The Chem Chem Wilderness Concession lies in eastern Tanzania between Lake Manyara and Tarangire National Park. It is an important wildlife corridor and buffer zone between two National Parks and the local village lands. After landing at Lake Manyara airstrip, we boarded an open-air Safari vehicle and made the drive to Chem Chem Lodge, passing several villages and Masai family Bomas along the way. We saw people carrying enormous stacks of bananas on the backs of their motorbikes, herds of goats and cows tended by Masai children, bustling markets filled with women trading and shopping, and everywhere the red dust of the African dry season.
The next morning we visited a Masai family still practicing their traditional customs and way of life. We learned about their family structure, construction techniques, animal husbandry practices, diet, and system of governance. We then toured the Mdori Primary School and met several hundred enthusiastic and energetic students.
Overgrazing poses a grave threats to the wildlife in the area. The Chem Chem foundation works closely with locals to improve farming practices and minimize habitat loss. Unfortunately, it was plain to see the desertification occurring on swaths of land caused by years of overgrazing. As soon as you cross onto a preserve or park the grass is taller, there are more trees and wild animals appear. At the lodge animals often crossed our paths and grazed right next to the tents. Chem Chem’s special focus is on elephant conservation and we had a very special day of Safari to see big groups of elephants.