Top 11 Culture Tourism Programs You Should Try While In Arusha, Tanzania : There are a number of cultural tourism initiatives that allow visitors to visit Mount Meru’s southern and northern slopes and combine breathtaking scenery with up-close encounters with the native Maasai. Some can be a little challenging to get to due to their off-main-road, remote locations, but the Focus East Africa Tours office in Arusha can help you plan your tours and activities in and around the town. Depending on the number of participants, the cost of the programs varies; however, you should budget between $50 and $80 per person for a half-day, $25 to $50 for a day, and longer journeys lasting several days as an option.
The participating villages make excellent use of your donations, allocating a portion to local primary and nursery schools and healthcare initiatives while allocating other sums to worthy causes like the purchase of energy-efficient stoves.
1. Ilkiding’a Walk
7 kilometers northwest of Arusha, on the southern slopes of Mount Meru, is the Il Larusa settlement of Ilkidinga. Its cultural tourism program offers half- to three-day guided trips that include treks through fields, stops at local healers and artisans, and climbs up Leleto Hill and down the Njeche Canyon, which has caverns to explore. The majority of its participants dance with the Masarie Cultural Dance Group. The three-day trek (or one-day mountain bike tour) also includes visiting local markets and forest preserves, with nights spent camping or staying with locals.
2. Mkuru Culture Walk
Camels were brought into the Maasai community of MKURU in the early 1990s because they perform better in semi-arid conditions than cattle do. It is situated about 70 kilometers from Arusha on the northern slope of Mount Meru. The cultural tourist program in Mkuru includes camel rides, which can last anywhere from a few hours to a week-long excursion to Lake Natron and Ol Doinyo Lengai; bird watching; interactions with Maasai people; and a quick but strenuous walk up the pyramidal Mount Ol Doinyo Landaree (3 hours and 30 minutes round trip).
3. Ng’iresi Tour
At NG’IRESI hamlet, which is situated on the picturesque southern slopes of Mount Meru, 6 kilometers north of Arusha, the Il Larusa tribe is currently making the transition from cattle-herding and life in Maasai-style bomas to agriculture and permanent stone structures. A few of the straightforward tours offered as part of the cultural tourism program include encounters with traditional healers, hikes through the Olgilai Forest Reserve, waterfall hikes to Songota and Navaru, views of the Lekimana Hills, a climb up Kivesi Hill to the crowning forest, and visits to development projects. A women’s club in the area provides the meals.
4. Longido Area
Although Longido is the most faraway, it is also probably the most well-liked of the cultural tourism initiatives in the Arusha region. It is located in the heart of Maasai territory along the Nairobi Highway, 80 kilometers north of Arusha.
Mount Longido rises abruptly in the east at a height of 2690 meters, leading a network of buffalo routes into dry montane forest and scrub, causing a significant change in flora. It is possible to complete the climb in one day (8–9 hours round trip), but two days are recommended in order to include a camping trip at Kimokouwa (bring your own tent). The best months for weather are May through October, and when the sky is clear, the views from the peak are breathtaking. Because the weekly cattle market takes place on Wednesday, that day is the best to visit.
5. Ilkurot Culture Program
The majority of the Maasai in Ngaramtoni are settled, but their relatives who herd cattle live in the drier area to the north. One of the best ways to get to know them is through the Ilkurot cultural tourism program, which is 8 kilometers from Ngaramtoni or 20 kilometers from Arusha (contact Focus East Africa Tours for more information).
For an in-depth look at semi-nomadic life and for breath-taking views of Mounts Meru, Kilimanjaro, Longido, and Kilimamoto, visits to (or overnight stays in) Maasai bomas and three- to five-day walking or riding tours (by camel or donkey) are highly recommended.
Shorter excursions include a half-day hike up Ngorora Hill and stops at a blacksmith, women’s handicrafts organizations, and a boma. You can spend the entire day visiting beekeepers or ascending Kilimamoto Mountain to its crater. Saturday is market day at nearby Ol Doinyo Sambu.
6. Mulala Village Walk
On the southeast slopes of Mount Meru, 34 kilometers from Arusha, is the charming Meru settlement of Mulala. You will be taken around a cheese dairy (which supplies many tourist hotels), a bakery, shops, farms, and possibly even a few cool dance routines by a women’s organization that manages the cultural tourism program.
You can also visit a school, hike through coffee and banana plantations to Lemeka Hill for views and a traditional healer, explore the Mount Meru Forest Reserve for birds and monkeys, or visit Ziwa la Mzungu, also known as White Man’s Lake, where a European is said to have disappeared while fishing after hearing terrifying demon sounds emanate from the lake, according to legend. The various hikes can be stretched out over two days if you have a tent, but combining them into one long day is preferable.
