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Elephants, Tanzania

Wild thing

We are driving through a thick acacia forest around quite a sharp corner – and we brake. Elephants are crossing from one side of the track to the other. We decide we better back up a little so that we don't disturb them too much.

The matriarch – the female elephant leading the herd – stands in the middle of the road, trunk up and in our direction, smelling to ascertain whether she knows us. Yes, she does – we can tell because she stays where she is – and she makes sure the entire herd gets safely to the other side behind her.

And then they all just disappear into the thick forest again, and it looks as if they've never been there.

It's these encounters that make safaris in Saadani so unique, and it's these special moments that make our hearts beat – or sing.

We love it wild and this is probably why we ended up in Africa – in Tanzania, a place that is not on the regular travel itinerary.

This passion and a love for wildlife and adventures brought us to this little stretch of untouched beach on Tanzania's northern coast, just a few kilometers north of one of the most undiscovered national parks, the only one on the Indian Ocean in East Africa – Saadani.

An ecolodge on Tanzania's northern coast is the ideal base to encounter some spectacular wildlife, says Sarah Peled  

beach, Tanzania

It's exciting to be here. When we arrived a couple of years ago, there was simply nothing – pure wilderness, no tarmac road (there still isn't, and it takes two to three hours in every direction on rough road to get to tarmac at all), no electricity grid (that doesn't really matter, because it's not reliable anyway) and no running water (here lies the real challenge).

But here we managed to build our own small ecolodge – a little piece of paradise that we now share with our guests.

It was an adventure to build Tembo Kijani. We started with a well, then a small solar panel, then the rest – crawling through the bush to find the perfect locations for the guest units without cutting down any of the vegetation.

It took some time to experiment with which materials would work best and which would stay for a while in this rough climate of salt air, humidity and harsh sun.

With the goal of keeping our environmental footprint in the building process to a minimum – an aim subsequently applied to the actual running of the lodge – we used lots of local natural materials and avoided cement wherever possible.

But now you can see the effects of this way of building. The lodge is green, and monkeys, birds, gazelles, nile monitors, rabbits, wild cats and more feel at home here. If you come with open eyes and ears, you might just see them from your window.

While other lodges build swimming pools – even though they are located right by the beach and a beautiful ocean – we build little pools for the wildlife at the premises. We enjoy sitting there, watching the birds come and take a quick bath to cool down or the monkeys visiting in the afternoons to take a sip or two.

Yes, we love it wild and this is probably contagious. Most of our guests start to get excited about nature and wildlife themselves.

A stay at Tembo Kijani is about merging with nature, but of course it's also about vacation and time to relax.

Four Bush Bandas – neighbors to the monkeys – and three Beach Bungalows – only a crab walk away from the beach – are a unique, eco-friendly and very comfortable way to experience sleeping in the Tanzanian bush.

Hot water and electricity 24/7 is standard in our self-sustaining rooms, with extra long beds for our European customers. A mixture of local produce and European cuisine lets our guests enjoy romantic dinners every evening in the restaurant facing the Indian Ocean.

During the day the beach invites strolls and refreshing swims. But you shouldn't miss the activities to explore the Swahili Coast of Tanzania with us – by foot on a walking safari, by boat in the Mangrove system or by car on safari in Saadani National Park.

And maybe in the end you will also go home humming – Wild Thing, you make my heart sing!

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antelope, Tanzania
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lions, Tanzania
Tembo Kijani ecolodge, Tanzania
Tembo Kijani ecolodge, Tanzania

Sarah Peled, born in Germany, lives with her husband and daughter in the Tanzanian bush, where they together designed, built and now run Tembo Kijani – an ecolodge that promotes conservation, environment protection and sustainable tourism.

Tembo Kijani is located on the Swahili Coast of Tanzania on an untouched beach between Pangani and the Saadani National Park. The lodge runs entirely on renewable energy (solar and wind). The lodge is built as part of the nature surrounding it, and employs local people from the surrounding villages. The guest units are nestled in the coastal vegetation and built almost entirely from local natural materials. There is a zero waste policy and food is sourced locally.

Green Adventures January 2016

All images courtesy of Tembo Kijani ecolodge

Wildlife in tanzania