Experience the world with us

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Kilimanjaro: The Lost History

You would definitely draw blank looks from your climb or safari guides in Tanzania if you brought up the subject of World War One around the campfire or in the mess tent. Especially in the Kilimanjaro area. It might come as a surprise to know that some of the most iconic battles of the War were fought in the area.  

Source: flickr.com via African on Pinterest

First there was the “The Battle of Kilimanjaro” that took place in November 1914 and then there was the “The Battle of Kahe” that took place in March 1916, both during East African Campaign of World War I.  Not a lot of people know this but the South African forces played a big role in the 1916 battle.

The Battle of Kilimanjaro (1914)

Source: flickr.com via African on Pinterest

The Battle of Kilimanjaro at Longido took place in German East Africa in November 1914 and was an early skirmish during the East African Campaign of the First World War.
The British conquest of German East Africa was planned as a two-pronged invasion of the German colony, at (1) the port town of Tanga and (2) the settlement Longido on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro. The plan was designed at a Mombasa staff conference with Major General A. E. Aitken in overall command. The first and largest prong was to be the capture of Tanga with the British Indian Expeditionary Force "B" of some 8,000 men in two brigades.

Source: ntz.info via African on Pinterest

The second prong would be an attack on the German defenses at Longido in the north around Kilimanjaro, then swing south and seize Neu Moshi, the western terminus of the Usambara or Northern Railroad. "The objective for the capture of Longido was to squeeze the German Schutztruppe in the upper end of a two-hundred-mile pincer."[2] The region was a major German settlement area with established plantations of sisal, coffee and other cash crops at the northern edge of the Usambara highlands. Since small German raiding parties had already begun to ambush British detachments and attack the Uganda Railway, the destruction of German forces in the area bordering British East Africa was a key objective of the British plan of operation. “The strategy was faultless on paper.”[3]

By late October 1914 the British Indian Expeditionary Force "C" gathered with 4,000 men near the border of British and German East Africa, commanded by Brigadier General J. M. Stewart. The brigade included colonial volunteers who called themselves East Africa Mounted Rifles.[4] Flawed intelligence reports estimated the German military presence in the region at 200 men; however, there were 600 askaris in three companies plus the colonial volunteers of 8th Schützenkompagnie [rifle company] of 86 young Germans on horseback.[5]

Source: iwm.org.uk via African on Pinterest

On 3 November 1914 some 1,500 Punjabis of the British force came up the slope at night near Longido and, at daylight in the morning fog were caught in the crossfire of a strong German defensive position. The large force of Indian infantry fought well when counterattacked, however, during the day the British attackers made no headway, but suffered substantial casualties.
By mid-morning, a mounted patrol of the 8th Rifle Company ambushed a British supply column; roughly 100 mules carrying water for the troops were stampeded away by the German horsemen. Some of the carriers in the column panicked and dropped their loads leaving food, ammunition and equipment behind. The British officers with their now widely scattered troops waited until darkness, determined their situation to be untenable, pulled out and down the mountain and marched back to British East Africa having accomplished nothing.[6][7] This defeat of the invaders by a force less than half their size cooled the enthusiasm for war especially among the British colonial volunteers.[8]

Source: iwm.org.uk via African on Pinterest

The northern prong attack at Longido had been intended as little more than a diversion. "The main effort was [the] ambitious amphibian assault on the port of Tanga" that commenced on 2 November 1914.[9] With the northern prong accounted for, the askari companies were shuttled by rail to Tanga to assist in opposing the southern prong.[10]

The Battle of Kahe (1916)
The Battle of Kahe was fought during the East African Campaign of World War I. It was the last action between German and Entente forces before the German retreat from the Kilimanjaro area. British and South African forces surrounded German positions at Kahe, south of Mount Kilimanjaro. Entente forces inflicted heavy casualties [11] and captured large German artillery pieces while receiving comparably little casualties. German forces retreated from there, further into the interior of the colony.  
More on The Battle of Kahe and the battles around Kilimanjaro:


