EcoBlog Tembo Kijani

EcoBlog about Beach, Safari, Nature and Life in the African Bush

Category: Life in the African Bush

Two weeks ago we had such a beautiful surprise – just after breakfast our housekeeping lady called us that there were some babies on the beach – didn’t really make sense to us. So I went just to check that everything was alright – oh, well… what I saw was more then alright – more than fifty tiny seaturtles that just hatched were trying to make their way to the ocean, but didn’t see that that the big holes that we dug to plant new coconut palms inside. So all except a handful fell into that hole, stepping on each other trying to climb out again. First we chased away the crabs from the turtles that were on the beach already and after they were safe in the water, we flattened the edge of the hole and gave their siblings a safe passage out of the sand right into the waters of the Indian Ocean. Did you know that the green sea turtle is an endangered species? They are found around the globe. It takes them at least twenty years to reach maturity with only an estimated 1 out of 100 to 1000 (you read different things about it and it probably depends a whole lot on where they hatch) green sea turtle hatchlings reaching maturity at all to then come back to the same beach to lay her own eggs. So what a privilege to witness this little miracle of nature here.

Do you want to see some of nature’s miracles here in Tanzania? Come, spend vacation with us and you’ll surely see how wonderful nature is.

Birds, birds, birds in Tanzania

African Paradise FlycatcherOnce you’ve been on safari several times and you’ve seen the big and small mammals, chance is you start to get interested in birds. Surely you would have seen by now eagles and vultures on your trips, you might have spotted a Kori Bustard and a secretary bird as well. But don’t you wonder once in a while what all those small birds are – sitting on the giraffes, buffalos and hippos? Yes, those are oxpeckers. What are the birds that steam up from the grass? Oh, that could be many different ones. What is that bird that is so bright blue from underneath when you see it flying? It’s the lilac-breasted roller, whose voice just doesn’t fit to its splendid appearance. I guess once you start to get interested in birds, it’s more of a sport to catch them on camera and identify them (try to identify nightjars – haven’t managed that yet). It’s fun to sneak up on them and try really hard not to scare them away or to find the right spots where birds just like to spend some more time than just a few seconds without flying off. And then birding can actually be really rewarding, you’ll compete with yourself on the best picture you can get of a certain bird – try some sunbirds that are just tiny and just love to move around. But surely once you are into birding, your safaris will get another dimension to it and you’ll remember them because of that special bird that you’d never seen before. Here in Tembo Kijani we counted well more than 100 different bird species and the list keeps growing. So if you love birds and love “chasing” them, a vacation at Tembo Kijani might be just the right choice for you – we’re just as excited about it as you will be and will love to help you identifying them as well. So Karibu Tembo Kijani !

Umweltwächter–Watchman for the Environment

While doing homeschooling the other day with our daughter, we came across the topic of saving the environment. A tree trunk was introduced to us by the name of Hugo, and he is a watchman for the environment. The student should figure out how to save the environment, but as it’s a German homeschool we are using, the topics were very Europe-oriented like separating waste into different bins and recycling. Though these also apply to our ecolodge to a certain degree, I found it most interesting that our daughter made the connection to how we live here and run an ecolodge like collecting rain water and saving energy.

On the days after studying this at school, she went around being herself a watchman for the environment and gave out warnings to our employees just as not throwing garbage into the ocean. She really enjoyed these lessons.

I think we in the Western countries all know these lessons – we are taught at school, on TV, etc. And these are small and easy lessons, nothing complicated, so that even primary school students can easily grab them – separate your garbage, turn off your electronic devices and lights if not needed, shut off the shower when shampooing, not wasting food, using recyclable packaging materials, and so forth. But most of the time we are so busy and lazy that we just don’t bother to buy only exactly as much food as we need or to first use up the things we have in the fridge, or to take the half minute to separate the garbage into the different bins that we all have at home. And of course it’s nicer to keep the hot shower running than to turn it off, or to have the house with all lights on although we are only sitting and watching TV in a small corner.

If we could just put a little bit more effort into our daily lives to help the environment, and take the five minutes a day to adjust our lifestyle a bit instead of reading another article (or blog) about being eco, we might start to make an actual difference.

No. 1 Rule for Green Travel

If you are travelling in third world countries, like Tanzania for example, then there are many ways of travelling green – as many as there are different aspects and focuses of sustainable travel. Not all of them are always possible and not all of them apply to every place on earth, so it all depends on where you go and how you travel, but in my opinion there is one thing that everybody can and should take to heart everywhere: Avoid plastic!

Besides the obvious reasons that we always hear in the western hemisphere, like high pollution in the production process, lots of toxins, mostly one-time use and hence lots of waste, there are quite a few more that especially apply to third world countries.

