Financial Times (UK)

Book ID 375

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Financial Times (UK)
Extract Author: Gary Mead
Extract Date: 1997 December 9

Tanzania: Severe drought

Severe drought in the northern Coffee-growing areas around Kilimanjaro and Arusha - traditionally the areas for growing high-quality arabica beans - means the country's biggest foreign currency earner will be affected in 1997-98.

Total Coffee production in 1996-97 was 43,000 tonnes (worth about $95m); the northern crop was more than 16,500 tonnes, and is expected to see a 40 per cent decline in 1997-98.

Extract ID: 1460

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Financial Times (UK)
Extract Date: 2000 Feb 12


Feeling dusty after a day in the bush? Never fear, Serena Hotels has introduced spa and beauty treatments at all its African lodges.

Aromatherapy massages, facials, spa revitalisers and manicures for tired paws are all on offer.

Extract ID: 1483

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Financial Times (UK)
Extract Author: Nicholas Woodsworth
Extract Date: September 6 2002

Tanzania: And the rest is pre-history

The long rains had come to northern Tanzania, and in the night I listened to a constant patter of raindrops magnified by the canvas above my head.

Ndutu Camp was a fine place to be in this season. In the woodlands and marshes of the Olduvai Gorge there were leopards, cheetahs and other wild cats. In the surrounding Serengeti Plains great grazing herds of wildebeest, zebras and gazelles had returned. Along with hyenas, lions and the predators that pursued them, it was a very lively place.

But for the moment I was interested in something a little less lively. It was a good day for fossils.

We drove eastwards out of camp, down the beginnings of the Olduvai Gorge. It had stopped raining, but the track was still slick with mud and muck. We slithered past the shores of Lake Masek, where pink flamingos, their heads plunged in the shallow water, stood feeding in their hundreds. A little further on we stopped and continued on foot.

The bush was sodden, the streams swollen - within minutes we were muddy up to our ankles, grass-soaked above our knees. But then we came to a slope, a space where the ground was open and rocky, and halted.

Hunting for fossils, I discovered, is a bit like hunting for truffles. At first it seems unlikely that you will ever find such rare and improbable objects, and after a few minutes of fossicking about you feel the exercise is pointless and dull. Then you find one. Suddenly your interest is aroused, your imagination piqued, and the chase is on.

And there were plenty of fossils to find. After a long, hot, arid season the first heavy rains had washed a good deal of earth and loose detritus down the slope, exposing underlying layers. Among the flints and pebbles there I found fossilised bones - thin, broken tube-shaped bones; broad joint-like forms that reminded me of shoulder-bones; large, flat-topped molars that over millennia had turned to stone.

There were also rocks there that, with just a bit of fancy, one might see as not quite naturally shaped. Was that an off-cut on that chunk of quartz, or deliberate flaking on that sliver of obsidian? Could the sharp edges of those stones have been used as cutting blades?

I'm no palaeontologist, but in the heat of the moment I was a good fantasist. All these curious stones and bones could not be here by accident. Was it not possible that in some distant age this had been a camp belonging to early man, a curious hominid somewhere between an ape and the homo sapiens of today?

I pictured him hunched down on the slope before a flickering fire. The roughly butchered carcase of a gazelle lay scattered about. His massive jaws crunched bones and he spat the bits out at his feet, but never as he ate did his eyes cease sweeping the darkness around him for danger in the night . . .

If I was allowing myself all sorts of extraordinary imaginings it was, of course, because Olduvai Gorge is an extraordinary place. It was here that, in the middle of the last century, spectacular fossil finds were made, allowing scientists a great leap forward in their understanding of human evolution.

In spite of my enthusiasm, I found my knees growing sore after a couple of hours, and I finally gave up. Enough vague fantasies, I told myself. Some 35km down the gorge at the Olduvai archaeological site I could learn something of the real history of this cradle of man.

So off we headed on the plain above the gorge, a green and grassy expanse dotted with milling herds as far as the eye could see. If I were "handy man", homo habilis, and living a million years ago, how handy would I be, armed with some stone implement, in creeping up behind one of these creatures and killing it for dinner? Not very handy at all, I thought.

But there was at least one modern man who proved that ancient hominids did just that. When Kenyan-born archaeologist Louis Leakey and his wife, Mary, first began visiting Olduvai in the early 1930s, he was convinced that in the stratified layers of the gorge walls lay clues to man's common origins.

When Leakey was scoffed at for offering certain stones as evidence of ancient tool-making, he did not reply with academic argument. He walked down into the gorge, chipped out similar stone tools himself, and caught, killed and butchered wild animals with them. He astounded critics by dismembering antelopes in 10 minutes flat. In the small museum at the visitor centre I gazed at the stone knives, scrapers, pounders and hand-axes that began a technological revolution that continues to this day.

But it took the Leakeys more than 10 minutes to produce the evidence that finally brought them world attention. At the bottom of the gorge I gazed at the place where, 28 long years after beginning their search for early man, Mary Leakey one day in 1959 caught sight of a tiny scrap of bone.

There she went on to find two large hominid teeth, and then the first skull of Zinjanthropus, or Australopithecus boisei, commonly called "Nutcracker man". The discover y of the creature that lived some 1.75m years ago brought the funding the Leakeys needed to further construct man's family-tree. The rest, as I would like to think they say at Olduvai, is pre-history.

That evening, back at Ndutu Camp, I sat down to an elegantly set dinner table. My fellow guests included a New Zealand financial lawyer from Hong Kong and an English marketing couple - they were, all in all, a very modern lot.

Their day had been an adventurous one filled with hippos and lions. And what, they asked cheerfully, had I found?

"Fossils", I replied, expecting to be quizzed for at least a moment on hand axes and the dismembering of small mammals.

"How fascinating," they said, eyes glazing over, and they moved rapidly on to talk of other more amusing subjects - Harry Potter books, the power-steering on Bentley cars, summer holidays in the Dordogne.

I took it amiss at first, and continued eating my p�t� in silence. Did they not realise that without the talents homo habilis had developed, power-steering would not even exist?

But by the time the banana-toffee pie arrived - a speciality of Ndutu - I had warmed to them. For were we not, after all, one big family? No matter where we came from - London, Hong Kong, or the kitchen of Ndutu camp - did we not have one common ancestor? He lay not far away, in the bottom of Olduvai Gorge.


Nicholas Woodsworth's safari was arranged by Tim Best Travel, specialists in tailor-made African holidays. Tel: +44 (0)207-591 0300, e-mail: Four nights at Nomad Safari's Ndutu Camp, excluding flights and transfers, begins at �1,200 per person. A 12-day Tented Safari in northern Tanzania, including all flights, transfers, food, drink and park fees, costs from �3,250 per person, based on four travelling.

Extract ID: 3560