Explore Karatu : Arusha District’s Karatu is a small town that has earned the moniker “Safari Junction” for its ideal location on the boundaries of Lake Manyara National Park and Ngorongoro Crater. It is frequently used as a brief stopover in between Tanzania safari excursions or as a less expensive lodging choice than staying inside Lake Manyara National Park and on the Ngorongoro crater rim. Nevertheless, if you merely consider it a stopover, you can miss out on some incredible outdoor activities and cultural tourism! In order to give yourself a break between safaris, see what Explore Karatu itself has to offer if you have a few extra days.
Tourists traveling through the northern highlands on their way to the Serengeti, Lake Manyara and Ngorongoro Crater pass via the settlement of Karatu under the benign peak of Ol Deani. The flora grows denser and greener as one ascends the Manyara Escarpment, eventually reaching the highlands surrounding Karatu. Ol Deani’s extinct volcano has gentle slopes and dominates the surrounding area.
The region around Karatu and Ol Deani was historically very important to German colonial rule. The region is well-liked by settlers and farmers due to its mild climate, lush hills, and beautiful surroundings. The grounds surrounding Karatu town and the slopes of the volcano are covered with vast, broad fields. A few large farms that are still privately owned continue to grow the cash crop on the hills and small valleys outside of town, which was once mostly grown for export. Visitors frequently choose Karatu as a base while traveling to Ngorongoro Crater because of the beautiful vistas of the northern highlands it provides.
CLIMATE IN KARATU
Within the district, the climate differs from one place to another. While Karatu receives between 900 and 1000mm of precipitation annually, the Eyasi basin receives between 300 and 400mm. Rainfall in April has the potential to be highly intense and result in significant erosion. Most regions get one or two months of slightly lower rainfall in between periods of short rain and extended rain. The District has four seasons, which are short and hot from January to March and mid-May; short and hot and dry from November to December; and lengthy and cold from June to October.
TRADING AND MARKET OPPORTUNITIES IN KARATU
The fact that Musoma goes through the town and the road from Arusha via Karatu to Mwanza is well connected makes Karatu District an important commercial hub. The fact that Karatu town is the closest lodging option for visitors to the Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro Crater led to a high rate of investment in international hotels and a high level of money circulation as a result of the influx of numerous foreigners.
HOW TO GET TO KARATU
It is easiest to travel there from Arusha by vehicle or bus. On a good route, it will take slightly over two hours to travel 150 kilometers. Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO), which is roughly 45 minutes from Arusha, serves as the city’s primary international airport.
Taking a bus or dala-dala is a more affordable choice. This may require up to three hours and cost 5,000–7,000 TSH. They are frequently crowded, and because they are so inexpensive, comfort is frequently sacrificed. Generally speaking, it is best to take a bus that arrives before dusk for safety reasons.
A small plane to the Lake Manyara airstrip is also suggested if you want to spend a little more money. On their journeys to the Serengeti National Park, Coastal Aviation and Air Excel both provide flights for about $100 from Arusha to Manyara. In contrast to Kilimanjaro Airport, where you might have arrived by international flight, these flight is likely departing from Arusha Airport, a small local airport. It takes about 30 minutes to get to Karatu from the Manyara airfield, whether you take a cab or a transfer we set up for you.
WHEN TO VISIT KARATU
The dry season, from June to October, is the best time to visit Karatu because it is typically visited in conjunction with or as a base for safaris in the nearby Tanzania Northern Safari Circuit Parks. Karatu can be visited all year.
Because of the unique geography of the Ngorongoro Crater, it is possible to see animals year-round, but from June to October it is particularly easy to do so because the grass is shorter. This is likewise true for Lake Manyara National Park, despite the fact that both parks are incredibly lush and green during the rainy season. You might find it a little more pleasant in the wet season because, particularly at Ngorongoro Crater, it can get rather busy in the dry season. During the rainy season, some routes may become too muddy and impassable, although this shouldn’t significantly diminish your safari experience.
