The Datoga People of Tanzania

Datoga blacksmith and apprentice. Photo by kiwiexplorer. Used with permission through a Creative Commons license.

Ujuzi’s safaris to Tanzania often include visiting the Datoga people near Lake Eyasi, who are famous for their blacksmithing skills. Men do metal work over open fires, crafting arrowheads, spears, knives and jewelry for themselves and their friends, as well as to sell to other tribes, such as the Hadza. Visitors get to watch as craftsmen transform rough metal into a useful object using just hot coals, bellows, and a few tools.

The bronze and gold bracelets that the blacksmiths make are worn by Datoga women, who use them not only for decoration, but also to make music! They hit them together to accompany group singing.

Datoga woman. Photo by Tim Knight. Used with permission through a Creative Commons license.

One thing that stands out to many visitors is that many Datoga have beautiful circular patterns tattooed around their eyes and on their cheeks. Handmade clothes of beaded red leather are traditional, but nowadays it’s more common to wear black or patterned cloth and modern Tanzanian clothing.

In addition to blacksmithing, the Datoga culture centers on herding cattle. They may also raise goats, chicken and other livestock; over the past decades they have started planting grains and vegetables, as well. Men do the herding while women do most of the childcare and cooking, cleaning, and collecting firewood and water. One man may have multiple wives.

Most Datoga speak only their own language, with just 5 percent bilingual in Swahili. Translators will make sure you  understand what’s going on—and that your Datoga hosts understand you—so that you get the most out of your visit.

Would you like to know more about the Datoga and other Tanzanian cultural groups who adhere to their traditional lifestyles? The Warriors Organization is a great resource for learning more.

Featured Lodge: Kisima Ngeda Tented Camp

Kisima Ngeda Tented Camp is situated on the shores of Lake Eyasi in Tanzania, with sweeping views to-ward the Rift. Across this seasonal soda lake, the Alipi escarpment wall rises 2,000 feet up into the Ngorongoro Conservation Area providing a stunning backdrop. The camp is beautifully set in a Llala palm and acacia forest and is part of 200-acre family-owned farm with a natural spring nearby which feeds into the lake.  Each of the seven tents is built on a permanent wooden platform with palm-thatched roof, a hand-carved bed, and an enclosed bathroom and shower.  The tents are carefully created to be low-impact, spacious, and comfortable, with a stunning view of the lake.

Small groups of Hadzabe Bushmen live around Lake Eyasi. Their language resembles the click languages of other Bushmen further south in the Kalahari.  The Hadzabe live entirely off the bush and from bow hunting, generally small antelopes and baboons; although in rainy seasons gazelles and antelopes come down from the Ngorongoro or Serengeti to their lush bush lands offering them richer pickings.

Cultural visits with the Hadzabe can be arranged that allow visitors to see their simple bush homes where a tree canopy or a cave provides them with shelter.  Additionally, clients can participate in a hunting or gathering walk with the tribe.

The Hadza

Near Lake Eyasi, Tanzania lives an indigenous tribe whose lives have remained largely unchanged over the past 10,000 years.  The bush provides for all their needs and they are often willing for visitors to come and see their simple homes and way of life. Their language resembles the click languages of other Bushmen furher south in the Kalahari.

Our safaris to Tanzania often include visiting the Hadzabe people on a hunting or gathering walk (your choice based on your desired level of activity).

The December 2009 issue of National Geographic included the article, “The Hadza,” by Michael Finkel. It’s a fabulous article with excellent pictures of the tribe we can introduce you to on your next safari to Tanzania!