7. Tengeru and Lake Duluti Tour
On Wednesday and Sunday, the bustling, recently renovated market in Tengeru, 12 kilometers east of Arusha, is busiest. Five minutes’ walk from the highway separates Tengeru’s cultural tourism program from the road. You can take a Daladala from Arusha to get there by taking the road that is opposite the Natoil gas station (you can also take one to USA River or Kikatiti from there). Turn right after 350 meters, then left at the “Tengeru Campsite” sign.
Other activities include planting trees, roasting coffee (you can take some home), crushing finger millet (ulezi) on a stone for porridge, and visiting a traditional healer. They offer hikes along the Malala River in addition to visiting the horrific site where hundreds of Maasai perished during a conflict with the Meru in the nineteenth century. Lake Duluti, a tiny crater lake 2 kilometers to the south that can be visited as part of Focus East Africa Tour’s cultural trip program, is the main attraction of Tengeru.
8. Ngaramtoni Market Tour
The first significant village you see as you round Mount Meru’s southwest face is located 12 kilometers from the Arusha bus terminal. Two kilometers east of the highway, the Osotwa cultural tourism program is marked with signs coming from Ngaramtoni. When Ngaramtoni market is open, Thursday or Sunday are the best days to visit. There, you can find amazing round pots for incredibly low prices.
Osotwa, which instead denotes “excellent ties between people” as opposed to a particular place, refers to the nine nearby settlements that make up the project. Focus East Africa Tours offers a variety of guided walks as well as visits to artisans, healers, and a sacred fig tree (people in East Africa have long revered “strangling fig” trees for their vines). Take a stroll along the Ngarenaro River or ascend the 2000-meter Sambasha Hill to reach its crater and forest for breathtaking views and the chance to see colobus and blue monkeys in addition to other animals like birds, butterflies, and other wildlife.
9. Monduli Culture Tourism
Since they provide year-round grazing and water, the Monduli Mountains, which are north of Meserani and act as rainfall condensers, are obviously important to the Maasai. Lower Monduli, the main settlement in the area, is located at the foot of the mountains, 12 kilometers north of Meserani and the highway. The Maasai villages of Emairete, Enguiki, Eluwai, and Mfereji are combined to form MONDULI JUU (Upper Monduli), which is located ten kilometers further into the highlands. The largest one, Emairete, is situated in a once-hailed crater. If at all possible, try to time it for the Emairete weekly market on Saturday.
The three main Focus East Africa Tours’ programs are as follows: a two-day Indigenous and Modern Masai Education tour in Monduli Chini, where you can visit a local school; a three-day Medicine tour in Monduli Juu, where you can engage with local healers; and, perhaps most notably, a two-day Beadwork Tour in Monduli Chini, where you can learn from the women who make the frequently fantastic beadwork you see for sale on the streets of Arusha.
10. Kisongo Town
On the west side of the route, 16 kilometers from Arusha, is the hamlet of Kisongo, which is the first town of any significance. Herders from all over the area visit this bustling cattle market on Wednesdays (the entire day). The landscape becomes more desolate after Kisongo, especially in October just before the brief rains, when spiraling dust devils dance over the flat, brown plains and distant inselbergs (rocky outcrops). The next major city after Arusha is Meserani, 30 kilometers away, where cattle auctions take place every Tuesday (all day; mornings are best).
11. Meserani Snake Park
The park was established by a South African family in 1993; when they arrived, it was almost entirely desert; however, with careful planting of native plants that can withstand dryness, it has become an oasis. The majority of the snakes are captured from nearby farms and towns, and in exchange for not killing the snakes, the locals are given free ant venom. Two black-mouthed mambas, a few green mambas, and black and red spitting cobras are among the highlights of Snake Park, though you probably won’t have much time to take them in. There are lizards and a pool where crocodiles can be found, but the barrier mainly serves to keep inebriated over landers out.
The same people who maintain the snake park also maintain a fantastic Maasai Cultural Museum that features a number of dioramas of people in various contexts, including daily life, dance, an Orpul meat feast, circumcision, and “milking” blood from a cow, among others. The guide will explain everything that grabs your attention. One of East Africa’s funkiest pubs and fantastic tourist food are available, and whenever overland truck groups visit, the pub becomes a bit of a riot (cold drinks, cool cocktails, a nice atmosphere, and zillions of flags). Behind the museum, you can wander around the tightly thatched huts of the Maasai handicraft sellers.
An enjoyable part of the bus ride from Arusha to Kenya is when the morning mist that has shrouded Mount Meru begins to lift. Similar to the region to the west of Arusha, the plains surrounding Mount Meru can seem incredibly lush after rains, but the lush appearance is deceptive because overgrazing by Maasai cattle herds, which is itself a result of their eviction from traditional pastures after the establishment of the region’s wildlife parks and commercial ranches, causes significant erosion. Focus East Africa Tours offers cultural tourism programs in a number of communities between Arusha and the Kenyan border, allowing you to experience the plains and highlands while learning about the local tribes and animals.