Eyasi basin

The Eyasi Basin is found in Mbulu and Karatu districts, northern Tanzania. This Hadza territory lies between latitudes 3 ̊ 20’- 4 ̊ 05’ S and longitudes 3450’- 35 ̊ 30’ E (Mabulla, 1996). It is located about 200 km southwest of Arusha town and 50 km southwest of Karatu town. Also, it is located about 50 km south of Olduvai Gorge Geosite, 25 km southeast of Laetoli Geosite and southern border of Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA). The Eyasi Basin lies at the bottom of a branch of the East African Rift Valley System (Mabulla, 1996). The region is characterized by block- faulting and volcanoes and it is marked by two major grabens (the Mang’ola and Yaeda-Endanyawishi Grabens), a horst, several unbroken plains with isolated hills and inselbergs, valleys and fault escarpments that range from 1030 m to 2030 m above sea level (Mabulla, 1996)

This Geosite includes several geo-tourism sites, which altogether forms the Eyasi Basin geosite. This includes the Lake Eyasi itself where there is a good viewpoint of the spectacular landscape of the Lake. The Hadza hunter-foragers of Eyasi Basin are one of Tanzania’s unique communities that have attracted tourists, researchers and many people to learn, observe and study their culture. Not only Hadza hunter-foragers in Eyasi Basin who have attracted people all around the world but also the Datoga who are typically pastoralist depending entirely on livestock for their livelihoods. Their traditional ways of living have brought a lot of tourists and researchers in Eyasi Basin improving the economy of local community residing the area. Moreover the hot spring natural waters found on the Eyasi Lake are interesting to find and observe. Furthermore, around Ghorofani area, in Mang’ola there is natural spring water (chemchem in Kiswahili) that is the main source of water in Mang’ola village. The Mumba rock shelter where evidences of our cultural history and evolution origin have been uncovered is also the potential site included within the Eyasi Basin Geosite. The Eyasi Landscape (the Lake, Eyasi rift scarp, natural springs, semiarid vegetation, etc.) if these are well developed and managed for geo-tourism, Eyasi Basin will attract a large number of tourists.

Lake Eyasi

Lake Eyasi itself is oriented SW-NE and is 80 km long, with a mean width of 14.5 km (Matagi, 2004). It has an area of 1,160 km2 and is located at an altitude of 1030 m above sea level (Matagi, 2004). Lake Eyasi is highly saline and shallow; its seasonal water level fluctuations in the lake are dramatic. During the dry season, the lake may dry almost entirely leaving a thin crust of salt (Field Observation 2014). At the Lake one can explore the trails around the lake, canoe along the shore particularly depending on the time of the year and the amount of rain the local area has had. The wet season starts from November to early May. There are two peaks of rainfall during the wet season; the short rains of December to January and the long rains occurring from March to May (Mabulla, 2013). Normally the typical dry season in the area lasts from May to October. At this time the lake is so dry that you could drive completely across it (Field observation 2014). The impressive nature of the lake tourists could just sit and enjoy the beautiful lake views especially at sunset on top of the rock.

The Hadza Hunter-Foragers

Culturally, the Eyasi Basin refers to the country east, south and west of Lake Eyasi, which has been utilized for centuries or millennia by Hadza foragers (Mabulla, 1996), Figure 4). The hunter-foragers of the Eyasi Basin call themselves Hadzabe (Had-za-bay), “Hadza” for short (Mabulla, 2007). The Hadza is one of the very few societies in the world who still live depending on natural food resources, that is, hunting game, collecting honey, digging tubers, gathering berries and baobab fruits. The actual number of Hadza is unknown because of their mobile lifestyle. However, they are estimated to be roughly about 1,000 people (Marlowe, 2010). As a hunter-forager people, their deep reservoir of indigenous knowledge about natural resource use has enabled them to survive in a challenging semi-arid environment (Mabulla, 2013). The Hadza hunting and foraging strategies and life history have been not only invaluable to researchers interested in the life style of our ancestors before agriculture but also to all people interesting on understanding the human culture (Plate 28-30).

Figure 4:Hadza camps distribution across the Eyasi Basin in January to March 2012. Because Hadza are semi-mobile hunters these camps might have changed to new location. Just to show how Hadza are semi-mobile and their distribution across the Eyasi territory (Source: Mabulla, I. 2013)

Plate 29: The Hadza hunter-foragers demonstrate arrow throwing to visitors. During visitations tourists buy their material culture, such as bead necklaces, earrings, pendants, tobacco pipes, arrows and bows

Plate 30: Meat remains important in Hadza diet. Gonga Petro the most known hunter in Yaeda Chini preparing the wild meat for consumption (Field photo by Mabulla, I. 2012)

The Eyasi Basin or the Hadza camps are accessible despite of some rough terrains, rocky hills and vegetation covers especially the Hadza living in Yaeda valley. Safari and tour operators know the Basin hence stimulates the tourism industry at large. In Mang’ola area you might find nice hotels, tented camps and other accommodations for your stay and enjoyment while visiting the Eyasi Basin and Hadza camps in particular.

