The Hadzabe bushmen, sons of the Stone Age, on safari in Tanzania

Britain’s No.1 quality newspaper, Telegraph, reports from Northern Tanzania today on the Hadzabe bushmen – thought to be the origin of our species – who are still living the life depicted by their ancestors in rock paintings 5,000 years ago: hunting, making fire, barbecuing bushbabies.

According to the Genographic Project, a global investigation into the origins and dispersal of human DNA, these Hadzabe bushmen of northern Tanzania have perhaps the oldest genetic lineage of any people on earth, and are directly descended from the first modern humans – the first group of homo sapiens to have all our mental capabilities.

The rest of humanity branched off into different genetic lines as people migrated away from east Africa and adapted to new environments, but the Hadzabe have come straight down the original line with hardly any mutations in their DNA. They also speak the oldest form of human language, a click language similar to that of the Kalahari Bushmen, and they are one of the last surviving tribes who still hunt and gather their food.

Read more about it in the entire article in the Telegraph and contact your preferred Tour Operator or Onsea House in Arusha directly if you want this special experience in the Lake Eyasi area included in your safari in Tanzania.

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Tanzania’s Mt. Kilimanjaro named top ‘Exotic Adventure’ for 2008 by USA Today

USA Today, the national newspaper with a circulation of over 3,000,000, released its prestigious list of the Hottest Travel Trends for 2008 on January 11, 2008. Tanzania’s famed Mt. Kilimanjaro sweeps the newspaper’s “Exotic Adventures” category. This highly competitive list was compiled with extensive input from travel experts.“I’m hearing more people say ‘I want to climb (Tanzania’s) Mt. Kilimanjaro now, while it still has glaciers,Marian Marbury, owner of the woman-only” Adventures in Good Company” is quoted as explaining one reason why the mythic mountain is considered a particularly desirable Exotic Adventure this year.

“There’s a sense that many places and wildlife we’ve taken for granted are disappearing,” she continues. “And the changes are happening now, within our lifetime.”

Happily, though, at the moment Tanzania’s Mt. Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain on the African Continent at 19,336 feet, remains ice-capped, snow-spread and majestic in glacial splendor. When that may change is a matter of scientific dissension.

The New York Times of Sunday, January 20 featured a first person account of a climb up the majestic mountain’s summit titled, “On Africa’s Roof, Still Crowned With Snow.” Writer Neil Modie quotes experts who say that the mountain’s glaciers are disappearing due to climate change, but also describes his own observation and experience of snow, ice, and diverse “spectacular” ecological zones throughout the mountain.

Steeped in legend, capturing the compelling beauty of Tanzania, Mt. Kilimanjaro holds a special place as one of Tanzania’s famed tourist sites. For many tourists to the East African country, a climb up Kilimanjaro is the highlight of their lives. These climbers contribute to the booming tourism economy.

According to Gerald Bigurube, Director General of the Tanzania National Parks, “at the moment, between 30-35,000 people climb Mt. Kilimanjaro annually.” The trek may be rigorous or accessible, depending on which of six different paths are selected.
“The best time of year for the climb,” notes Mr. Bigurube “is January through February and mid-June through mid-October.”

Climbers may choose a variety of different camping arrangements on their way to the top of the mountain, ranging from simple to elaborate, the latter providing guides, porters and overnight camping sites with dining facilities.

These climbers contribute to the booming tourism economy in Tanzania. According to Hon. Prof. Jumanne Maghembe, Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism, it is expected that “the tourism sector, which currently contributes 17.2% to the economy of the United Republic of Tanzania, will reach even higher levels quickly.” The Minister notes that the country’s main markets are Britain, the U.S., Germany, Italy, France, Spain and Scandinavia. The U.S. market is extremely strong, and is predicted to outreach the others in the next few years.

Managing Director of the Tanzania Tourist Board, Peter Mwenguo, adds, “about $ 1 billion USD is expected from tourism activities this year, an increase of $862 million last year.”

Onsea House is a great base in Arusha to prepare before and relax after your climb and offers both B&B as Full board Hotel accommodation.

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A safari makers dream: the discovery of a new species of mammal

This must every safari-makers dream: to discover a new species of mammal, as has been discovered in the mountains of Tanzania. BBC news reported yesterday:

The bizarre-looking creature, dubbed Rhynochocyon udzungwensis, is a type of giant elephant shrew, or sengi.

The cat-sized animal, which is reported in the Journal of Zoology, looks like a cross between a miniature antelope and a small anteater.