ACTIVITIES IN AND AROUND KARATU
There are quite a lot of attractions in and around Karatu that are worth a visit, despite the fact that it is sometimes merely seen as a crossing between the large safari parks of the Northern Circuit. There are numerous chances for cultural tourism in the bustling town center itself.
Why not browse the market for trinkets, tour a coffee plantation, or even attempt home brewing some beer? Along with your hotels, two organizations that focus on cultural tourism in Karatu are best suited to plan activities for you.
The Ganako Cultural Tourism Program arranges eco-friendly excursions in and around Karatu and donates the money earned to a neighborhood nonprofit. Also, Iraqw Karatu plans a variety of events that give unique insights into the culture of the nearby tribe. Some of these locations, like the market, can be explored independently, but for the majority of cultural tourism, it is usually ideal to stay on a scheduled trip where a guide can inform you about local customs and guarantee that you interact with the populace appropriately. Here are a few of the things we suggest doing:
KARATU IRAQW CULTURAL TOURISM
In the year 2000, Sandemu Iraqw Art and Culture Promoters were founded in the Bashay hamlet of the Karatu district, in the Arusha region. To showcase the traditional culture of the Iraqi people, this group constructed an exhibition center. The majority ethnic group in the Karatu and Mbulu areas is Iraqi. They also reside in the districts of Babati and Hanang. Their goal is to preserve for future generations a record of the way of life, customs, heritage, and culture of the Iraqi people while also involving and assisting locals in cultural tourism and educating the rest of the world about the old customs.
Karatu Iraqw offers:
- Village, mountain, and bush walks are planned according to tourists’ interests and can last anywhere from a few hours to several days (walking tours can be extended to include the Hadzabe and Datoga in Lake Eyasi).
- Traditional Iraqi meals like ugali (stiff porridge) with meat, vegetables, milk, fresh honey, kande (maize and beans), and more
- Visits to development projects like schools, dispensaries, hospitals, historical sites like German and British settlements, coffee plantations, and graves in Oldeani on the rim of the Oldeani Mountain and Ngorongoro Crater.
- Staying in traditional Iraqi homes or camping in a remote and natural setting
- Displays of traditional wares—weapons, clothing, gourds, baskets, mats, day pots, and stone tools—are shown; some of the artifacts are for sale, while others are part of a permanent collection.
GANAKO KARATU CULTURAL TOURISM
An important stopping site for most safari tourists, Ganako-Karatu is located just outside the Ngorongoro and Serengeti, on the lower slopes of the Ngorongoro highlands, on the route from Arusha to the national parks in northern Tanzania.
Ganako Karatu offers:
- A stroll through the highland woodland of Ngorongoro.
- A trip to a coffee plantation to experience the authentic flavor of African coffee.
- A look at the Iraqw tribe’s culture as seen in the villages near Karatu
- The seventh day of every month is when one should attend the vibrant Iraqi market.
- A trip to the ceremonial and historical locations (German Colonial Settlements).
- A trip to a local development project with the purpose of enhancing living standards through revenue generation and environmental preservation.
- A lunch of typical Tanzanian fare and locally produced beverages.
- A trip to Lake Eyasi, where you can meet the Hadzabe Bushmen, who are thought to have inhabited the region for close to 10,000 years.
- A visit to an Iraqi family
Other activities in Karuru includes:
Enjoy the Karatu Market: Every month on the 7th and 25th, local sellers will congregate in Explore laratu for a large market, giving you the chance to browse exquisitely crafted goods, pick up some trinkets, and practice your haggling. There is a smaller market on the 25th, but even if none of these dates coincide with your travel plans, there is a smaller market in the town center every day.
Tour a Coffee Farm: Tanzania produces great coffee, and the north of the country is a particularly favored region for coffee production. There are several lovely coffee farms available for you to visit or even stay on, where you can discover how to make coffee and sip coffee while taking in the stunning surroundings.
