Gabs on the Ndutu plains
Gabs up close in the Crater
Gian flying over Yaeda
Gian in Yaeda at dusk
Mark with the Hadza
Ole floppty ears
March, 2011 safari opportunity for individual travellers!
This past March we tried something new. Normally, all of our safaris are private to the specific group or family, but I often receive so many inquiries that read: "I don't have a group of my own, but I really want to go walk in the bush!" So we decided to do a trip which individuals can sign up on. Not just anybody, but people who are enthusiastic, outgoing, have an open mind to adventure, and who want to walk a bit in the bush and see a ton of wildlife. We had 9 people, and it was fantastic. It was really fun and also rewarding to enable 'solo' folks to see some of the wilderness. And we're doing it again in March, 2011. Only a few spots are available and if you feel you 'fit the bill' then please send me an email and I can give you the details.
Outside Magazine Trips of a Lifetime for 2010 – Our Serengeti Trek
As some of you know from our previous newsletters, a couple years ago we began extended walking safaris inside Serengeti National Park which for the first time ever allowed walks inside the park to only a couple operators. In hearing about our treks, Outside Magazine included it in their list of Trips of a Lifetime this year. And it sure is. Despite Serengeti's famous name, the areas we go to are road-less and remote and few places give one such a feeling of walking in 'old Africa' – hiking ridges or exploring the rocky outcrops or camping under quintessential acacia trees. And we love it because there is so much more to explore, so we get to continually poke into new areas where nobody has ever before walked.
Simanjiro Conservation Easement
Many of you who have been on safari with us have explored the wild areas outside of national parks where the land is governed by traditional Maasai villages. In many of these areas, we are part of partnerships with the Maasai which give them a financial incentive to conserve and also give us exclusive use in these areas in which to bring our clients. Some Maasailand areas, however, are too remote and seasonal for tourism to be feasible. So how can we conserve these areas, both for wildlife and for Maasai cattle to graze? To solve these problems, we have become part of an innovative consortium of tour operators who give money to a conservation easement which gives Maasai villages funding and a framework in order for them to enforce land use by-laws. In short, the initiative so far has put a great deal of land under conservation easement which the Maasai need for grazing and which the calving wildebeest of the Tarangire ecosystem need in the wet months. So far so good, but there are always challenges and funding is always needed. Thanks to past Thornton Safaris' clients, in 2010 we raised over $5000 to secure more land. Please go to www.simanjiro.com to learn more and how to donate.
Yaeda Valley & Nou Forest
Gian and I and some friends and colleagues took some time in March to explore the Nou forest and Yaeda Valley. We were able to really immerse ourselves in Yaeda, the home of the Hadzabe hunter-gatherers. It's always fun heading out with them to collect grewia berries, wild honey from stingless (and stinging!) bees and to dig for tubers for a snack on a hike. However, we were also able to give ourselves time to hike into the far reaches of the valley, deep into the hills where we have not been before and have the Hadza show us interesting caves with rock paintings, sacred sites and rock cisterns of water which have been water sources for hundreds of years for the semi-nomadic Hadza. We also checked out the magical Nou Forest. It's not for those searching for big game, but it's a gorgeous forest with a wonderful character and home to the restricted Hanang chameleon and, of course, the mythical 'mbuluensis' which eluded us (you'll have to come visit to find out what it is...!). We also had a bit of fun after a busy season, running through bush on Hadza baboon hunts, watching Gian para-motor over the valley, and a few beers were drunk around the campfire as well...
Aside from the usual 'big stuff' - - - stalking a leopard along a dried riverbed on a Serengeti walk or spying on elephants from atop the rocks - - - one of my favourite moments this past season must have been seeing the thousands of wildebeest and zebra out on the Simanjiro Plains east of Tarangire National Park. To know that this area is totally unprotected, aside from the easement, and that thousands of animals migrate here in the calving months is astonishing. It brings two things to mind. First, is the continually amazing 'fenceless' nature of Tanzania which is so dramatically unlike the 'fenced' and highly regulated parks of southern Africa. I forget how many times I've seen lion or other big game in a totally un-gazetted wilderness which is not part of any formal reserve or park, but is just....well, just 'the bush' like it has always been. Sightings, when they occur in these places, are that much more special. Secondly, however, the urgency comes to mind to keep things this way in the face of an ever-growing population and ever-expanding farmlands.