It has a grey face, a long, flexible snout, a bulky, amber body, a jet-black rump and it stands on spindly legs.

“This is one of the most exciting discoveries of my career,” said Galen Rathbun, from the California Academy of Sciences, who helped to confirm the animal was new to science along with an international team of colleagues.

Galen Rathbun with the new elephant shrew species (David Ribble)
They are so bizarre-looking and a lot of their behavioural ecology is so unique and interesting, you kind of get wrapped up with them
Galen Rathbun

Despite its name, the creature, along with the 15 other known species of elephant shrew, is not actually related to shrews.

Dr Rathbun told the BBC News website: “Elephant shrews are only found in Africa. They were originally described as shrews because they superficially resembled shrews in Europe and in America.”

In fact, the creature is more closely related to a group of African mammals, which includes elephants, sea cows, aardvarks and hyraxes, having shared a common ancestor with them about 100 million years ago.

“This is why they are also known as sengis,” explained Dr Rathbun.

The new species was first caught on film in 2005 in Ndundulu Forest in Tanzania’s Udzungwa Mountains by a camera trap set by Francesco Rovero, from the Trento Museum of Natural Sciences in Italy.

Dr Rathbun said: “I got these images, and said to myself: ‘Boy, these look strange’. But you can’t describe something new based just on photographs, so in March 2006, we went back in and collected some specimens.”

Flashy creatures

He told the BBC that it quickly became apparent that the creatures were new to science.

He said: “Elephant shrews are almost all distinguished by distinctive colour patterns, and this is especially true of the forest-dwelling giant sengis.

New species of elephant shrew (Francesco Rovero)  

The animal uses its long snout for scooping up insects

“They are all quite flashy – one species has a bright golden rump, another checkers along the rump – so when you have a colour pattern that just isn’t similar to what is out there, you know it is fairly obvious that you have got something new.

“And this one, with its grey face and black rump, was pretty different.”

As well as its distinctive colouring, the new species is also larger than other species of giant elephant shrew, weighing 700g (25oz) and measuring about 30cm (12in) in length.

It uses its long, flexible nose and tongue to flick up insects, such as termites, and it is most active in daylight.

Dr Rathbun added: “They are behaviourally fairly simple – they are not like a dog or cat you can interact with – but they are so bizarre-looking and a lot of their behavioural ecology is so unique and interesting, you kind of get wrapped up with them.”

The scientists say there is still much to learn about the Rhynochocyon udzungwensis, but they hope further research will help to answer questions about how many of the animals exist, their range and how closely the animals live together.

Tanzania’s Udzungwa Mountains are biodiverse-rich. In addition to this new species, a number of other new animals have been found there, including the Udzungwa partridge, the Phillips’ Congo shrew, and a new genus of monkey known as Kipunji as well as several reptiles and amphibians.

Dr Rathbun said it was vital the area and its inhabitants in this biodiversity “hotspot” were protected.

Source: BBC News

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The Adventure Travel Ratings: The World’s First Authoritative Rating of Adventure Tour Operators

“When planning the adventure trip of a lifetime, the most important decision isn’t where to go, but who to go with. To help you pick the right outfitter, we have conducted the world’s first authoritative rating of adventure travel tour operators. Each of the 158 companies presented here qualifies as “best,” it’s up to you to select which one is best for you”.

The rating published by National Geographic Adventure Magazine includes 2 companies in the top 3 who are operating mainly in Tanzania: Mark Thornton Safaris and Abercrombie & Kent. Those and many of the other 65 companies including Wildland Adventures, CC Africa and Deeper Africa use Onsea House in Arusha as a start and/or end for their safaris.

Next to the full list of 158 rated Adventure Travel outfitters, you can find a listing of the 100 greatest adventure books in the National Geographic special and website.

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“Tanzania: Safari individüell geplannt – Zu empfelen als Ausgangspunkt für Safaris in Arusha”

“Als Ausgangspunkt für Safaris in Arusha is das von Belgiern geführte Onsea House zu empfelen, es verfügt über fünf Zimmer und Pool in ruhiger Lage”.

This quote is thé highlight of the Leserforum of the February/March/April 2008 “Fernreise spezial” of German bestelling travel magazine Reise & Preise “Anspruchsvol Reisen – Perfect Planen”. Next to positive reviews on the internet, guests also send an increasing number positive reviews to tradtitional media.