  1. ^ the description of this Bundesarchiv image identifies those pictured as "planters from the Kilimanjaro region." In all probability these volunteer troopers were members of the mounted 8th Schützenkompagnie [rifle company] composed of settlers, their sons, plantation administrators, etc., from the Usambara and Kilimanjaro area of German East Africa.
  2. ^ Miller, Battle for the Bundu, p. 54
  3. ^ Miller, p. 55
  4. ^ Farwell, The Great War in Africa, p. 161
  5. ^ Hoyt, Guerilla, p. 55
  6. ^ Hoyt, p. 56
  7. ^ Miller, p. 72
  8. ^ Farwell, p. 162
  9. ^ Farwell, p. 163
  10. ^ Miller, p. 61
  11. ^ Thompson, E S (1916). A Machine Gunner's Odyssey Through German East Africa: The Diary of E S Thompson, Part I. 17 January - 24 May 1916.



Source: iwm.org.uk via African on Pinterest

Source: flickr.com via African on Pinterest

Monday, February 18, 2013

Serengeti wildebeest migration, a natural African wilderness drama

By Apolinari Tairo, eTN Tanzania | Feb 17, 2013 

 © Juan Nel

TANZANIA (eTN) - Life in the Serengeti National Park in northern Tanzania may be an exciting interlude in one’s lifetime. It is where a natural drama plays out every year. You will find wild animals moving from the far corners of the park to another location in search of life, while others are hunting and being hunted.

 © Juan Nel

The Serengeti’s unique ecosystem has inspired writers from Ernest Hemingway to Peter Mattheissen, and filmmakers like Hugo von Lawick and Alan Root, as well as numerous photographers and scientists.

© Juan Nel

Professor Bernhard Grzimek, a prominent German zoologist, made a classic film and wrote a book, all with the titles “Serengeti Shall Not Die.” Like the biblical theory of the waters that flooded the Earth for 150 days, the Serengeti looks like a place where Noah’s ark landed and let the animals free to live there.

© Juan Nel

The Serengeti is a wild place with the greatest wildlife show on Earth, in which some 1.5 million wildebeest; 200,000 zebra; and 400,000 Thomson’s gazelle are the main players – they are born there and are compelled to follow the screenplay until the moment they take their last breath.

© Juan Nel 

Here are plains so vast that it is called Serengeti (from the Maasai word Siringit, meaning endless plains) and here, if you catch the migration in the right place at the right time, are Africa’s iconic animals in the sort of abundance that elsewhere is gone forever.

 © Juan Nel

The wildebeest zing through the Serengeti at breakneck speed, and they pour over the Tanzanian border across the Mara River in the Maasai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya, where they settle and graze until the end of October.

© Juan Nel

Then they will slowly and steadily head back south to the short grass plains in the southern Serengeti, arriving at the end of December. You will also need to be prepared for rain, for it is rain that nourishes the short, sweet grass that is the imperative beyond this ceaseless movement of hooves.

© Juan Nel

Nature gives these memorable experiences to tourists during two main seasons, and there are three specific places where one is mostly likely to catch the movement at its most spectacular. Down in the southern Serengeti, in the Ndutu area between January and March, the wildebeest gather on the short grass plains to give birth or produce calves.

© Juan Nel

Almost all calves are born within the same three-week period, and observers get the chance to see these glorious plains, looking like a big, natural wildlife maternity ground, filled from one horizon to the other with wildebeest mothers and their calves, umbilical cords often still dangling down their fronts, cavorting in what seems like a vast, green Eden, creating an unforgettable awesome sight.

© Juan Nel

A baby wildebeest starts struggling to its feet within minutes of its birth, and runs within five or ten minutes; after just a day, it can keep up with the herd. There will then come the time when the wildebeests will move off the Serengeti plains into the woodland zone in the central Serengeti, and gather in larger compressed numbers to be ready for the rut.

 © Juan Nel

For about three weeks, half a million calves are conceived amidst indescribable noise and confusion as the bulls compete for cows, clash horns, bleat, and cavort.

