Survival Skills of The Bushmen

Lake Eyasi sits at the southern end of the Great Rift Valley, beneath the southern Ngorongoro Crater Highlands, from where the underground water sources that serve the area originate. The area is reached by means of a very rough and dusty road – along which punctures are fairly frequent – some 2 hours west of Mto wa Mbu.

The lake itself has a good supply of fish, a small population of pelicans, storks and flamingoes along its shores, and a vast number of different bird species. While of no particular value as a game viewing area, Safari Tours | Tanzania’s main interest in the area, and its motivation for establishing a beautifully serene private bush camp in a palm oasis beneath Mount Oldeani, is the incomparably fascinating wealth of learning and experience to be had by our close and mutually valuable interaction with the Hadzabe Bushmen.

Safari Tours | Tanzania’s special relationship with the Hadzabe

Safari Tours | Tanzania’s close relationship to this tribe has engendered an enormous respect for and appreciation of the Bushmen and their way of life, within the company. We believe them to be the foremost exponents of efficient and effective survival technique throughout the world.

The raison d’etre of our operational base amongst them, is to expose visitors to what some have described as the ‘life-changing’ experience of immersing themselves in the beautifully simple and utilitarian, and yet thoroughly rewarding and mind-broadening, lives of the Bushmen.

Regrettably, the majority of our adventurers are only able to afford a day’s scheduling with the Bushmen, and while many tell us in retrospect that they could have very happily spent all their time with the Hadzabe, we hope – even within this brief encounter – to be able to introduce you to some of the basic skills of Bushman survival.

Our emphasis on skills acquisition and learning from the Hadzabe

We encourage all those who are able to incorporate at least a day at Eyasi, to aim to acquire at least an elementary grasp of the following skills, and we will work with you to aim to ensure that – unless you are content only to observe – you do not merely witness these skills, but actually go away from your time here with some newfound abilities. Those who are able to devote more time to Eyasi will be encouraged and guided to learn, practice, and eventually become dependent on, the following basic survival skills. And for those wanting to spend a full 12 days in the bush, there’s a great deal more to learn.

Elementary skills we aim to teach you at Eyasi:

  • introduction to bowing technique – learning how to shoot accurately without hurting your hands and wrists… too much.
  • hunting trips to Maji Moto where we aim to stalk, flank, ambush, and close-on prey
  • how to make a fire using stick friction, and without having to use a bowing technique
  • learning snake-bite, scorpion & anti-malarial treatments
  • identifying edible berries, particularly the sandpaper tree – which is the single most useful species in desert survival, in that it provides wood for bows and arrows, and also has edible fruits; tamarind, fig, and many different plants used for an array of medical applications
  • how to build a shelter in less than 20 minutes and to configure this shelter so as to protect against intrusion by hyenas and other unwanted guests
  • walking with Bushwoman for water-finding demonstrations, both by uprooting water-bearing tubers and by digging under dry rivers
  • identifying, cutting, stoning, stripping, heating, carving and bending wood for bow and arrow construction
  • when tendons are available from a recent prey, learning to make primitive bow strings. Where tendons are not available, learning how to string a bow from nylon or rolled sacking string
  • learning from the Karrera or Datoga tribes how to make metal arrow heads for which the Hadzabe barter their meat
  • learning how to identify the best branches for arrows; how to strip, heat, straighten, sharpen, fletch, and signature carve and stain, the three different grades of arrow we use for the three different sizes of prey hunted
  • where the route’s features allow, how to identify medicinal versus edible, honey; how to smoke out the bees and gather the combs

For stays longer than four days with the Bushmen

  • how to identify plants to be used for making poisons; how to slice and soak, and boil off to residue the poisonous tar applied to the shaft-ends of arrows used for large prey, such as kudu
  • for those willingly accepting the increased risks of injury on a night hunt where torches cannot be used as near the prey, how to launch a night assault against baboons; approaching in silence in darkness, dividing the party into kill and decoy groups, and how to shoot at what can barely be seen. (Frankly, expecting to be an useful contributor on a night hunt is unrealistic unless one has spent several weeks in the bush and has excellent night-vision. But it’s certainly worth the effort as night-time is the most likely time to successfully hunt baboon – the preferred meat of the Bushmen and one that is believed to strengthen the body’s immune system, due to the the baboons ability to ingest and breakdown many poisonous plants).

Necessary flexibility of approach to ‘itineraries’ with the Hadzabe

The hunting route that each party takes is not necessarily pre-determined, and we follow no stringent routes and itineraries, with visitors simply learning whatever is afforded by our engaging the immediate environments that we confront. If however some of the above elements appear not to be featuring on your route and you are particularly keen to cover them, please simply ask your guide and he will aim to find the necessary components and arrange demonstrations.

Important note: While you will be in safe hands with our staff and the Hadzabe, the area has some poisonous snakes and scorpions, and there is a small risk of self-injury while hunting. Visitors should understand that we are unable to control exposure to these objective risks, although to date we are yet to suffer any serious eventualities. If sitting on soft sand please remember to ask our staff to sweep the ground for scorpions, and remain vigilant.

Survival Training for military personnel, particularly Special Forces serving in arid climates

Time spent with the Bushmen of Eyasi is highly recommended for those anticipating having to face eventualities in desert areas, such as fighter pilots who risk being shot down, and Special Forces soldiers, tasked with operations behind enemy lines.