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Kenya crisis bashes Tanzania`s tourism, according to the Guardian

Although reservations at Onsea House in Arusha seem to increase because of the crisis in Kenya, the Guardian reports today that Tanzania`s tourism industry has sustained serious injuries following the post-election stand-off in Kenya and the violence accompanying it:

The industry has been hit by trip and hotel accommodations cancellations of alarming proportions, with Tanzania Association of Tour Operators (TATO) chairman Mustafa Akuunay putting the number of planned daily visits scrapped to between 25 and 30 per cent. Explained a distraught Akuunay when interviewed by The Guardian here yesterday: “Tanzania has been forgoing a minimum of $84,000 (equivalent to 94.08m/-) in foreign exchange earnings every passing day in lost business on parks, transportation and accommodation services since hell broke loose in Kenya two weeks ago.“

According to the TATO chairman of tour and hotel operators, the number of visitors coming to Tanzania has fallen considerably because most would normally cross over from Kenya.

The most hit of the key hotel operators in Tanzania`s northern tourism circuit are Serena Group of Hotels and Sopa Lodges, which can accommodate a combined 1,120 tourists at a go. They report losing 170 guests daily on average.

Serena Group general manager Salim Jan Mohamed, who put booking cancellations from his hotels and lodges alone at 75 everyday, said in a telephone interview: “The situation is alarming.

With a capacity of accommodating 500 tourists at a go, now the booking cancellations are robbing us of 15 to 20 per cent of that number everyday.“

Sopa Lodges group reservation manager Louis Okech had a similar story, noting: “We have been getting anything between 10 and 15 per cent cancellations out of our full installed capacity of 620 tourists everyday.“ He added that they have been suffering a loss of 93 tourists on average on each passing day.

Bushbuck Safaris Ltd managing director Mustafa Panju added to the sad tales, saying the number of tourists from abroad had dropped appreciably, “as enquiries now lie at five per cent at the highest as opposed to between 30 and 40 per cent before the problems up north (in Kenya)“.

A visibly shaken Matongo Adventure Tours managing director Nashon Nkhambi said the Kenyan crisis had cost his company three large groups of tourists.

His Sunny Safaris Limited counterpart Firoz Suleiman, meanwhile, estimated that six to eight groups of minimum 16 tourists had cancelled their trips to Tanzania soon after learning of the violence in Kenya.

An estimated 40 per cent of the 700,000-odd tourists usually visiting Tanzania annually pass through Kenya, thereafter crossing over for tours of attractions such as Ngorongoro Crater, Serengeti National Park and Mount Kilimanjaro.

The figure stood at the much higher 66 per cent in the 1990s but has gradually fallen over the years thanks to the introduction of direct flights from Europe, the Americas and other regions to Tanzania, especially via the revamped Julius Nyerere (Dar es Salaam) and Kilimanjaro international airports.

Tourism is one of the key drivers of Tanzania`s economy, second only to agriculture, and had a 17.2 per cent contribution to the country`s gross national product last year.

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Fears for oldest human footprints

The world famous magazine Nature reported yesterday on the oldest human footprints ever found: the Laetoli footprints are one of the many highlights that can be visited by safari makers to Tanzania, interested in archeology or anthropology. Just a day journey away from Onsea House in Arusha or a sidetrack from the road from Ngorongoro to Serengeti.

For the first time since the early ’80s, Nature reports on this subject: 

Threats to the world’s oldest hominid footprints in Tanzania are again stirring debate over how to best protect the 3.7-million-year-old tracks.
Discovered by Mary Leakey’s team in 1978, the 23-metre-long track of footprints at an isolated site called Laetoli were in 1995 covered with an elaborate protective layer after they began to deteriorate with exposure. Now weathering has begun to undermine those protections, raising concerns that the prints preserved in a volcanic ash bed could be harmed by erosion, livestock or humans.

It has prompted Tanzanian anthropologist, Charles Musiba, now at the University of Colorado in Denver, to call for the creation of a new museum to reveal and display the historic prints. But other anthropologists question this idea — as they did when the tracks were covered — because Laetoli is several hours’ drive into Ngorongoro National Park, making guarding and maintaining any facility extremely difficult. Musiba presented his proposal for the museum last month at the International Symposium on the Conservation and Application of Hominid Footprints, in South Korea. He says that Tanzania now has the scientific capacity and the funds to construct and monitor a museum.

“I feel compelled to bring this issue out,” says Musiba. “The current conditions show the protections are temporary. A fully fledged museum could be part of a walking safari trail for tourists.”

