailored to the needs of clients of all budgets and nationalities,
so there is a high degree of flexibility in itinerary, accommodation and
transport options. The following are some of our more popular circuits,
but please contact us so we can design the ideal trip for you! Also be
sure to view the pages of our ecotourism partners.
NB: These trips can also be organized
together with traditional wildlife safaris in nearby Ngorongoro,
Serengeti, Lake Manyara and Tarangire, as well as with excursions to the Bagamoyo coast
Mbulumbulu/Karatu Circuit (2-3 days): A 2-3 hour drive from
Arusha (via Karatu), our most popular trip features...
- Rift Valley Escarpment Reserve
(1-2 hrs.) - This area is abundant in baboons, plant and bird
life, and offers stunning views of the basin and Lake Manyara.
Hikes down the escarpment to the town of Mto-wa-Mbu can also be
- River Seay Nature Trail (1-2 hrs.) - An easy to moderate hike through a biophysical reserve on
the slopes of the Ngorongoro/Karatu highlands. Expect to see an
interesting human-ecological interface (we have hosted several
rehabilitation projects here), as well as diverse vegetation,
birdlife, reptiles, baboons and, with some luck, even elephants.
- Upper Kitete Wildlife Corridor
(1-2 hrs.) - This beautiful valley connects the extended
ecosystems of Ngorongoro Conservation Area and Lake Manyara
National Park. At dusk, sightings of buffalo, zebra, gazelles,
elephants, and others, are common.
- Kambi ya Simba Caves (1 hr.) -
An exciting underground adventure featuring nine distinct chambers
rich in nocturnal life. Best for the adventurous!
- Cultural Attractions - The main
ethnic group in the area is the Iraqw; the Maasai also form a
significant minority. We can arrange homestays in
traditional houses (for a first-hand experience of daily
life), visits to farms (for observing agricultural methods and
traditional tools), market trips, storytelling, music and dance,
and much more!
We also encourage visitors to check
out our Information and Documentation Center, located in the village
of Kambi ya Simba, to learn more about these attractions as well as
local environmental concerns.
Mbulu Circuit (2-3 days): A 4-6
hour drive from Arusha (2-3 hours from Karatu), this is the
heartland of the Iraqw people and a magnificent countryside of
undulating hills. Features include...
- Hhaynu Waterfalls (2-3 hrs.) -
Perfect for a lunchtime picnic, the falls are located along the
River Mehhi in a lush
valley with abundant birdlife.
- Mt. Guwang (3-4 hrs.) - An easy
to moderate hike with rewarding views of the Mbulu and Ngorongoro
highlands and Lake Manyara. Late afternoon trips are recommended,
as there are numerous outcrops for watching the sunset.
- Diocese of Mbulu Cathedral (1 hr.) - The second
largest cathedral in East Africa is an intimidating landmark built
by volunteers from Tanzania and Germany.
- Cultural Attractions - This is
the best place in Tanzania to learn about the Iraqw people and
their customs. A unique form of agriculture is practiced (planting
occurs year-round, rather than in expectation of the rains);
trenches remain from tribal wars; and there is a very colorful,
seasonal market which is not to be missed!
This trip is often combined with
the Mbulumbulu circuit or a wildlife safari for 3-5 day excursions.
Dongobesh Circuit (1-2 days) - A truly remote area, with
beautiful hills and a chance to observe the nomadic Datoga (Barabaig)
- Natural features include the Eight
Standing Stones of Qandech (Mawe Manane), rock kopjes and inselbergs, and
diverse plant and bird species.
- Day hikes can be arranged, some of
which offer stunning views of the region and Mt. Hanang (at 3417 m,
the fourth highest mountain in Tanzania).
- Cultural attractions include Dongobesh stone circles, the Qamatananat rock shelter (and
associated folklore), ancient rock paintings, and visits/stays
with the Datoga (and maybe even a chance to observe some local
This circuit is rarely visited and
truly off-the-beaten track!
Lake Eyasi Circuit
(1-2 days): Located in a depression in the Rift Valley 50 km from
Karatu, the area is rich in
wildlife as well as tribal culture. Features include...