The basic problem in these countries is, that people are used to using materials for packaging, food etc. that they’d just throw away afterwards and it would compost by itself – banana leafs, paper, raffia bags, peel from fruits, etc. And people continue doing it, but nowadays they throw plastic bottles, plastic bags, plastic covers and so on after using them. And well… in most of these places there is no such thing as garbage collection of any kind (reasons for this range from missing infrastructure to just the point that it’s not worth to invest in something like this), so the only option would actually be to collect the garbage yourself and burn it in the end. But the mindset for this is still missing.

In the big cities garbage became such a big problem that people themselves started to burn it – and that’s how it smells; it stinks horribly, it’s dirty and the air is even more polluted than just with old cars, simply because there is no garbage collection system. When the rains start and the cities are flooded, and especially Dar es Salaam being located on the Indian Ocean, the water takes all the garbage out to the sea and the current will spread it even further up and down the coastline. This is also true to other places being located close to a river or the sea – a lot of the garbage ends up eventually in the ocean and then right on your beach holiday in the good case or in the stomachs of turtles and birds in the bad case.

And whereas three years ago here in Tanzania you could  only buy Coca Cola in glass bottles (which you’d have to drink right away in order to give it back to the shop – deposit wouldn’t work), nowadays you can only get plastic bottles – it’s easier: less transport, lighter and of course more comfortable, just take it and throw it away afterwards.
So as a tourist, it of course won’t make a huge difference on the whole if you buy plastic or not, but it will make an impressionRaffia baskets on the people who sell it to you, if you refuse plastic bags in stores or ask for your drinks in a glass bottle, especially if you explain a bit about the reason behind it. It will also help if at home you will avoid plastic, because it will reduce demand and make the
industry reduce its plastic production – and this will not only affect you in the western hemisphere, but every other place as well.

Wildlife at the lodge–conservation or endangering?

Here in Tembo Kijani we have quite a lot of different animals, which call this place their home – dik-diks, red duikers, vervet monkeys, syke’s monkeys, nile monitors, genet cat, civet cat, sometimes a serval cat, mongoose, squirrels, rabbits, yellow baboons, bush babies, lots of birds, amongst them palm-nut vultures and fish eagles, sun birds and more. We love watching them and seeing that they are feeling at home here at the premises, but of course it’s not always easy to spot them; those who have been here already, know what I am talking about. But of course we would love to show also our guests the wildlife in Tembo Kijani, because it is quite amazing to experience them live and enjoy the monkeys right next to you.


Not every guest is lucky to see them, some of them have a close encounter with the bush babies at night, some see a grey kestrel sitting in front of their mirror in the morning, some find hermit crabs in their foot bath and some have a few small sun birds flying through their rooms. Not every guest is happy with this, but that’s part of nature and being on vacation in an ecolodge. Well, of course that’s not usually the case and we are really tempted to do everything to get wildlife and guests closer to each other. In many cases people do the mistake and are tempted into feeding wildlife, not from bad intentions, but good ones. And surely this “temptation” also exists here, just wandering around with a banana, seeing the monkey and wanting to throw a piece for him to get more used to us. But that’s not the way one should behave, especially we, as a lodge that is concerned about wildlife and conservation. From this feeding, the animals develop a sense that humans are harmless, which probably in most cases is true. But one shouldn’t forget that a lot of the wildlife here is still hunted, either for meat or simply because they are ruining the crops of the farmers. So the harmless intention of simply seeing wildlife and feeding it, can endanger them more than conserving them.

So, being eco, being environmentally responsible, is not only not to destroy the environment, but also not to interfere or disturb –  this also applies to the behavior of wildlife that is encountered. So here at Tembo Kijani wildlife is still wild and with a bit of luck and patience, you will manage to see some of the animals here anyway.

Witchdoctors and other Swahili Stories

A few weeks back Eyal came back home from grocery shopping in Pangani and as usual with the newest gossip – news around here really go by bush drums and not newspaper as you’d think. But this time the story was actually about Tembo Kijani – good to hear what’s going on in our own lodge.

So the story went that “Tembo Kijani”, meaning we, are going to a witchdoctor (you have to know that the Swahili Coast here is quite famous for that, and the next witchdoctor is located in a village around 40km away from here) for him to do voodoo on the lodge, so that we are getting more business and the lodges around less. According to the story it worked – and I have to admit, yes, the end of last year was quite busy. But we really had a good laugh about it and told that the only “witchdoctor” we go to, is God himself, and that yes, He really blesses us with work.

A few weeks later just before the start of the rain season, one of our employees came in the morning to work with the story that there was a baby, just born, in a village around 80km from here, and that he had verses of the Quran written all over his body, and he talked already and prophesied that there will heavy rain coming next Monday; but not clear rain, rather dark orange that no one will be able to drink. He was really confused and a bit panicked. To him it seemed totally normal that something like this would happen. In the end, there was no rain (although by now the rain season has started) and most probably also no Quran-tattooed baby talking right after birth.