But this concept worries other researchers such as anthropologists Tim White of the University of California, Berkeley, and Terry Harrison at New York University. They are among a group that favours cutting the entire track out of the hillside, then installing it in a museum in a Tanzanian city, either Dar es Salaam or Arusha. “If they are uncovered, they will be a magnet for trouble,” says White. “Then the prints will be worn away.”

Donatius Kamamba, who is head of the National Museum in Dar es Salaam and also director of the Tanzanian Department of Antiquities — the agency responsible for the Laetoli footprint site — expressed surprise over the erosion report and the museum proposal. He says that his agency will investigate the site, but he questions the feasibility of moving an ash bed that could potentially crumble apart.

The protective layer now in place was constructed by specialists from the Getty Conservation Institute in Los Angeles. A layer of dirt had been placed over the footprints by researchers such as Leakey and White. But acacia seeds weren’t sifted out of the soil, so trees started growing, threatening to tear apart the layer of hardened volcanic ash. Getty conservationists Neville Agnew and Martha Demas removed the old layer and growth, covered the prints with a special fabric mat designed to limit water intrusion, then covered this with cleaned soil and rocks. This worked well until the past couple of years, when increased rains filled the surrounding run-off ditches with silt, leading to erosion exposing the mat’s edges. All agree that the mat needs to be covered swiftly, in case, for example, local tribespeople attempt to remove it for other uses. But a long-term solution is still up for debate.

The National Museum is currently undergoing an expansion. Harrison thinks Tanzania would be wise to consider putting the footprints there. But archaeologist Audax Mabulla, of the University of Dar es Salaam, favours Musiba’s suggestion. “We should open a small section of the footprints in an environmentally friendly building,” says Mabulla. “Then people can have access and appreciate them.”

Whatever happens, concerns are mounting about immediate improvements because the rainy season is already under way.

This article was published online 9 January 2008 | Nature 451, 118 (2008)

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Vroegboekacties en “Break Away Special Offer” naar Kenya, Oeganda, Tanzania en Zanzibar

Touroperator Joker en Connections en luchtvaartmaatschappij KLM zijn er ook opnieuw in januari dit jaar met hun vroegboekacties en Break Away Special offers waaronder ook Kenya, Oeganda, Tanzania en Zanzibar bij de bestemmingen, terwijl Ethiopian Airlines doorgaat met zijn speciale prijzen vanuit Europa naar Tanzania.

Vlieg tegen uitzonderlijke promotietarieven tot december 2008 via Joker. Boeken kan nog tot 28 januari. Bestemmingen zijn Entebbe (voor zij die ook Gorilla’s willen gaan zien vóór hun safari in Tanzania) vanaf 597 Euro, Nairobi (3 uur rijden naar Arusha waar je safari kan starten) vanaf 576 Euro of Zanzibar (strandvakantie voor en/of na je safari) vanaf 577 Euro. Die laatste optie lijkt ons erg interessant! Meer info en boeken kan via de Joker website.

Ook Connections heeft een Book&Pay actie met 500 bestemming aan zogenaamde stuntprijzen. Ze duiken 2 Euro onder de prijs van Joker met Zanzibar aan 575 Euro, welliswaar “Vanafprijzen” per persoon onder voorbehoud van beschikbaarheid en vertrekdata maar al wel inclusief luchthaventaksen voor een Heen én Terugvlucht. De promotie prijs voor vlucht naar Dar Es Salaam lijkt ons daarom wat aan de hoge kant met 642 Euro.

KLM probeert als luchtvaartmaatschappij zelf ook zijn tickets te slijten, sinds vandaag met Break Away prijzen naar oa Afrika. Zowel Nairoibi, Entebbe als Dar Es Salaam zitten boven 800 Euro dus enkel interessant voor zij die absoluut met KLM willen vliegen. Deze tarieven zijn slechts geldig van 8 tot 14 januari voor reizen tot 30 april 2008 (laatste vertrek). Snel beslissen voor deze Last Minute aanbieding is dus de boodschap.

Met Ethiopian Airlines kan je ook rechtstreeks boeken, in principe zelfs vanaf 355 Euro vanuit London, maar ook hier verschillen de prijzen sterk afhankelijk van datum en beschikbaarheid. Met deze actie is het ook mogelijk om een goedkoop ticket op Kilimanjaro International Airport (nabij Arusha) te boeken (Joker, Connections en KLM hebben Kilimanjaro niet in hun aanbieding zitten). De Ethiopian actie loopt sinds 28 oktober 2007 en intussen hebben we al heel wat gasten mogen begroeten bij Onsea House in Arusha die hiervan gebruik gemaakt hebben.

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