 © Juan Nel

All the while, all along the route, thousands of other animals, huge herds of zebra and buffalo, as well as topi, other antelope, and the odd rhino join the journey; while lying in the wait are the predators. Being territorial and needing to guard their domains, few of the predators follow the migration – they merely wait until what must seem to them like the biggest feast on Earth regularly comes trundling into view.
 © Juan Nel

The old, the weak, the newly bor,n and the unlucky wildebeests never make it, but thousands of others do. From central Serengeti, the herds move up into the Western Corridor. On their way, sometime between April and June, they have to cross the Grumeti River where some of Africa’s oldest, wiliest and largest crocodiles are to be found. To see bleating herds massing together, sensing their fear at the crossing combined with their compulsion to do so, is to see nature at its most extraordinary.
 Migration Safari by Juan Nel

They move nervously, they hover on the brink, the crocodiles circle below the water. The wildebeests lose courage and pull back. Then, they mass up on the bank of the river again and eventually they go – first one, then another, then a headlong stream of hooves, risking the jaws of some of Africa’s largest crocodiles. The crocodiles always get a few. It is not pretty sight - it is awesome and terrifying - the thrashing of the hooves, the bleating, and the sense of lives being snuffed out.

© Juan Nel

It is a reminder that nature is tough and a big secret. It isn’t interested in individual fates. It has its eye on posterity and on the survival of the masses.
 Migration Safari by Juan Nel

Many wildebeests are trampled and downed, and later the vultures and marabou storks come circling, attracted by the smell of death. Those wildebeests which emerge on the other side of the river have another gauntlet to run away – this time, running away from predators on the ground - the lions and hyenas which have merely to give mild chases and latch onto the nearest, unlucky wildebeests.
 © Juan Nel

The Serengeti plains account for over 14,763 kilometers, and the migration itself travels 800 kilometers on the path from Tanzania to the Masai Mara Reserve in Kenya.
 © Juan Nel

In competition for the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa, the Serengeti National Park received the most votes, with voters focusing on the annual wildebeest migration as the natural wonder. This wildlife park is in Tanzania but stands as a pride of the entire African continent. It is a park for Africa and the world, where future generations will come to experience the miracles and wonders of nature.

© Juan Nel
The Tanzania Tourist Board (TTB) has released several pieces of literature and quick movies about the Serengeti, with the intention of showing people across the world what this spectacular creation looks like. It is made not only for humans, but for the wild creatures which have no voice to express their presence on Earth, but can show before us their hidden instincts.

© Juan Nel

The wildebeest migration in the Serengeti plains is the longest and largest over-land wildlife migration in the world, and that is why voters for the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa voted this park (Serengeti) a Natural Wonder of Africa.
  © Juan Nel

Taken from: http://www.eturbonews.com/33505/serengeti-wildebeest-migration-natural-african-wilderness-drama [18.02.2013] 
Migration Safari by Juan Nel

© Juan Nel

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The legend of Olduvai Gorge: Mary Leakey was born on this day in 1913.

Mary Leakey was a major figure in the uncovering of East African prehistory, best known for her excavations (digging for fossils) of some of the earliest members of the human family, their footprints, and their artifacts (any tools, weapons, or other items made by humans).

Early life

Mary Douglas Leakey was born Mary Douglas Nicol in London, England, on February 6, 1913. She was the only child of Erskine Nicol, a landscape painter, and Cecilia Frere Nicol. Much of her childhood was spent traveling abroad with her parents, except during World War I (1914–18; a war that involved many countries in the world including France, Great Britain, Russia, the United States, and their allies fighting against Austria-Hungary, Germany, and their allies) when her family spent the time in England. At the house of her mother's aunts and grandmother in London she was first introduced to dogs, marking the beginning of her strong affection for animals, an important part of her life. After the war, Mary's family resumed its annual cycle of European travel, followed by a return to London in summer to sell the paintings that her father produced on their travels.

Education and early career

Mary's early education was largely informal, although she did attend school in France for a short time. Her father taught her to read and some mathematics, and he also inspired her interest in the natural world and in archaeology (the study of ancient human life based on the things that were left behind). While living in the Dordogne region in France, near many prehistoric caves, Mary was exposed to Paleolithic (over 2.5 million years ago; the first period of the Stone Age, a time when stone tools were used by humans) archaeology which, combined with her artistic talents, formed the basis of her career. Her father died in France in 1926. Mary and her mother returned to England, where she unhappily attended several convent schools in Kensington and Wimbledon. Mary was an independent person and was expelled twice from school for her spirited behavior.