Even though these stories are pretty funny, it shows quite a lot about the way people here on the coast in Tanzania think: most things are a mystery, rain doesn’t come according to the weather, and neither success doesn’t come from hard work.

Let’s hope that at least for our employees we can make a difference and prove them that success comes from hard work and not cheating; and if we can teach them a bit about the connection between deforestation and rain, then it’s even better.

Mr. Tembo Kijani, Mrs. Tembo Kijani, Ms. Tembo Kijani–and how it all started

If you are walking through Pangani or Saadani and its surrounding villages, and will ask someone if they know Mr. Tembo Kijani – yes, of course… And what’s his real name? – That information will be a bit more difficult to get probably. And probably it’s quite the same that you know the ecolodge Tembo Kijani and can find some information on it, but who are the people behind it? Well, here we’d like to introduce ourselves at least a bit Smile

We are “family” Tembo Kijani, or with the name that you’ll find in our passports – family Peled. This is Eyal (dad), Sarah (mom) and Timna. We came to Tanzania around four years ago with the dream to build something ecological, which will have an impact on our surrounding and our guests.

Originally Eyal is from Israel, Sarah is from Germany and Timna – well … both. When we arrived here in the first place, we got to a really untouched place with only a well and a small hut that we had built for ourselves. We brought a solar panel to be able to charge our phones and after a while also a stove on gas. And slowly slowly (pole pole as you say in Kiswahili) we brought more and more civilization to Tembo Kijani – each of us had his/her own favorite part, that we missed most. Eyal enjoyed the day, when he could finally shower with boiling hot water (we got our first solar water heating system), Timna drew on her walls, once she had her own playing room (don’t worry – we simply didn’t paint it in the first place), Sarah spent the entire day doing laundry once the washing machine had arrived, but probably all of us were really excited about having fresh milk and keeping it that way with a fridge. Coffee in the morning (– before only chai) keeping vegetables fresh and having the option of storing meat and fish. WOW! Life is good!

Since then we really became part of the place and probably Tembo Kijani reflects our character and what we love – lots of nature, simplicity, but also the luxury that we missed when we arrived (so, hot shower for everyone, clean sheets and laundry service and cold milk for the coffee in the morning, but please no painting in the rooms Smile)

And I know – a picture is missing, but we only take pictures of the wildlife in Saadani Winking smile But if any of you have a good picture of all of us together, feel free to send it and I’ll add it to the post.

Every-day Wildlife

We love wildlife – and we enjoy to see it again and again, discover new animals and watching their behavior. Luckily we don’t always have to go to safari in Saadani National Park for this, but just being at Tembo Kijani, we really see a lot.

It’s not only the crabs at the beach or the birds and butterflies whirling around, but also with a bit open eyes and ears that you can spot monkeys and gazelles. Usually we have some vervet monkeys playing around between the Bandas and a pack of Sykes monkeys jumping from tree to tree next to a big Cashewnut tree. Walking a bit outside the lodge you will encounter yellow baboons.

In the afternoons an African Fish Eagle couple passes by and rests on one of the dead coconut trees; also a Palmnut Vulture flies by quite frequently and lands on the beach to annoy the crabs.

Of course all sorts of other birds can be seen as well – usually you hear them very clear, but spotting them in the green of the trees can be a bit difficult.

But most of all it’s fun when you walk through the lodge, hear some noises in the bush, wait a little bit and then see a dik-dik or a red duiker coming out. If you stand really still, they won’t really notice you and just go about their business as usual.

We are in the middle of adding some small waterholes on the plot in the middle of the bush, so that for the next dry season there will be plenty of water and maybe then we’ll have some new four-legged visitors as well.

Three cars and no good fundi

Sometimes guests arrive and ask us if we still have rooms at all, because of all the cars in the parking, the lodge should be full already. Well – yes, we actually have still lots of rooms, because all three cars belong to us. I assume that this sounds a bit pretentious for most, but we have learned the hard way here in the bush that with less than that, it’s difficult to survive.

The first car is working the way it’s supposed to, the second car has some noises and needs some maintenance and the third car is not functioning altogether and is waiting for the fundi gari (car mechanic).  So, since the workshop of the fundi is around 120km away, he just doesn’t stop by, it usually takes him a week to decide to appear – sometimes we are faster and manage to bring the car to him.

But mostly here right on the coast the problems are the same – loose bolts, eaten bushes, rusted body parts. It’s nothing that anybody coming from a western country would ever have to think about repairing, and so just by living here in the African bush, we started to become mechanics ourselves and manage to fix the small things without the mechanic and at least see and understand the bigger problems when they appear.

Sometimes though we are still stunned – driving on the road and just seeing your back wheel pass by – oh well, the car is still driving, but you better stop and catch the wheel and put it back on. No worries, this happened only once, but it was definitely an experience that I never thought would happen.