Africa - August 2013 Tanzania National Parks Contact Us
Rocky Mountain College offers a unique opportunity for students of all disciplines to join Kayhan Ostovar and Dave Shumway for a trip to experience Africa. The trip will have two main focuses: photography/wildlife viewing, as well as scientific study/research. We will also participate in service work and conservation study while in Africa.

Tanzania (July - August 2013)

Course Description

This course will explore various conservation models with specific examples from Tanzania and other African countries. The Serengeti ecosystem is one of Africa's most important biological resources and critical as a tourism revenue source for Tanzania. Both the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater are renowned World Heritage Sites, heavily visited and praised by Western tourists as successful models of conservation. However, these sites are also places with intense conflicts between wildlife and local communities living in or near these protected areas.

While we will address specific complexities in different ecosystems that we visit and conservation challenges for key imperiled species, we will focus on the human dimension as well. By visiting several parks, reserves, and conservation buffer zones, we will learn about the array of challenges faced by both conservationists and the local communities living in these areas. We will specifically examine the importance of the "Yellowstone National Park model" of conservation and the influence this model has had on the development of protected areas in East Africa. While highly lauded, this model has been criticized due to the restrictions imposed on ethnic groups and indigenous communities that often face eviction from their traditional lands and loss of access to essential natural resources.

During this study tour we will visit top conservation parks and reserves and immerse ourselves in the new focus on community-based conservation projects that increasingly rely on participation of various ethnic groups in conservation and tourism. By better understanding these complex challenges, students will be better prepared to address conservation issues anywhere in the world.

Tarangire National Park

  • The park is 2,850 sq. km (1,096 sq. miles) and is located 118 km (75 miles) southwest of Arusha;
  • It's great to visit anytime, but the dry season (June-September) is best for the sheer number of animals;
  • Swamps in the park are green year-round and feature some 550 species of birds; and
  • Elephants, wildebeest, zebra, buffalo, impala, gazelle, hartebeest, and eland all call the park home, as well as numerous predators. The park is one of the only places to regularly see fringe-eared oryx and long-necked gerenuk.

Nou Forest

  • This is a remnant highland forest reserve where the forest department has entered into co-management agreements with the surrounding villages; and
  • The extremely rural area is mixed with small farming communities around the edge of the forest.

Eyasi Basin and Yaeda Valley

  • Lake Eyasi is a seasonal salt lake on the floor of the Great Rift Valley at the base of the Serengeti Plateau, which is a seasonal stop for migrating flamingos;
  • During wet times, Lake Eyasi remains less than one meter deep;
  • The area is inhabited by the Hadza, who are indigenous to the area; and 
  • Mumba Cave, located on the shores of the Lake Eyasi, is of archaeological significance.

Ngorongoro Crater

  • This crater is called "Africa's Eden" and the "8th Natural Wonder of the World;"
  • Extensive herds of zebra and wildebeest inhabit the crater, along with plenty of lions (it is claimed to have the highest density of mammalian predators in Africa);
  • The black rhino live in the thick cover of the crater forests, just outside the crater's ridge; and
  • Masaai herd cattle on pastures along the highland, thriving side-by-side with wildlife as they have through the ages.

Lake Manyara National Park

  • This park is 330 sq. km (127 sq. miles), of which up to 200 sq. km (77 sq. miles) is lake when water levels are high. The park is located in northern Tanzania and the entrance gate lies 1.5 hours (126 km/80 miles) west of Arusha along a newly surfaced road;
  • Lake Manyara is a scene that Ernest Hemingway called "the loveliest I had seen in Africa;"
  • A narrow band of acacia is a favored haunt of legendary tree-climbing lions and "impressively tusked elephants;" and
  • The park is respected as "the perfect introduction to Tanzania's birdlife," with over 400 species recorded, and even a first-time visitor can reasonably expect to observe 100+ in a day.


  • Day 1: Depart from Billings, Montana.
  • Day 2: Arrive Kilimanjaro – transfer to the Dorobo Olasiti camp near Arusha.
  • Day 3: Briefing and overview – walk through Olasiti village to look at contemporary livelihood issues.(It is a traditional area of people of the Arusha tribe, but it is now being engulfed by the urban expansion from Arusha.) Camp in the Dorobo campground.
  • Day 4: Travel to the Maasai steppe to the Simanjiro plains. Camp in Terat or Sukuro village. This is an area where a conservation easement was established through a partnership of local community-based organizations, NGOs, and tour operators that helped set up a grazing easement program that protects grazing areas from agricultural expansion (benefiting both livestock and wildlife that seasonally use the area from Tarangire).
  • Day 5: Morning walk through the plains, then get picked up and continue to the Oldonyo Sambu community wilderness area bordering Tarangire. Camp in Dorobo mobile camp. Discussions on Maasai culture and community tourism efforts in this area.
  • Day 6: Walking excursions in the Oldonyo Sambu area of Emboreet – a chance to look at the savannah environment, pastoralism and wildlife interactions, community conservation, and tourism issues. We will be joined by Maasai these days who help as guides, interpreters, and local resource people. Camp in Dorobo mobile camp.
  • Day 7: Travel into Tarangire National Park – traditional wildlife viewing en route to the public campground in the north. Discuss wildlife ecology and behavior and issues of protected area of conservation. Camp in Dorobo mobile camp.
  • Day 8: Wildlife and ecology viewing in Tarangire National Park. Camp at the same public campground in Dorobo mobile camp.
  • Day 9: Travel through the great rift valley to the western plateau and the Nou Forest – a remnant highland forest reserve where the forestry department has entered into co-management agreements with the surrounding villages. Camp in Dorobo mobile camp at Nou Forest.
  • Day 10: Make excursions to the forest and in the neighboring Iraqw villages – very rural mixed farming communities. Camp in Dorobo mobile camp at Nou Forest.
  • Day 11: Travel down into the Eyasi basin and the Yaeda valley. Stay in the Mongo wa Mono village – home to the Hadzabe hunter-gatherers. Camp in Dorobo mobile camp.
  • Day 12: Interaction and learning from the Hadza. Camp in the Dorobo mobile camp at Mongo wa Mono.
  • Day 13: Trek across the Yaeda valley accompanied by Hadza to Gederu rocks camp. This is a 15 km hike (option of traveling by vehicle) and is a chance to see the environment on foot and forage along the way with the Hadza.
  • Day 14: Travel out of the valley to the Karatu area below Ngorongoro. Spend the night at the Bougainvillea Lodge, an African-owned lodge with many amenities.
  • Day 15: Travel into Ngorongoro Crater – picnic lunch and wildlife viewing in this World Heritage Site. Return to Bougainvillea Lodge for the night.
  • Day 16: Travel to Lake Manyara National Park for wildlife viewing and picnic lunch. In the afternoon, continue to Arusha and the Ilboru Safari Lodge.
  • Day 17: Visit Arusha town and markets, final preparations for departure, and wrap up and depart Kilimanjaro Airport.
  • Day 18: Arrive in Billings, Montana (it is likely that flights will spill into a nineteenth day).
Rocky Mountain College Environmental Programs

Travel & Accommodations
  • We will travel in country in safari vehicles.
  • Most nights we will be camping, both to allow increased mobility, but also to keep costs down for this three week adventure.
  • Costs includes international airfare and land costs - except for drinks and personal expenditures.
Related Courses
  • Students are encuraged to take ART280 Nature & Conservation Photography of Africa in the fall of 2012 (3 credits).
  • Students are required to take ESC280/380 African Ecology and Conservation in the spring of 2013 (3/4 credits).
  • Everyone on the trip will take ESC380 African Safari (1 credit) in the summer of 2013.