wa Mbu Cultural Tourism Programme
Welcome to the green oasis of Mto wa Mbu,
where you can see a mixture of different Tanzanian cultures, while enjoying the
tropical vegetation at the foot of the Rift Valley.
inhabitants of Mto wa Mbu offer you:
A walk through the farms in the green oasis at the foot of
the Rift Valley
A climb to Balaa hill from where you can oversee the whole
A view into the culture of the many different tribes
living in the area
A trip to the Miwaleni lake and waterfall, where papyrus
plants grow abundantly
Visits to development projects that aim at improving
agriculture and start income generating activities for the farmers
The profit will be used to promote
energy-saving stoves: your visit helps to protec our environment.
A cultural tourism
programme executed with advice from SNV B
the Netherlands Development Organisation and the Tanzanian Tourist Board.
Mto wa Mbu is situated on the
way from Arusha to the National Parks in Northern Tanzania, just at the foot of
the Rift Valley. Mto wa Mbu is the entry port to Lake Manyara National Park; the
park with the tree-climbing lions and many birds named after the long drawn lake
that is fed by the water flowing down from the escarpment of the Rift Valley. It
also conveniently on the way to Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti which makes
it an ideal rest place for most safari travellers.
The area around Mto wa Mbu was
rather dry and hardly populated till the early fifties, when the first steps
were made to irrigate the area. Within a few years hundreds of acres of newly
cultivable land were created. The news of the fertile lands spread rapidly
through the country and from all remote corners people came to try their luck.
Fruits and vegetables from all over Tanzania were introduced in the area. Within
a few decades the dry and empty plains were turned into a green semi-urban
The rapid population growth
also turned Mto wa Mbu in a melting pot of cultures. Nowhere else in Tanzania
have so many different tribes gathered in such a small area. Many people have
still kept their traditions. The various traditional modes of production stand
as an example of this cultural diversity. In the little town Chagga people are
producing their banana beer, a farmer from Kigoma makes palm oil from palm trees
that he brought from the shores of Lake Tanganyika, the Sandawe are making bow
and arrow for hunting on smaller game and the Rangi are using the papyrus from
the lakes and rivers for making the most beautiful mats and baskets. On the
surrounding plains Maasai families live in traditional bomas and the warriors
wander with their cattle looking for pasture and water.
You can choose different tours
that show you the scenic beauty and cultural diversity of Mto wa Mbu.
Mto wa Mbu farming tour
Starting from the market,
where you visit a Chagga family producing banana beer, you walk northwards
passing many different farms. On your way you get extensive explanation about
the various fruits and vegetables growing in the area. Mzee Filipo, a farmer
from Kigoma, will show you his oilpress and tell you about the history of
irrigation in the area. Your trip ends at a farm built by the Belgium
Development Organisation ACT, where you can visit their sunflower seeds
production and make marvellous pictures of colourful flowerfields with the rift
valley as background.
Papyrus Lake tour
This walk starts five
kilometre north of Mto wa Mbu, where the Miwaleni waterfall that falls down from
the rift valley has created a green oasis. Passing some little streams you walk
in the direction of the Papyrus lake, from where the Rangi people collect the
materials for the mats and baskets they make. On your way you can see rice
farming and visit Sandawe families who still make traditional bows and arrows
for hunting. The walk can be extended with a climb to the waterfall at the rift
Balaa hill tour
Starting from Mto wa Mbu you
walk at the foot of the rift valley in northern direction. The farmers in this
area mainly grow bananas (many different 30 varieties) and the big leaves
provide a pleasant shade. On your way you can visit some farms and get
explanation about the irirrigation methods in the area. Finally, you can climb
Balaa hill, "the hill of misfortune", in about twenty minutes and
enjoy the beautiful view over the green oasis of Mto wa Mbu. On the top the
guides will explain you why the hill got its mysterious name. The walk can be
extended with a visit to the Njoro springs, one of the main water sources for
the area and a nearby waterfall.
One day walk
People who like walking can
combine the three half a day tours in a one day walk. Starting from the Mto wa
Mbu market you go via the farm of ACT to the Papyrus lake. On your way back to
Mto wa Mbu you walk along the foot of the rift valley, passing the Njoro springs
and the Balaa hill.
When doing a part of the
distance by car the various tours can also be combined in half or full day.
Another popular option is renting a bicycle in the town and including many of
the above tour options listed above. The guides of Mto wa Mbu have also recently
started boat tours which include visits with fishermen and local farmers. On
request, other tailor made tours can be arranged.
Our guides all grew up in Mto
wa Mbu and recently finished Manyara secondary school. They can all speak
English and are very familiar with the area. They will be happy to tell you many
interesting facts and stories about the different cultures, the irrigation
system and the various fruits and vegetables in the area. While looking for a
job or further education, they like to gain experience and earn a small income
by showing tourists the beauty of their area.
In Mto wa Mbu there are
several camp sites and guest houses. In most of these places tourists can eat a
meal and order a lunch box. During tours, visitors will have the option of
enjoying traditional cuisine prepared by local women in the village. Apart from
the guest houses and camp sites in town, half hour by car from Mto wa Mbu there
are three high quality lodges on the edge of the Rift Valley that oversee Lake
Manyara National Park and surrounding area.
In the eighties the ILO had a
Flood control programme in Mto wa Mbu, that also assisted the district in
improving the irrigation system. Various intakes and aqueducts ensure that the
water flows to all farms in the area. At the border of the irrigated land there
are however serious problems of saltation, created by volcanic activities in the
past. In this area the Belgium organisation ACT has in cooperation with the
Monduli District Council built up a farm in order to try to use the land in a
productive way and create employment for the local people. Among the crops that
grow on the farm are many colourful flowers. The farm is also used as a centre
from which ACT carries out its various community development activities. Nearby
a dam has been built, where the Maasai cattle can drink water, even in the dry
period. With support from ACT a Maasai women's group is producing energy saving
stoves, that use three times less firewood and therefore help to preserve the
natural forests and reduce the workload of women. The profit from the tourism
programme will be used for the promotion of these stoves and other development
purposes in the area.
When you are in Mto wa Mbu,
feel free to visit the Maasai women's group on Mondays and Wednesdays, when they
are producing the stoves. The women will proudly show you their production
From Arusha there are numerous public buses
that leave from the main bus stand going to Mto wa Mbu. The bus fare should be
approximately 1,500 TSh. If taking your own transport, you will take take the
road going to Dodoma until Makayuni, at Makayuni turn right and drive down the
gravel road for approximately 15 km. The trip from Arusha to Mto wa Mbu should
take about 2 hours by car and 3 hours by bus.
In Mto wa Mbu, tours can be arranged from the
Red Banana Café located in the centre of town. Here, you can meet
a guide who can also help you find a hostel or camping site. Arrangements for
various tours can be made with your guide. Alternatively, tours be booked
through your tour operator.
contact your tour operator
information Centre in Arusha
(Boma Road, Tel: 057 - 3842/3)