Africa’s most toxic lakes are a paradise for fearless flamingos
By Paul Rose
4 minute read
6:04 AM EST, Fri January 6, 2017
Lake Natron —
Visit Lake Natron in Tanzania and you'll find 75% of the world's 3.2 million lesser flamingos. The lake's hypersaline water can strip away human skin, and breeds algae toxic to many forms of animal life, but the bird flourishes in these conditions thanks to its incredibly adapted body.
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It's got something for everyone —
Meet the Maasai warriors of the Serengeti, climb Africa's highest peak and dive beneath Zanzibar's tropical coastline. There's something for everyone in Tanzania, and whether that involves dancing the night away to Afro-rhumba or refueling with platefuls of fresh octopus, it won't be hard to have a good time in this modernizing land of natural beauty.
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Climb Africa's highest peak —
At 19,340 feet, Kilimanjaro is Africa's highest peak, but the climb to the top is surprisingly accessible and can take as little as 4-5 days on the so-called "fast route." In fact, the fastest ever summit was achieved by Italian Bruno Brunod, who managed to reach the peak in 5 hours 38 minutes.
The journey to the top from the steppes below takes in all manner of ecosystems, stretching from agrarian landscapes to rainforest, heath to alpine desert before arctic conditions at the summit. At the top of the mountain lies a simple wooden box in which climbers can record their thoughts.
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Roam with the Maasai —
Tanzania's famous Maasai warriors survey the savannahs of the Great Rift Valley. Traditionally known as herders, livestock are a vital resource for the Maasai. Their diet consists largely of cow's meat, milk and blood, tapped from the jugular with no lasting damage to the animal. On certain occasions the two are combined in something akin to a blood milkshake. Modernization is creeping into Maasai life however and food is becoming more varied, and dinner is as likely to include maize, rice, potatoes and "goat leaves" (cabbage).
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...and have your hair braided by them —
The Maasai are increasingly integrating with wider society and entering urban centers. This is due in part to inconsistent rains throughout the Serengeti leading to tougher livestock conditions. Various handicrafts are finding their into markets and the Maasai's much-prized hair braiding skills are becoming popular with Tanzanians.
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Walk in the Garden of Eden —
Sometimes called "Africa's Garden of Eden," the Ngorongoro Crater is a 12-mile-wide ecosystem within an ecosystem that was created by a massive collapse of land following a volcanic eruption. Labeled one of the seven natural wonders of Africa, the crater sits at 5,900 feet above sea level and evidence suggests hominids have lived in the wider conservation area for over 3 million years. Near Arusha in the north of Tanzania, it is one of the world's most unchanged wildlife sanctuaries.
Tanzania has over 120 tribes and in the post-colonial era the country's first president Julius Nyerere made it his mission to unite the newly independent nation whilst maintaining its rich heterogeneity. The Sukuma is the largest tribe and accounts for approximately 16% of the population. Other large tribes include the Nyamwezi, Makonde, Haya and Chagga. Ethnographic recordings from over 100 Tanzanian tribes are currently being digitized as part of a 100,000 hour collection held by the state-run Tanzanian Broadcasting Corporation.
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Dance the night away —
Dar es Salaam is known as the musical center of East Africa. Late into the night, the city's beach bars play a mix of Tanzanian pop and the country's unique take on hip hop -- Bongo Flava. Those who would rather something more old school can dance into the small hours to the sounds of Afro-rhumba, a genre that came to Tanzania from West Africa via Cuba.
At 7am every morning in Dar es Salaam, the Kivukoni fish market comes alive with the frenetic trade of produce brought in fresh from the Indian Ocean. Head down to get your hands on the freshest fish in the country, and barter along with Tanzania's housewives and restaurateurs. If you fail in that cultural venture, Kivukoni also contains Tanzania's National Museum and the Botanical Gardens.