DAY TRIPS FROM KARATU
Karatu is ideal as a base for day trips to nearby sights, in addition to serving as a layover for the major Tanzania national parks. Ganako and Iraqw Karatu provide day trips to the historic German settlement of Oldeani to learn about the nation’s colonial past and the breathtaking Lake Eyasi, as well as climbs to Mlima Nyoka (Snake Hill) for panoramic views of the surrounding terrain and the Rift Valley.
The latter offers undisturbed enjoyment of the lovely lake and its flora and fauna because it is still relatively undiscovered by most people. You can also go hunting with the Hadzabe Bushmen in Lake Eyasi, one of the last groups of hunters and gatherers in East Africa.
IS KARATU CULTURAL TOURISM SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE?
It’s possible for cultural tourism to occasionally turn voyeuristic and have “slum safari” overtones. You might feel a little uneasy entering people’s homes and lives as a tourist. Both Ganako and Iraqw Karatu guarantee a socially responsible approach to this kind of tourism by assisting neighborhood initiatives and donating money to the areas and people who are visited.
Tourism-related businesses play a significant role in these people’s livelihoods. You can learn about cultural customs and taboos by traveling with a guide who can also translate for you. Be responsible and always get permission before taking pictures! Avoid working on initiatives involving children since the constant arrival and departure of volunteers might cause problems for kids who have been abandoned.
KARARTU LOCAL TRIBES
The Iraqw, a predominately Christian tribe, are the majority group in Karatu. Their language has distinct linguistic characteristics due to its Ethiopian origins. These are farmers who gain from the sale of local crafts like pottery to visitors to the Ngorongoro, Lake Manyara and Serengeti region.
One of the few groups of hunters and gatherers left in East Africa are the Hadzabe Bushmen, who inhabit the area around Lake Eyasi. As the Tanzanian government gradually encroaches on their territory, only about 1,000 people still reside in the area surrounding the lake. A trip to the Hadzabe is like traveling through time. Click-sound-based Hadzabe is the name of their language.
The Datoga are farmers and artisans who also reside near Lake Eyasi. They are renowned as fierce warriors and are best recognized for the spherical tattoos on their faces. Just 5% of them know Swahili, the national tongue of Tanzania, and they are incredibly secluded. Very low levels of education and literacy exist. They are thought to have migrated south thousands of years ago, and their language has roots in South Sudanese and Ethiopian languages.
WHERE TO STAY IN KARATU
For a few days, Karatu is the ideal location to explore the nearby national parks and Lake Eyasi and discover more about the regional cultures. While lodging outside the National Parks can be less expensive, many tourists opt to stay in Karatu. Although lodging in Karatu can be less expensive than in national parks, many visitors choose to do so. But if you are pressed for time, this will require extra driving each day, which could be physically taxing for you. We advise weighing the benefits of staying in a lodge on the crater’s edge against the time and reduced driving required. For all price ranges, Explore Karatu offers first-rate lodging. Some of our top suggestions are as follows:
- High-end options: Plantation Lodge and the boutique hotel Oldeani Safari Lodge are unquestionably more expensive, but the lovely grounds and colonial-style architecture will undoubtedly make your stay worthwhile.
- Affordable alternatives include the Octagon Lodge and Karatu Simba Lodge, which both provide cozy stays and lovely grounds surrounding your cottages.
- Stay on a coffee farm for a more luxury experience. Gregg’s Farm and the Shangri-La estate of Kifaru Coffee are two outstanding options for doing so. You can get a behind-the-scenes look at the industry while taking in the breathtaking views and relaxing in the peaceful cabins. While the Shangri-La estate is significantly more cost-effective but only has a few rooms to offer, Gregg’s Farm is a high-end choice with luxury and a spa. Make reservations in advance if you’re thinking about staying here.