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Lake Eyasi: Hadzabe settlement

The last full-time hunter-gatherers in Africa


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Hadzabe

Alex picks us up early this morning, just after breakfast, for our visit to the Hadzabe Tribe. The access toad to their camp is rudimentary to say the least.

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The Hadza number just under 1,000 and is the smallest tribe in Tanzania. Some 300–400 Hadza still live as hunter-gatherers, much as their ancestors have for thousands or even tens of thousands of years; they are the last full-time hunter-gatherers in Africa.

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The Hadza are organized into bands, called 'camps', of typically 20–30 people, and the camp we are visiting this morning lies in the shade of a rocky overhang, where a number of men are gathered.

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Women are chatting merrily under a tree, and a few children are running around. There is a relaxed atmosphere here and we feel very welcome.

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On the flat ground at the base of the rocks, a couple of straw huts provide shelter on dry nights, whereas the caves are used when it rains.

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The interior does not exactly provide a great deal of comfort. The Hadzabe people are nomads, and they don't really believe in material possessions - they own very little beyond their clothes, cooking equipment and hunting implements.

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We are assigned a young man called Hant'anee as our guide, and he explains their hunting methods to us in the local language, translated by Alex. While traditionally classified with the Khoisan languages, primarily because it has clicks, the Hadza language appears to be an isolate, unrelated to any other. The Hadza lad is a real showman, and I am sure he deliberately uses as many words with the clicking sound as possible, for effect. And very effective it is too!


Understanding the language is not a prerequisite to being able to follow what he is explaining though, as Hant'anee is so animated in his description of how and what they hunt, making the noises and movements of birds and monkeys as well as the men's actions.

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He explains the different types of arrows and which animals they are used for. The Hadzabe mainly kill birds and smaller mammals, such as hares and monkeys, although sometimes they will bag an antelope too.

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Evidence of previous kills.

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Many of the men are sitting around smoking and our guide explains how they make fire in the traditional way.

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A clay pipe is filled with 'tobacco' and passed around.


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The 'tobacco' leaves

Hant'anee demonstrates how they inhale the smoke, then cough violently to ensure the effect reaches the brain.

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I try the pipe (minus the coughing), while David is not so keen.

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Having learned all about their hunting skills using a bow and arrow earlier, now is the time to put it all into action.

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Alex goes first

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I fare dismally

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David does very much better

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He's hit the target!

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Pleased much?

Before we leave, they put on a song and dance for us.


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And the obligatory group photo, of course.

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It's time for us to make our way back to the lodge for breakfast, and everyone comes over to shake our hands. While the settlement is obviously used to accepting tourists, I still feel it is very much more genuine than the Maasai villages we have visited in the past, with no obligation to tip and no heavy sales pressure. In fact, I don't even see any items for sale. The Hadzabe are mostly self sufficient, and money does not hold the same value for them for that reason.

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We reach the lodge in time for breakfast, after which we change into swimming costumes and have a play around in the pool – which we have completely to ourselves.

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The small sunbathing area by the pool

Afterwards we have a wander along the meandering paths in the lodge grounds, followed by a snooze. Today is the first day of relaxation in the two weeks we have been in Tanzania. Having been up at 05:50 every single morning on this trip, out all day game viewing, and back just in time for dinner and bed, all this free time feels rather odd.

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Smith's Bush Squirrel - a new species for us

At lunch we are no longer alone – the Americans are back. We hear via the grapevine that this is their first adventure trip, they are ardent cruisers and apparently high maintenance, with the attitude: “we've paid this much to be here, we want it now!” How not to endear yourself to the staff and locals.

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The restaurant at Kisima Ngeda Lodge

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The bar

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The lounge

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The veranda overlooking the grounds and the lake beyond

As always we are extremely grateful to Tillya and Halima of Calabash Adventures; as well as their trusted driver and our very good friend, Malisa, for arranging another amazing experience. You guys are the best!

Thanks must also go to Alex Puwale for arranging this cultural visit.

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Posted by Grete Howard 05:30 Archived in Tanzania Tagged africa tanzania dancing squirrel swimming_pool ethnic smoking hunting cannabis cultural_exchange calabash_adventures lake_eyasi hadzabe alex_puwale kisima_ngeda hadze eyasi village_visit bow_and_arrow hunter-gatherers clay_pipe kisima_ngeda_lodge african_tribes ethnic_tribe smith's_bush_squirrel bush_squirrel africa_bush_squirrel Comments (2)

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