One day a week, students at the Moyo Hill Center for Wildlife Management Studies get day off from classes and are given the opportunity to experience the areas around camp. So far the students have been able to practice their Swahili and bargaining skills at local markets and have learned how to paint traditional Tanzanian paintings. This past Saturday the students were presented with the rarestof opportunities—to experience Mtu wa Mbu (“River of Mosquitos,” the town located at the lower edge of the Great Rift Valley Escarpment, right outside of Lake Manyara National Park) by bike.

As the twenty “wanafunzi” (“students”) and their experienced guides from the Mtu wa Mbu Cultural Tourism Center set off on their bikes down the bumpy dirt roads towards Lake Manyara, they peddled through neighborhoods, fields of banana trees, past a herd of baboons, and ended up on the edge of Lake Manyara—a gorgeous lake dotted with flocks of flamingos and small homemade canoes that locals use to fish. It was a beautiful ride set to a uniquely gorgeous backdrop.

As the wanafunzi headed back down the bumpy track towards town they got to experience the lesser-seen side of Mtu wa Mbu. Yes they have amazing animals and beautiful vistas, but the people and their crafts are the true hidden gem of the region. The students were able to visit a wood-working workshop where they learned about the carving process that goes into creating the intricately detailed works depicting animals and people.

They were then taken to visit a painter’s guild where they learned about the three kinds of traditional Tanzanian paintings (Tinga-tinga, knife painting, and “fine art”). These two stops gave the wanafunzi a chance to fully appreciate the thought, effort, and skill that goes into creating these works of art. All in all it was a unique opportunity to see and experience Mtu wa Mbu. We are looking forward to more days like this one!