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The Elephants of Western Kilimanjaro

Say Kilimanjaro and most people will think of mountain trekking. This, the highest mountain in Africa captures many people's imaginations and every year thousands climb to the summit. Other than that the area around Kilimanjaro and some of the villages on Kilimanjaro are devoid of visitors although they are rich in culture and animals.

Off the beaten track, is an over used phrase and to well and truly get off the beaten track usually means inaccessible, sleeping rough and expensive. However, Kilimanjaro is easily accessible and close enough to the Serenegeti to easily be included in any safari itinerary.To get off the beaten track here and discover the joys around Kili is easy, comfortable and will not necessitate you having to pay for expensive internal flights. To get away from the hordes of tourists is easy here; most people will be at Machame village or Marangu village ready to climb Kilimanjaro. This mountain is huge and some of the areas around the mountain are rich in game and adventure. You just need to know where to look.

The west of the mountain and bordering on Kenya's famous Amboseli Park is a private game concession; that is a private park that has few visitors. There are few lodges here and the land is owned by the Maasai. This is one area in Africa where huge Elephant Bulls, more than 50 years old, carrying huge tusk, are regularly seen. These bulls are part of family units and are permanently in this area.

These family units can be spotted negotiating the acacia woodlands of the lower slopes of Kilimanjaro in search of food and water. The elephants here are the healthiest Elephant populations of the whole African Continent.It is not officially permitted to cross the border here into Kenya but usually your guide will drive into the Kenyan side of this national Park.Wildlife in this area is very rich in zebra, wildebeest, Thomson's and Grant's gazelle, Maasai giraffe. By far the best way to experience this area is in Sinya Camp ? it is eco friendly, pure luxury and managed by the Maasai. Predators such as lion, cheetah, leopard and spotted hyena even though shy and elusive, are present around Sinya Camp; which is also a heaven for birdwatchers.

Your guide here has grown up and lived all his life in this area of Tanzania and Kenya and is therefore the best guide you could possibly have.The Maasai are native to this area and have managed to live here and keep their traditional culture intact; the Maasai link this area of Kenya and Tanzania and ensure the continuation of traditional values that other tribes cast off long ago. The challenge is for the Maasai to improve their life conditions and not compromise 'the ways' of which they are so proud.I would encourage you to interact with the local people and learn about their culture and traditions. The Sinya community [with the help of Kibo Tours] uses tourism to help to make a stand up the challenges of a fast changing environment.

At Sinya you journey into Traditional Africa, learn about the language and way of a life of some of the last nomadic pastoralists on Earth, visit their "manyattas" (village), play with their children, enjoy singing and dancing or taste a roasted goat the Maasai way and all this under the Majestic presence of Mount Kilimanjaro the tallest mountain in Africa. This project is supported/funded by Kibo Tours who can be reached through the internet. Responsible tourism can change lives and I would encourage you to support responsible tour operators.Activities in Sinya include game drives in open car, night game drives [not available in the National Parks] to see the nocturnal animals, walking safaris escorted by Maasai warriors, interaction with the local Maasai including participation in ceremonies if available.

I know of one lady who on her last night at this camp was taken to a hill top to watch the sun set as she sipped champagne; as the setting sun turned the snows of Kilimanjaro a dusky pink the Maasai of the camp came dancing and chanting up the hill in tribute of her stay with them. It is a moment that will stay with her forever.

.For more information on Tanzania see http://www.betheladventure. and also for tourism information see - responsible tourism changes lives.

By: Ian Williamson

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