- The Lake Eyasi Basin - This soda
lake rivals Manyara for its concentration of flamingos, and the
walls of the Rift Valley form a beautiful backdrop. Bufallo,
gazelles, zebra and other wildlife are abundant.
- Yaeda Chini - Part of the
extended Tarangire - Manyara ecosystem, the valley is especially
rich in wildlife and is the homeland of the Hadzabi people.
- Qang'dend Spring - The 'Eye of
Water' in Datoga, this pool is one of the only areas in the region
where fresh water is available year round. As such, it is
frequented by many locals and their livestock.
- Cultural Attractions - There are
many tribes in the area, including the Iraqw, Datoga, Hadzabi
(bushmen), Taturu and Maasai. Walking tours can be
arranged with local guides. There are also many historical sites,
rock shelters, rock paintings and old burial grounds.
Eyasi is unique in that it is the
only area in Africa where Bantu, Cushitic (i.e., the Iraqw), Khoisan
(click-speaking; i.e., the Hadzabi) and Nilotic (i.e., the Datoga
and Maasai) language families have coexisted for centuries.
All guides come from local communities
and are thus very knowledgeable about indigenous plants, animals,
landforms and customs. They speak English and all have been upgraded
in a course organized by MESO. At your request specialized
guides can be hired; these guides have been educated to at least
first degree level and are fully conversant in English, ecology,
TRANSPORT, ACCOMMODATION and DINING
Public and private (especially Land
Rover) transport can be arranged to all destinations. There is also
an airstrip at Manyara.
Accommodations are very flexible. In
general, tourists have the option of camping, staying in
guesthouses, or living in homestays with local families. In some
places, namely Karatu, more luxurious accommodation can be arranged
at the safari lodges.
For self-caterers, food supplies can
be purchased in Arusha or at markets in other major towns. Local
food is cheap and widely available (meat and vegetarian options).
Lunch is usually arranged as a picnic affair when visiting
destinations. Bottled water, as well as cold and hot drinks, are
available in all towns and destinations.
WHAT TO BRING
It can be rather chilly in the early
morning and late evening, as we are often above 1500 m, so bring a
light jacket or fleece. A good pair of walking/hiking shoes is
essential; a pair of sandals or slippers is also recommended. A
small backpack is a good idea for day trips and hikes. Towels and
mosquito nets are provided at most guesthouses; batteries and film
are obtainable in Karatu and Mbulu, though at inflated prices. In
terms of clothing, dress comfortably, but please keep local customs
in mind (particularly women). Otherwise, the rest is up to you!
As our trips are customized for each
group, standard prices vary based on the nature
of the trip offered. If you send us an e-mail detailing the size of
your group and your preferred itinerary (i.e., circuits, dates and
transport/sleeping/dining preferences), we will happily provide you
with a quote!
EcoTour: Ecotourism Holidays
Looking to travel
responsibly? Browse through the EcoTour Directory to find the
perfect Eco Holiday for you. The site also includes guidelines and
advice on responsible travel.
Gordon's Guide: Adventure and
Adventure travel and active vacations. Find
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rentals, resorts, in over 50 adventure & active travel categories.
MESO - The Multi-Environmental Society
(C) Copyright 2004
Perched on a natural arch
Hhaynu waterfalls, Mbulu
On the edge of it all
A late bishop's dream
Diocese of Mbulu Cathedral
The local route up the valley
A well-deserved nap
Mt. Guwang summit, Mbulu
Hippos basking in a pool
Ngorongoro Conservation Area
A flamingo-dotted landscape
Lake Eyasi circuit
Looking down on the highlands
Climbing Mt. Guwang, Mbulu
A traditional Iraqw home
...and Manyara in the distance
Views of the highlands, Mbulu
A leopard on the lookout
Ancient rock paintings
An underground world
Kambi ya Simba caves, Karatu
Stopping for a picnic lunch
Hhaynu waterfalls, Mbulu
Savoring the end of a long day
View from Mt. Guwang, Mbulu