The Eyasi Lake lies at the southwestern end of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area between the steep slopes of the Great Rift Valley and the Kidero Mountains, only 133 km west of Lake Manyara. Lake Eyasi covers an area of about 1,050 square kilometres.
The lake resembles the other soda lakes like the better known Lake Natron in the area. The main attraction of Lake Eyasi is the Hadzabe bushmen, the indigenous people and one of the last hunter-gatherer tribes in Africa. Lake Eyasi has been their home for over 10,000 years. They still cling to their traditional way of life, hunting and gathering different kinds of fruit and honey. They are always happy to give Safari guests a demonstration of their bow and arrow skills.
Lake Area: 1.050 km²
Travel: 180 km from Arusha
Known for: Birds, Soda Lake, Hadzabe Bushmen, Datoga tribe
Activities: Game Drives, Walking Safaris, Datoga and Hadzabe tribes visit
Lake Eyasi stretches about 75 km to the southwest and is therefore even larger than Lake Manyara. Like Lake Manyara, Lake Eyasi is part of the East African Rift Valley system. The lake shore is located below the impressive 700 m high Rift Valley ridge, which is the south-eastern border of the Serengeti and Maswa Game Reserve. In the south-east of the lake is the Yaida Valley, the true home of the Hadzabe, the original and ethnologically highly interesting Bushman people, whom you will get to know a little closer during your two Eyasi days.
Lake Eyasi is, just like Manyara, a soda lake without any outflow, situated at an altitude of about 1000 meters. It forms the southern boundary of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and lies at the foot of the Oldeani Mountain. It is a 3188 m high former volcano whose crater summit is shaped like a big horseshoe. On the slopes of Mount Oldeani it is noticeable that they are covered with light green, huge grass. It is bamboo grass – “Oldeani” is the Maasai word for “bamboo”. In the Ngorongoro highlands bamboo grows only on this one mountain, while otherwise most mountains in East Africa (e.g. also Mt. Kenya) between 2100 and 2700 meters above sea level are covered with bamboo.
The whole area around Lake Eyasi could easily stand some rain, but there is only about 300 mm of rainfall per year. But in some places you can see green spots in the surroundings. There, clear water, which has collected in the caldera on the western side of the Oldeani Mountain, flows underground down the slope. At the foot of the mountain it comes back to the surface as spring water until it finally flows into Lake Eyasi. These Oldeani springs are extremely important for agriculture in the arid Eyasi basin. Due to the groundwater, most of the trees in the Magnola region still grow. Their tops join together at the top and under their dense canopy of leaves you will have a nice picnic lunch. – In the northeast, the horizon is dominated by the crater highlands, with the mountains Lemagrut and Oldeani, in the north beyond the edge of the cliffs as already mentioned by the Maswa Game Reserve and the vast plains of the Serengeti.
The lake and the swamps, grassy plains and forests along the lakeshore are home to many species of animals including leopards, hippos, lesser kudu, striped hyenas, warthogs, dik diks, African hares, various smaller wild cats and mongooses, reedbucks, bushbucks, many different monkeys, over 140 bird species, including large and lesser flamingos (sometimes they have migrated to their breeding grounds), storks, pelicans and numerous waders.
However, here in the Lake Eyasi shore area, the mammals found there are much harder to spot than the birds native to the area. Weaver birds and Swahili sparrows are probably the most common. The three-coloured shining star is sure to catch your eye again with its shiny plumage in blue, green and brown. The Green-crowned Roller is probably the most beautiful bird at Lake Eyasi. You cannot get enough of its pastel colours. The mechanical sounding song of the D’Arnaud’s Bearded Bird can be heard when the cocks perform their courtship dance like automatically moving dolls.
You can discover even more different birds in the trees and bushes around the lake: Crescent-moon pigeons, olive pigeons, tambourine doves, Hildebrandt’s francolin, guinea fowls, hornbills, crested turaco, fluted shrikes, fiscal shrikes, grey-backed bulbuls, brown-winged mousebirds, thrushes, finches, lampreys and finches. On the flowers and blossoming trees you can see again the metallic shining nectar birds, small birds with slender, bent beaks. The most common ones here are the Bronze Sunbird, Takazze Sunbird, and Fülleborn Sunbird, but the Golden-winged Sunbird and Malachite Sunbird are also not uncommon.
One option is a visit to the members of an interesting tribe that has settled at Lake Eyasi, the Datoga. Prehistory: The Hadzabe bushmen love to buy new arrowheads all the time, because good arrows are essential for their way of life as hunters. Therefore they often exchange the game meat they hunt or the wild honey they get from the local blacksmith for arrowheads, because the Bushmen do not use money. Eating game meat is generally taboo in the Datoga community, but as the blacksmiths are more of a marginalised social group in the Datoga community, they have no problem accepting and eating game meat from the Hadzabe Bushmen.
Unlike the Hadzabe, the Datoga live in permanent dwellings and real villages. The Datoga are a pastoral people whose culture is very similar to that of the Maasai, who not so long ago decided to practice agriculture in addition to cattle breeding. Like the Maasai, they are a very proud people with brave warriors. They are very attached to their old traditions and traditional practices and this means that they do not think much of state schooling and therefore withdraw from it. The whole western progressive thinking does not mean much to them, they prefer to stick to their old customs and traditions.
The language of the Hadzabe is a Khoisan dialect and with its click sounds is similar to the languages of other Bushmen further south of the continent, for example in the Kalahari. Bone finds have revealed that the Hadzabe may well be the direct descendants of early humans who lived in Tanzania three million years ago. So they are not immigrants like the Maasai, for example, and it can be said that the Bushmen are basically the real indigenous people of the country. The fact that they have been around for millions of years is a total success when measured in human time dimensions, because it means that they have been able to survive for over a hundred thousand generations. This success is probably due to their lifestyle, they live totally in harmony with the nature surrounding them. They also see themselves as part of nature and do not want to submit to the ecosystem in which they live, just like the other tribes and also we have done in our modern civilization. For this tribe, of which only about 1000 tribesmen are left (in 1965 there were apparently more than 30,000), the Stone Age is their present, so to speak.
The remaining population of the Hadzabe is of special interest to ethnologists and etymologists who are looking for clues in the old languages and habits of life to the origin of the native population of East Africa. Since human beings appeared on the scene in the form of Homo habilis (about 2 million years ago – proven by finds in the Olduvai Gorge), the ancestors of Homo habilis and thus the very first inhabitants of Africa had also been 99 percent honey collectors – at least that is what anthropologists think. After the divergence of the different tribes, the Hadzabe tribal group is in fact the only one that still carries on this traditional economy of collecting and hunting. This way of survival has probably been typical for quite a long period of our human evolution. Only much later, about 12000 years ago, our ancestors started to breed plants and domestic animals.