Datoga Pastoralists

The Datoga are highland Nilotic pastoralists. They moved into the southern areas of the Eyasi Basin in the last few centuries as they were displaced, first, by the plain Nilotic Maasai pastoralists from the Ngorongoro highlands, and later by the agriculturalist Iraqwi. The Datoga livelihood in the Eyasi Basin depends on livestock. They herd the East African short horn zebu (Bos indicus), some goats, sheep, and donkeys.

Nowadays, Datoga pastoralists interact more with the Hadza than any other ethnic group in the region (Field Observation). They give foods and do exchange and trade of meat and other goods with the Hadza hunter-foragers. Like to the Hadza hunter-foragers, tourists and researchers also visit the Datoga pastoralists to observe their ways of life. People visit Datoga pastoral to see their sacred areas, bomas, and traditional dances and buy traditional souvenirs (Plate 31). Tourists also enjoy watching Datoga blacksmith manufacturing various metal objects. These dances are organized whenever there is a ceremony or traditional activities, and to visitors.


Plate 31: Left-Traditional Tatoga dances, Right: Tatoga young boys after circumcision


Cultural tourism in Eyasi Basin is growing at an alarming rate with improved livelihood of the people. Tourists come to the Eyasi Basin primarily to observe foragers and pastorals ways of living (culture). The Hadza hunter-foragers for instance in Mang’ola nowadays camp at particular strategic areas to attract tourists and stay at the camp longer than usual. Traditionally, hunter-foragers used to be mobile, staying at a camp for a couple of weeks. Thus, the hunter-forager mobile land-use system is changing towards a semi-permanent land- use pattern due to tourism. Thus proper management and control of visitors should be taken into account.

Hot Natural Springs

At Lake Eyasi there are three hot natural springs. One is which is quite hot is found in Jangwani area on a flat surface near the big lovely rock on the lake flat. The hot spring effuses its water in almost one to two square meters area. The other spring is located on the foot edge of a big outcrop of uplifted metamorphic rock. The latter has moderate temperature. These hot springs are produced by the emergency of geothermally ground water from the earth crust (Plate 32).

Plate 32: Hot springs of Lake Eyasi

Plant Resources

Plant resources of the Eyasi Basin have been categorized into four major categories namely:- bush fruits, tubers and roots, fruits and nuts and gums and resins. These plant resources occur throughout the Hadza territory. Bush fruits that are consumed by the Hadza are Cordia gharaf, Cordia sinensis (Undushipi in Hadzane), Salvodora persica, Dobera lorathifolia, Grewia villosa and others (Mabulla, 1996). Tubers and plant roots utilized by the Hadza include Vigna frutescens, Coccinea aurantiaca (Matukwayako), Ipomea, Vatovaea pseudolablab (Shumuwako), Vigna sps and others (Vincent 1985 as cited in Mabulla, 1996). Fruits and nuts like baobab (Adansonia digitata) that are widely distributed across the country of Eyasi Basin form a large part of Hadza diet. Gums and resins of several Acacia species and legumes are commonly eaten as snacks by Hadza (Mabulla, 1996).

Several important medicinal plants commonly used by Datoga and Hadzabe includes Trichilia emetica and Commiphora africana. These are used for ritual and the latter for both ritual and making fire. Other medicinal plants found in the area are Ziziphus mucronata, Croton dychogamous, Cissus quadrangulariand Maerua parvifolia commonly used by Hadzabe (Plate 33). These plants treat normal diseases like stomach pains, fever etc.

Plate 33: Trichilia emetica and Commiphora africana(Top left and right respectively) and (Bottom left and right): Ziziphus mucronata and Maerua parvifolia

Natural Water Spring

Drought is persistent in the Eyasi Basin due to uncertainty of rainfall and the nature of the climate of the region being semiarid. Unreliable rains and high temperatures had exacerbated the existence of drought conditions throughout the years in the basin. Most of known springs scattered along Lake Eyasi shore, Barazani and Qangdend/ Ghorofani village have dried up due to drought.

Nonetheless there is one fresh water spring (Chemchem: Plate 33) around Qangdend/ Ghorofani village which has the flow of water and the only remaining depending water source in Mang’ola area. People utilize the waters for domestic use, agriculture and pastoralism. Madulu and Yanda (2005)noted that this spring gets water from the evergreen forests on Oldeani and the Ngorongoro crater rim. The fresh water spring source at Qangdend/Ghorofani village is in critical condition and if no immediate actions taken, the risk of perishing is growing. Environmental degradation caused by excessive clearing of trees, bushes, grazing and trampling of water sources by large herds of cattle, goat, donkey and sheep is higher (Plate 35). Underneath the tree covers is completely dry. In addition to that large amount of large trees have old dried (Plate 35-36).  Animals are drinking water up to the outlet of the spring and there is no restriction and control that preserve the five hectarescatchment area.

