EcoBlog Tembo Kijani

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

Tag: Tanzania

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 !

Why Saadani is a Gem of a National Park…

We’ve been to some of the national parks in the so-called northern circuit of Tanzania in the last month, and honestly? We prefer Saadani. We went to Ngorongoro crater with the expectation of hundreds of other cars, but it was quite empty, so this was not something that disturbed us. Still, it has the touch of a zoo with the crater walls as the fence. It felt as if the animals were presented on a silver platter to you, no searching for the wildlife in hide, and the animals were really too used to the cars driving around the roads; sometimes we’d even had to honk to get the zebras out of our way, they wouldn’t care to move until the car would be less than half a meter from their behind. The lions were just laying under a tree and wouldn’t even bother to look up to check who stopped. We found it a very unnatural behavior and just not really wild anymore.

With this said, I think that Saadani has really a lot to offer, especially for those who do not just want to make marks on their checklist of wildlife seen, but to really get an African experience. Let me give you some points – and I will not mention the typical slogan of “where bush meets beach”:

  • Saadani has a big variety of wildlife to offer: giraffes, elephants, lions, hippos, crocodiles, hartebeests, waterbucks, reedbucks, buffaloes, wildebeests, bushbucks, yellow baboons, vervet monkeys, black- and white colobus monkeys and other more difficult to spot species such as eland, zebras, leopards, hyenas, the rare Roosevelt’s sable antelope, porcupines and aardvarks.
  • Saadani is one of the few places in Tanzania where you can do a boating safari on a river to see hippos and crocodiles really next to you (and not standing next to a smelly pool).
  • With more than 300 bird species spotted and identified in the park, ranging from water birds to eagles and vultures to tiny sunbirds, Saadani makes a good spot for bird lovers as well.
  • The landscapes are stunning – Saadani has about everything from candelabra trees to thick forests, acacias and savannas to mangrove systems, Marula trees, open savannas, high grass, flat salt pans and then the view to the Indian ocean on some hills.
  • This park is not on the standard itinerary, so you’ll meet very few visitors during your game drives – if you love to watch the animals all by yourself, you’ll love it.
  • Because of its mostly thick vegetation, there are hardly any open savannas where you’d need binoculars to see whether you just spotted a buffalo or an elephant. The animals will be really close to you and they’ll always check if you are not a danger to them. You’ll see animals behaving naturally and right next to you.
  • If you like to be active on your safari as well, then this is the right place: it’s not only sitting around in the car, but it’s an adventure to find the animals – track their footprints and droppings, check in which waterholes is still some water left, listen to the noises and smell the scents – sometimes the herd of buffalos is just behind the next scrubs.

Saadani is definitely not a “zoo” experience, but rather a reminder of safari 50 years ago. If you love adventure, seclusion and totally wild nature, this place is for you.

Here is why what we loved especially about last year – Enjoy!


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.

Baobab, Bungu, Tonga and Bibo


Here on the Swahili Coast of Tanzania you find fruits that are more than rare or totally unknown in Europe, e.g. Jackfruit (green fruit with spikes and up to 10kg heavy), which produces a huge mess if you don’t know beforehand, that the white stuff is better than any glue you can buy.

Or the Cherimoya (or Custard Apple), which is small and green and also spiky and also easier to handle if you have time (and you do have time in Tanzania) to take out all the little black seeds and make it as a parfait or a nice ragout for desserts.

But of course there are also the fruits that are less known like Baobab seeds (you know, from these huge Baobab trees), which are great together with Vanilla in a juice.

And then there are the ingredients, from which we don’t know the names in anything besides Swahili and which even most of the locals don’t know what to do with them and are surprised to see them used in the kitchen of a lodge. Some examples here are Tonga (see picture) or Bungu (looks a bit like passion fruit, but is really sour – lemon is nothing compared to Bungu).

The worst is the Bibo, this is the fruit (not the nut) of the Cashew, which looks a bit like an apple. I tried to make it into a juice or as a cocktail, to cut it into thin slices and bake caramelized chips – the problem stays the same: it’s impossible to get rid of this floury taste that it has. The only option that I know of is to produce beer from it like the locals do – but well, come on, I am a chef, not a German beer brewer. If you know of anything that could help get rid off this floury taste or have any idea, you’re more than welcome to post them… Cheers!

Cooking with lobster and little tiny ants

Running a kitchen in Africa is really exciting, because you get really fresh and untreated products from the sea and the land; but also unknown products you will find, for which you have to first figure out what it’s good for at all. The big benefit of a family-run lodge here is, that if we have new unidentified products, we try them ourselves – until now everybody is still alive 🙂 and you get an honest feedback as the chef.

But there are also lots of difficulties that you have to face (in Germany certain things are working, but not here), like the humidity, which makes you bake some stuff just on time, but also the wildlife (little tiny ants), which force you to work extremely clean and fast.

Also good and exquisite products are possible to afford without going bankrupt, like lobster for example. On the other hand many products are not always available, so that as a chef you have to be very creative and organized with your stock – you don’t get the supplies delivered to your door (ok, besides the fish and the seafood coming right from the ocean). And you also have to be very careful with your resources like water and electricity since Tembo Kijani is a self-sufficient lodge and these are very limited resources and don’t just “come out of the tap or plug” like in Europe, but it definitely makes you appreciate them more.

All in all it’s great to cook in Africa if you know the basics in the kitchen, because you have to make everything by yourself – bread, gnocci, parfait, where in most other places you would take the shortcut and just order it, but I hope you’ll feel the difference when enjoying your next dinner at Tembo Kijani.