Tanzania, Mwiba Lodge local experiences: Hunting with one of Africa's oldest tribes, the Hadza people, in Lake Eyasi Valley

One of Africa's oldest tribes are so close to nature, birds have given them hunting tips.

The oldest of the men suddenly ducks down in the tall grasses and signals everyone following to do the same. We crouch, fall silent, wait.

Thirty seconds later, still doubled over, he springs into action, sprinting through the thick bush at such break-neck speed he looks as though he's barely touching the earth. In one smooth movement on the run, he draws his bow, inserts a poison-tipped arrow, and shoots.

The tiny miniature antelope dik-dik sees him at the last minute, screams and darts to one side. The arrow misses him by a millimetre. He bounds off into the undergrowth.

The man stands still, then shakes his head and laughs, and jogs forward to retrieve his missile. The rest of his party move forward to surround him, chattering and giggling as they offer their condolences.

He may not have been lucky this time, but they're confident that they'll soon find some other food they can share. After all, this is how they've been living for tens of thousands of years now, as perhaps Africa's oldest tribe, and one of the last genuine hunter-gatherer peoples on Earth.

Close to East Africa's renowned Olduvai Gorge in northern Tanzania, where evidence of the first human species around 1.9 million years ago was discovered by paleoanthropologist-archaeologists Mary and Louis Leakey, these eight members of the nomadic Hadza are an incredible reminder of how once all humankind used to live.

But, astonishingly in the 21st century, they still roam the Lake Eyasi Valley, living lightly on their ancestral lands, hunting animals and birds, and foraging for honey, roots, plants and berries, in a lifestyle the rest of us can only read about in history books.

So joining them during a stay at the luxurious Mwiba Lodge in the Southern Serengeti during a holiday in Tanzania feels like a precious glimpse of a completely different era.

"They're close to the first footprint of the first human being on Earth, and there are only around 1000 of the Hadza left today," says Eugene Shao, a guide organised by the lodge.

Advertisement

"They have a click language that has no connection with any other in Africa, have a unique genetic make-up and the only things that are important to them are family and food. They have no possessions apart from the clothes they stand up in and their traditionally-made bows and arrows, but that's wealth to them. They say they have no need for anything else."

Indeed, they don't even have to have riches to impress the family of their prospective partners. To prove themselves, warriors instead have to kill a baboon for its meat to prove they're clever and strong enough to provide for a family.

Going out with a group, watching them hunt, dig for tubers, slice open the fruit of the baobab tree, pick berries and leaves for medicines, and search for their favourite honey in the trees is like a giant step back in time.

But which, exactly, is the most advanced civilisation? The Hadza is able to survive making no impact at all on their environment and anthropologists claim that, in addition, they have the most developed relationship of any mammal on Earth with birds: the honeyguide is said to tell them where to hunt, through a co-evolved language of whistles and calls.

Today, they have no help from the birds, but they find honey nonetheless – and it's the most delicious I've tasted. As they eat, they yelp with pleasure and then break out into a spontaneous celebration of singing and dance.

We join in, and a few minutes later, they're standing, wide-eyed and disbelieving, as we play their party back to them, having filmed it on a tablet. They're astonished, but then start singing and dancing again, in time with what they're watching. It seems the best way to process what they're seeing.

Spending time with the Hadza is an experience unlike any other – but it's not long before you're snapped back into the comfortable life of a tourist, and in the nicest possible way.

After the hunt, we're met on our return to the boutique Mwiba Lodge nestling among the giant granite boulders and woodland of the landscape with flasks of hot chocolate and warm towels. We sit on the terrace that curves around the Arugusinyai River and its rocky gorge, reflecting on our experience, and eating a meal we didn't have to hunt for, as we gaze lazily down on the infinity pool and waterhole at which elephants arrive periodically to drink.

Later, it's time to retire to the glamorous suites, that have lounge rooms off to one side of the bedroom, and bathrooms with both his-and-hers sinks, indoor and outdoor showers and freestanding baths. They're connected to the main dining room, terrace, lounge and library, and to the spa area and gym in the other direction, via a network of elevated wooden boardwalks.

Set in a concession of more than 700 square kilometres in the Serengeti, there's plenty more to do to fill the time. There are game drives to see the mass of animals living in the neighbourhood, game walks, bush meals and sundowners at various beauty spots along the escarpment, helicopter flights over the nearby Ngorongoro Crater and the stunning Great Rift Valley, trips to any of the 30 freshwater springs, visits to cultural villages and rock art to admire.

"But many of our visitors say going out with the Hadza is always a real highlight of their stay here," says Mwiba Lodge manager Oli Dreike. "It's a very special privilege for anyone from our world to see theirs."

TRIP NOTES

MORE

The Classic Safari Company, Ph (02) 9327 0666; See classicsafaricompany.com.au

serengeti.org hadzafund.org

FLY

Qatar Airways flies to Dar es Salaam via Doha, and Emirates flies via Dubai, then there's an internal Coastal Aviation flight to Mwiba Southern Serengeti. See qatarairways.com emirates.com coastal.co.tz

STAY

Mwiba Lodge, legendaryexpeditions.com and legendarylodge.co.tz. Ph +255 (0) 754 097 072

Book via The Classic Safari Company: Ph (02) 9327 0666; See classicsafaricompany.com.au

Sue Williams travelled courtesy of The Classic Safari Company.

Comments