Qangdend/ Ghorofani natural spring water (Chemchem)

The increasing demands of water for large-scale irrigation using water pumps, particularly for onions as a cash crop, maize and rice in Barazani, Jagwani and Ghorofani where the catchment originates, have reduced waters from the Ngorongoro highlands aquifers. Competing demands of water resources between sectors, especially wildlife, livestock, people and irrigation farming have contributed to water shortages in Eyasi Basin. Therefore there is a need to establish management plans to protect and conserve this fresh water spring that not long will disappear if no further intervention from stakeholders and government. And because people are not settled around the catchment area, this might make easier to control the rest of challenges. This may be done through awareness seminars, public meetings and by-law enforcement.

Plate 35: Grazing near the catchment area endangered the long sustainability of the spring

The natural fresh water spring is unique because all the Eyasi Basin area is salty nonetheless the waters produced from the spring at Qangdend/ Ghorofani village is 100% fresh. Another value of this fresh water spring is that it is the only remaining source of water in Mang’ola for human habitation. Both foragers, famers, herders need water alike. Hence the need to protect and conserve it is mandate.

Plate 36: Many old trees around the catchment area have dried and fallen. No any afforestation strategy in place.

Plate 37: Overgrazing has left the soil unprotected making it susceptible to soil erosion

Mumba Rock Shelter

Mumba rock shelter is located at between 3º – 17’ 7” E and Latitude 3º – 32’ 26”S, approximately 1050 m above mean sea level on the southeastern side of Lake Eyasi in northern Tanzania, and 62 km south of Olduvai Gorge (Plate 38). The Lake Eyasi basin is situated near the southwestern terminus of the Crater Highlands volcanic area, but volcanic debris is found only in the northernmost portion of the lake and does not reach the rock shelter. The basin is of Pleistocene age and is now filled mostly with sediment. When dry, the lakebed is subject to severe aeolian deflation by strong northerly winds, but the lake level has been high enough at times to submerge Mumba rock shelter (Prendergast et al., 2007).

The archaeological deposits at Mumba rock shelter, northern Tanzania, have been excavated for more than 70 years, starting with Margit and Ludwig Köhl-Larsen in the 1930s. The assemblages of Middle Stone Age (MSA) and Later Stone Age (LSA) artifacts collected from this site constitute the type sequences for these cultural phases in East Africa. The best-known and most notable feature is the presence of geometric microlithic stone artifacts and ostrich eggshell (OES) beads found throughout a large portion of the sequence. Microlithic technologies and the manufacture of personal ornaments play a central role in deliberations about the origins of modern human behaviour, the dispersals of modern humans within and out of Africa, and their responses to factors such as climate change. The abundant occurrence of microlithics and personal ornaments in the archaeological record is often used to differentiate between the LSA and MSA in Africa. Also, Iron Age and biological evidence for the emergence of our own subspecies, Homo sapiens sapiens have been uncovered in Mumba. Three hominid molars of anatomically modern Homo sapiens were recovered from the Mumba Bed VI-B dated to ca. 130,000 bp (Mehlman, 1989).

Mumba rock shelter also has rock art (Plate 39-41). Shelter dimension were not taken in the field due to the floor surface to stand upon due to severe excavations and removal of surface sediments near the wall. Nonetheless, the shelter is estimated to be more than 20 m long, 15 m wide, and 20 m high. The slope of painted surface is steep to about 40-90°. The painted surface is horizontally and vertically not so quite flat and smooth. The size of painted area can reach to about 18-25 m2. A quick field interpretation has shown that these paintings belong into two-rock art traditions. These are Hunter-Foragers, Red-Geometric (H-F, RG) Art tradition and Bantu Language Speaker Art tradition. Although most of the paintings have fed, but H-F, RG are characterized by animals, “stick” human figures painted in monochrome dusky red. Bantu Language Speaker Art are characterized by animals (possibly domesticated animals), human figures etc.  These are crudely painted in monochrome dirty-white colour. Painting analysis of this shelter has not been conducted. There is a report that the paper is in preparation.

Mumba rock shelter and the rock painting sites are not officially open to tourists as no Antiquities guides are posted at the sites. Nevertheless, tour and safari operators from Arusha and some individuals in the Eyasi Basin have been taking tourists to these important sites.

Plate 38: Mumba rock shelter

Plate 39: Mumba painting panel (original photo, manipulated in Adobe Photoshop C5)

Plate 40: Mumba painting panel, manipulated by ImageJ, DStretch Plugin. ImageJ, DStretch Plugin is used to manipulate colours and bring up faded images or improve the clarity of colours (see the red paintings and compare with the original photo; Plate 41)

Plate 41: Examples of some figures visible on the panel (human figures and an animal). The top left manipulated by ImageJ, DStretch Plugin and afterward traced by Adobe Photoshop C5 (the below photo)