African Savanna


Serengeti, means 'endless plains' and is derived from the Masai language. In a high plateau between the Ngorongoro highlands and the Kenya/Tanzania border, the plains extend almost to Lake Victoria. The Serengeti is largely grassland, interspersed with forests, lakes and rolling hills.

Vast herds of antelope feed on the plains. Columns of wildebeest, head to tail, trudging along their traditional migration routes northward in search of grass and food, and prides of lions, sometimes sleeping, sometimes alert and carefully stalking their prey inhabit the area. All major animals can be found in the Serengeti, except rhino. However, the Serengeti is the best place to see the larger cats, leopard and lion. There are also large numbers of the shy cheetah. The extensive grasslands are interspersed with kopjes Q rocky outcrops like islands in the flat plain, each with their own wildlife communities. Rivers provide habitats for a variety of birds, mammals and reptiles.

The Serengeti is also the site of the digs by the Leakey's where the bones of some the earliest humans were found. There are settlements of the Masai tribes nearby.

Humans and their ancestors have probably been living in the shadow of Kilimanjaro since the dawn of man. Although nothing of great antiquity has been found on the mountain itself, there is plenty of evidence of ancient human occupation at nearby sites throughout the Great Rift Valley and the site of the Leakey's research in the Olduvai Gorge. This gives Kilimanjaro an awesome mystique. One can imagine the mountain towering above our ancestors, making an early, continual impression on the species.

There is no consensus about how the mountain got its current name 'Kilimanjaro' although it probably evolved during the explorations of the last century. The Wachagga people, traditional agriculturalists of the area, claim they had no name for the mountain itself, just the two peaks which they call Kipoo and Kimawenzi. Most speculations assume the name comes from two root words kilima and njaro. Kilima comes from the Kiswahili word for mountain, mlima. The addition of ki is puzzling because in Kiswahili this is a diminutive and so kilima means small hill. It has been suggested that the use of the diminutive is a gesture of affection towards the huge mountain. The njaro part of the name is much more confusing. It could come from a Kichagga word for caravan, referring to the possibility that caravans used the mountain as a landmark. There is speculation that a word used on the coast, njaro, was the name of a demon that caused cold. Presumably traders or porters used the name when they traveled inland or heard tales about a high cold mountain. Another possibility is that the travelers asked the Maasai living on the plains what they called the mountain and the Maasai may have answered that it was the source of water, using the word ngare which was corrupted to njare or njaro.

In 1844, John Krapf, a German missionary arrived in Zanzibar. He was later joined by Johan Rebbman, a German missionary, who became the first European to see Mount Kilimanjaro, 'the Roof of Africa,' in 1848. He announced to the world the existence of a great mountain 'capped in a glacier.' At 19,400 feet (5895 meters) above sea level, Kimimanjara is the highest mountain in Africa and one of the highest volcanoes (extinct) in the world. Mount Kilimanjaro rises majestically from a rolling plain close to the Indian Ocean -- from hot savanna to a barren and frigid 3-1/2 mile high peak, on the northern boundary of Tanzania.

In the 19th century Zanzibar, a place of winding alleys, bustling bazaars, mosques and grand Arab houses whose owners vied with each other over the extravagance of their dwellings, was one of the most important trading centres in the Indian Ocean region. The market is a vibrant place where everything under the sun is bought and sold. For centuries the Arabs sailed with the Monsoon winds from Oman to trade primarily in ivory, slaves and spices.

In 1832, Sultan Seyyid Said, of the Busaid Dynasty that had emerged in Oman, moved his Sultanate from Muscat, which was perhaps more difficult to protect, to Zanzibar where he and his descendants ruled for over 130 years. The wealth and excess of successive Sultans was considerable. Islamic law allowed them to have up to four wives, and their wealth meant they were able to exercise this privilege, raising many children. Most of the wealth lay in the hands of the Arab community, who were the main landowners, kept themselves to themselves, and generally did not intermarry with the Africans.

This was not true of the Shirazi Persians who came from the Middle East to settle on the East African coast. Widespread intermarriage between Shirazis and Africans gave rise to a coastal community with distinctive features, and a language derived in part from Arabic, which became known as Swahili. The name Swahili comes from the Arab word sawahil which means 'coast'. The Zanzibar descendants of this group were not greatly involved in the lucrative slave, spice and ivory trades. Instead, they immersed themselves mainly in agriculture and fishing. Those Shirazis that did not intermarry retained their identity as a separate group.

Two smaller communities were also established. Indian traders arrived in connection with the spice and ivory trade, and quickly settled as shopkeepers, traders, skilled artisans, and professionals. The British became involved in missionary and trading activities in East Africa, and attempting to suppress the slave trade centred in Zanzibar.

In 1822, the Omani Arabs signed the Moresby treaty which amongst other things, made it illegal for them to sell slaves to Christian powers. So that this agreement could be monitored, the United States and Great Britain established diplomatic relations with Zanzibar, and sent Consuls to the islands. However, the slaving restrictions were largely ignored, and the trade continued to kill and imprison countless Africans. Caravans started out from Bagamoyo on the mainland coast, travelling as much as 1,000 miles on foot as far as Lake Tanganyika, buying slaves from local rulers on the way, or, more cheaply, simply capturing them. The slaves were chained together and used to carried ivory back to Bagamoyo. The name Bagamoyo means 'lay down your heart;' because it was here that slaves would abandon hope of freedom. Slaves who survived the long trek from the interior were crammed into dhows bound for Zanzibar, and paraded for sale like cattle in the Slave Market.

All of the main racial groups were involved in the slave trade in some way or other. Europeans used slaves in their plantations in the Indian Ocean islands, Arabs were the main traders, and African rulers sold prisoners taken in battle. Being sold into slavery was not a prisoner's worst fate - if a prolonged conflict led to a glut, the Doe tribe north of Bagamoyo had the rather gruesome habit of eating 'excess supplies'.

Slaves, spices and ivory provided the basis of considerable prosperity, and Zanzibar became the most important entrept in the Western Indian Ocean. All other East African coastal centres were subject to it and almost all trade passed through it.