February 5 to 16, 2013, we’ll be in Tanzania to host a photo safari/ecotour with World Discovery Safaris and Safari Legacy. One of my favorite stops on this particular itinerary is Mto wa Mbu, near the entrance to Lake Manyara National Park.
Mto wa Mbu (which translates to Mosquito River) is a community in central Tanzania with a unique Cultural Tourism Programme. This agricultural community includes representatives from more than 120 tribes who moved into the area to take advantage of the opportunities provided by an irrigation project in the 1950s. In 1995, SNV – The Netherlands Dutch Development Organisation assisted the Tanzania Tourism Board in developing programs to provide benefits to local people. The community was involved in planning the tours to be offered and they manage the tours.
On a previous tour of Tanzania, we took part in one of these tours and found a well-designed experience that began with a slow meander through the community marketplace where local women sit at wooden tables heaped with dried fish, fresh fruits, vegetables, chickens, eggs, clothing and household goods.
Next we visited the home of a Chaga family who brews banana beer. There we learned the unique story of how this special brew is key in marriage negotiations and friendships. It is 1 to 2% alcohol and must be drunk “green” when it is one to two days old, because it goes bad quickly. We passed a mug of beer to share among our fellow travelers and the pleasant taste was unique, unlike any beer I’ve ever tasted.
We then walked to an open-air shop where our guide explained that woodcarvers are taught to create three-dimensional pieces that represent people from different tribes working and living together in harmony. The effort required by these complex carvings helps the craftsmen to hone their skills before carving simpler items offered in most sales outlets. Visitors can purchase the work direct from the woodcarvers working on site if desired. We also visited a cooperative where local artists demonstrated the traditional Tinga Tinga style of painting. Finally, our guide led us down a trail through a banana farm to learn about the many varieties grown for beer brewing, eating, and cooking as vegetables.
The tour of the farm ended in an outdoor shelter with local women preparing traditional dishes over open fires. When the food was ready they interpreted each food dish before we served ourselves buffet style. We had white rice, brown rice with beef, okra, spinach, spicy beef in oil, eggplant, potatoes with cardamom and cinnamon, and pork ribs. The food was delicious, washed down with a cold soft drink or the local Tusker beer.
Our upcoming tour will allow us to visit at least three cultural communities and five national parks and conservation areas. We have just a few seats left for this tour at the height of the wildlife migration season in the Serengeti. If you have the time, desire and funds to take part, please join us for the trip of a lifetime.
Download the Tanzania Tour PDF Itinerary – Feb. 2013 12-Day Tanzania Safari – Questions – 970-231-0537 or firstname.lastname@example.org
– Tim Merriman