With more than 120 distinct ethnic groups living together in Tanzania, this creates an excellent opportunity for those of us that enjoy travel photography. For me, I always gravitate towards getting photos of people, whenever I travel. I love the animals and the fantastic wildlife we get to see while on safari, but I also make sure that our safaris have cultural visits and opportunities to interact with the Tanzanians.
Many of these photos were taken during those interactions as we traveled, whether we were in the Rift Valley or the Central Serengeti or just in the back of our vehicle as our guide Francis searched for animals. Each photo tells a story, and I’ll share a little bit of information on each one so that you can appreciate them in a different light. You’ll also note that many of these have post processing and I’ll share at the end of the article, which software I used as I edited these. Though this editing style is not for everyone, it works for what I am trying to convey in my images.
Francis our Safari Guide
Francis was an excellent guide and was always able to find animals where I thought there might not be any. Before he was a guide, he was a researcher, and he shared that he knew every corner of the Serengeti and he didn’t need to use a radio. While on safari, many guides communicate with each other via their radios, but in the twelve days we were with him, not once did he ever turn it on. He was focused and was very aware of animal behavior to indicate where there might be predators. At once point, Amanda and I were looking at four giraffe’s, but he noticed they were looking beyond our vehicle at something else. This was when he noticed a female Leopard and her cub in the tall grass. For the next 20 minutes, we were able to watch them as they climbed two trees and drank water and interacted with each other. This photo conveyed his focus and drive as he searched for us to create the best safari experience.
Boys in the Trees
When driving towards Lake Manyara, there are little homes and villages on the way. Our safari vehicle always drew attention, and the children would run towards the road as we passed. They would wave and say hello, and it always brought a smile to our faces to see their enthusiasm. Many would yell, asking for candy, which we did not have, but we would have to continue on our way and were unable to stop, though we wanted to, many times. You may also notice that these boys are not wearing shoes, but that didn’t seem to stop them from enjoying their adventure and climbing a tree.
The Struggle for Water
Many places in Tanzania are lush and green, and water is abundant. But as you get out of the foothills and enter more arid climates, the struggle to get water can be a challenge. Throughout our travels, we would see carts like this, referred to as Kalahari Ferrari’s by one of our local guides, Sadi. People would travel for miles to get water for their crops and livestock in this fashion.
This scene above was a familiar sight as we drove through the country. Maasai on bicycles riding many miles to fetch water in their five-gallon jugs. I was curious what his mud flap said and using Google translate “Nyangulo One Pambana Na Hali Yako” translates into “One Rapture to Meet Your Status”. I also found another translation for “pambana na hali yako” which means “Cope with your situation.” Based on this photo, they are coping the best that they can.
Lady with the Chairs
As I started to edit this photo, I thought about this lady and where she might be going with her chairs? The blue one is cracked, missing two legs and the white one is missing a leg. These were important to her as she waited on the side of the highway. Perhaps she was meeting a friend or waiting for the local bus to take her to market? For those of us in the West, these would have been thrown out even if they were sun bleached, yet to her, they were worth saving.
Riding on Top
All modes of transportation are used in Tanzania, from the ubiquitous Dolla Dolla, to bikes to buses. As we were leaving the Oldupai (Olduvai) Gorge, this vehicle raced by. I counted four people on top and six inside the vehicle from another photo, but I thought this one was the most interesting. He looks like he is barely hanging on in the back and one jarring bump would be the end of his ride. Based on his shirt with the flames, he is probably a bit of a daredevil, and I can just imagine him thinking “I’ve got this.”
Maasai Jumping Dance
No safari is complete without a visit to the Maasai. There is a small Maasai village in the Oldupai (Olduvai) Gorge that we stopped at to have a brief visit. The Maasai jumping dance or Eunoto, the ceremony in which the junior warriors, or morani, graduate to the ranks of manhood is something people always enjoy. There are countless tourist photos of this ceremony, so I wanted to get a bit of a different angle and capture a broader view with a fisheye lens. Each jumper will take turns as they jump higher and higher and the trick is to capture them at the peak moment. I also like how the framing turned out on this one as the men are all gathered with their red blankets and the contrasting blue sky.
Children at Maasai School
Whenever you visit a Maasai village, they introduce you to the children at the school. They recite the ABC’s for you and usually sing a song and count for you as part of their welcome. A few of the children were fascinated by Amanda’s hair and kept wanting to feel it and play with it, and one even put on her hat. She’s always a good sport, and I thought this was a fun photo to share.
This photo was a happy accident that worked out perfectly. Previous to this we were in the Maasai school, and it was pretty dark in there, so I had to bump up my ISO to 6400 to get some good photos like the one of Amanda above. But in the harsh sunlight, it was way to washed out. Luckily I shoot in the RAW format, so I was able to salvage it a bit. After playing with it in Photoshop and using some plugins, I was pretty happy where this ended up. Here’s a link to the original image as I shot it.
Bananas and a Bike
Part of our schedule is a visit to Mto wa Mbu ((River of Mosquito’s in Swahili), in the Rift Valley. Here we enjoy a home-cooked traditional meal with some fantastic food, but them we have an opportunity to explore the plantation in the village. Our guide Tatu, is a wealth of knowledge and works for the local Cultural Tourism Board and walks us through the Banana plantation and explains the growing process. On this day, we started our visit with a wonderful meal, but then we were delayed about 45 minutes as the rain continued to come down. Eventually, we started our tour which I always look forward too. We walk through the village and say hello to many of the residents and also have scenes like the one above. Roger, who was in our group, helped this gentleman load the bananas onto his bike and then he was off. Something about this photo caught my eye, and I thought it was great to share. Though its a bit blurry, I think it conveyed a sense of urgency, and I felt it had an excellent composition and set the scene.