Between 1930 and 1934 Mary took part in excavations at Hembury, Devon, and attended lectures in geology (the branch of science involving the study of the Earth) and archaeology at London University and the London Museum. She also began drawing stone tools for publication. She was introduced to Louis Leakey (1903–1972) as a possible artist for his book Adam's Ancestors and was hired. They were married in 1936 and had three children, Jonathan, Richard, and Philip.

Archaeological discoveries in Kenya

Mary moved to Kenya with Louis and worked with him in East Africa for much of her career. She introduced modern archaeological techniques to East Africa. Her initial East African excavations were the Late Stone Age sites at Hyrax Hill and Njoro River Cave, and she was the first person to describe the important dimple-based pottery from East Africa. She also worked at a number of other sites, including Olorgesailie, which was famous for its great number of middle Pleistocene (commonly known as the Ice Age) hand axes. She also worked with Louis on several East African ape sites, and she was instrumental in the recovery of many fossil ape remains. In 1951 Leaky studied and recorded the beautiful Late Pleistocene Tanzanian rock paintings that years later formed the basis of her book Africa's Vanishing Art. Although she is best known for her association with human fossil sites, she considered her work on the rock paintings one of the highlights of her career.

In spite of Mary Leaky's primary interest in art and artifacts, Mary Leakey was best known for her amazing ability to find fossils and for her excavations at two of the most famous hominid (dealing with any of the primate families) fossil sites in East AfricaOlduvai Gorge and Laetoli, both in Tanzania. Beginning in 1960 she established a permanent base camp at Olduvai Gorge from which she directed excavations. The previous year Leaky had discovered the first hominid example from that site, "Zinjanthropus boisei," whom she and Louis nicknamed the "nutcracker man" because of its huge jaws and molar teeth. "Zinj" is now recognized as the type specimen of Australopithecus boisei, an extinct (no longer in existence) side branch of the genus Homo. She soon found another hominid more closely related to modern humans, Homo habilis or "Handy Man," providing evidence of coexisting hominid groups one to two million years ago in East Africa. Leakey's research at Olduvai lasted more than twenty years and in spite of many fossil finds focused mainly on the specific descriptions of the archaeology. She initially detailed the archaeology of Beds 1 and 2 and later, more recent levels, contributing greatly to the understanding of Pliocene-Pleistocene (an ancient time period) lifeways.

In 1974 Leakey began well-organized excavations at Laetoli, which produced australopithecine (relating to an extinct form of hominid) skeletal remains the same year. Two years later the first of several sets of bipedal (having two feet) hominid footprints were discovered at the site, proving skeletal evidence for bipedalism (the walking on two feet) at a very early date. The footprints were made as australopithecines walked, in at least one case together, through an ash fall from a nearby volcano. These finds caught the attention of the world, as they "humanized" the discoveries of our distant relatives. Like many East African early hominid sites, Laetoli was well dated and provided evidence that full bipedal movement, a major human milestone, was achieved by 3.75 million years. While she never accepted the contribution of the Laetoli hominids to Australopithecus afarensis, she recognized them as the earliest definite hominid sample known at the time. Laetoli produced a number of skeletal elements of Pliocene australopithecines, but ironically, given Leakey's primary interest, no stone artifacts were ever found in these early beds.

Later life

Mary Leakey, in addition to her research, found herself assuming many of Louis's more public roles after she was widowed in 1972. She spent considerable time traveling to give lectures, raise funds, and receive many honors from institutions around the world. Although she always considered herself primarily an archaeologist, and her professional life was of greatest importance to her, she remained involved with her family and was very close to her children and grandchildren. In 1983 she retired to Nairobi, Kenya, to be nearer to her family. There, she continued to work on her manuscripts until her death in December of 1996.

For More Information

  • Heiligman, Deborah. Mary Leakey: In Search of Human Beginnings. New York: W. H. Freeman and Co., 1995.
  • Leakey, Mary. Disclosing the Past: An Autobiography. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1984.
  • Leakey, Mary. Olduvai Gorge: My Search for Early Man. London: Collins, 1979.
  • Morell, Virginia. Ancestral Passions: The Leakey Family and the Quest for Humankind's Beginnings. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995.
Taken from: http://www.notablebiographies.com/Ki-Lo/Leakey-Mary.html [06.02.2013]

Book your Tanzania safari with us and see the famous Olduvai Gorge! Click here