Mud Puddle Helper
When the rain comes down in the village, it comes down in buckets. But as fast as it came, the skies start to clear up, and the villagers continue with their day. I thought this was a fun shot to share of a brother helping his sister navigate the rain-soaked ground.
Hadzabe Tribe Visit
The past two trips we have had the opportunity to visit the Hadzabe Tribe, and this is one of those visits that will stick with our customers for a lifetime. The Hadzabe are the last hunter/gatherer tribe in the world and with less than 1,000 members left, we feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to interact and visit with them. I took the above photo when we first arrived and didn’t want to draw attention to myself. As a photographer, some of the best shots can be the ones you get when people are unaware of the camera. He is inside a giant Baobab tree, these are some of the oldest trees in the world, and I’m guessing this Baobab was well over 1,000 years old. I felt this was a fitting backdrop to this portrait as the Hadzabe are among the oldest race in the world based on DNA studies.
After our initial arrival to the Hadzabe and initial greetings, we are then allowed to go on a hunt with a few of the men from the tribe. Using only bow and arrows, they set off on a face pace search for game with us tourists in tow for well over an hour. During this time or guide, Sadi found some local berries for us to taste that had a real spicy flavor, and Francis brought us some Baobob seeds that he had cracked open. They had a delicious flavor with a hint of sour and apparently are a rich source of vitamin C for the Hadzabe.
On this day only small game would be on the menu including field mice and some smaller birds.
After hunting a fire needs to be built and the Hadzabe use friction and stick in the traditional way to create the fire. The game is then added to the top of the fire, and after about five minutes it’s time to eat. Being an egalitarian society, they share with everyone, and we were no exception. For us westerners to enjoy their food offering, we might give a bit of pause, but everyone in our group accepted their offering to enjoy a meal with them. I had read about Tim Spector, Professor of Genetic Epidemiology at Kings College London, who ate like a Hadza. He tested himself and was surprised to find his healthy biome and bacteria had increased by 20% and were able to detect rare forms of bacteria often associated with good health. I guess now wasn’t the time to question science.
On the way back to the Hadza village, I saw a house in the distance and asked our guide Sadi if we could go over and meet the family that lived there. I didn’t want to pass up the opportunity for Roger and Myra to offer some beads that they had brought to give to the locals on our trip.
The family was real happy to receive these, especially the Mom and I asked her if I could take her photo. She was just beaming with happiness, and after taking this photo, I showed it to her on my camera.
The grandmother was a bit more cautious about me, but she allowed me to take her photo as well. I can only imagine what her thoughts were with these crazy people snapping photos of her family.
This little girl was curious about us as well and I’m not sure how many visitors they get as their house is pretty remote.
I like this photo of the Mother and Son, and I’m hoping our guide Sadi can share this photo with them the next time he sees them.
We had to say our goodbyes to the family and then return to the Hadzabe village. When we arrived back, we had learned that another hunting party had brought back a Wart Hog and this would be enough food to feed the village for a few days. Everyone seemed to be in an upbeat mood including the children. After I got home and looked at my photos, this boy looked very familiar from my visit in 2016. Though we were in a different village this time, I think I had seen him the previous year.
Like all excellent adventures our time had ended at the Hadzabe tribe, and we had to continue on our journey.
On the Road to the Datoga
Our next stop was to visit the Datoga tribe near Lake Eyasi, and this man was walking on the side of the road with a lady carrying eggs. Sadi needed some eggs so we stopped so they could sort through the transaction. I motioned if he was ok with me taking his photo and agreed and then we were on our way. Often these simple roadside stop can yield some great portraits like this.
Each year we meet our friends in the Datoga tribe who are known for making metal products such as arrowheads for the Hadzabe as well as bracelets, spoons, etc. This man was keeping the fire going with a goatskin bellows and charcoal to melt the copper to form the bracelets and other products they sell.
It was fascinating to watch as the craftsman made arrowheads from simple nails. Using only the force of a hammer against an anvil, they expertly crafted arrowheads from a simple 16 penny nail. I decided to buy a couple as souvenirs like the ones above and below.
Amanda modeling some of the bracelets available for purchase
Boys with a Chicken
In the distance, while we were watching the Datoga create their products, was a weekly market that was in full swing. Now I love going to these markets as there is so much activity and lots of products to purchase. Think of it as a rural villages open-air supermarket. You can buy anything from clothes to sandals made of tires (which I bought) to livestock and even chickens. We also saw a comedy/magic show that had everyone gathered around an laughing. These two boys caught my eye as they seemed to be wanting to sell the rooster they were carrying around and they followed us for a little while. Probably more out of curiosity as we were the only tourists there that day.
Back to Safari
Soon we were on the road to the Serengeti and our cultural experiences were behind us. I hope you enjoyed these photos and the little stories behind them and that if you every get the opportunity to travel to Tanzania, don’t hesitate to do so. Travel is an appreciating asset, and a trip like this is something you’ll appreciate for the rest of your life.
Technical info on these images:
- Shot with Nikon D500 from Lens Rentals
- Adobe Photoshop CC
- Adobe Bridge with Adobe Raw
- Topaz Adjust 5 with customized preset
- Alien Skin Exposure 6
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