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GIBB'S FARM : Experiencing Culture

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visiting Gibb's Farm

Gibb's Farm uniquely combines culture, safari, a working organic farm and luxury, in northern Tanzania.

Gibb's Farm - Tanzania [2010 © greatguides.org]
The staff choir sing in the local community and at the lodge

In an era where travellers are beginning to request 'authenticate' tourism, Gibb's is years ahead.  We have visited Gibb's Farm twice, and it was only on the second occasion that I began to fully grasp the sum of what Gibb's offers. Perhaps appropriately for a coffee farm, Gibb's is a unique blend, offering a combination of farm life, community, luxury and a safari location.

Gibb's is one of the oldest lodges in East Africa.  Located on the outer slopes of the Ngoronogoro Crater it has been, for decades, a popular place to stop and explore the Crater or Manyara National Park, or as an overnight break before continuing on the long road that leads to the Serengeti.  Set on a hill, beneath a  rainforest, and overlooking coffee bush fields and vegetable gardens, it offers a relaxing setting.

Peter Rey | Gibbs - Tanzania [2010 © Roddy ] - Gibb's Farm - Experiencing Culture - Great Guides

Gibb's is a place of 'culture', in all senses. When Thomson Safaris bought Gibb's in 2003 they appointed Dale Jensen and Bradford Zac as managers. They set about making Gibb's much more than just a place to stay. It is certainly luxurious, but it is more than that, it offers a way to connect with Tanzania and enjoy its culture.

There is a strong emphasis on art and craft, not only in the handcrafted decor and gallery, but in the presence of outstanding artists-in-residence who work on the property and who are delighted to discuss their work. One can also visit the carpenters as they make furniture for the lodge.

Peter Rey, one of the resident artists at Gibb's

The local Iraqw community make up most of the 150 staff on this working farm. The Iraqw appear similar to the Maasai, but are originally a Cushitic group of people who migrated south from Ethiopia and Yemen.  Guests are encouraged to be alongside the staff and join in with the 'rhythm of the farm', helping to milk the cows, feed the pigs, make cheese and join the kitchen staff when they bake muffins. The morning coffee roasting on the verandah is especially memorable.  The staff are invariably delightful. 

Many of the staff that work in the 10ha organic garden, are also trained as horticultural guides. They enthusiastically take guests for a walk around the garden, describing the organic techniques they practise.

At the heart of the garden, beneath a magnificent Albisia tree is a fireplace. At sunset each evening there are talks on a range of interesting topics by a resident artist, writer, naturalist or healer.
Gibbs - Gibb's farm, Tanzania [2010 © Roddy ] - Gibb's Farm - Experiencing Culture - Great Guides
The albisia tree in the the organic gardens; the Tembo fire is held here  each night 

Healing is a vital aspect of any culture. Gibb's employs Maasai healers to offer guests an experience of African treatments as well as massage.  The healers also provide medicine to the staff and their families, in partnership with a western physician as part of a programme to better relate western and African medicine.

Gibbs - Gibb's farm, Tanzania [2010 © Roddy ] - Gibb's Farm - Experiencing Culture - Great GuidesIn these and other ways, Gibb's goes far beyond the 'cultural show' offered by most safari lodges. It combines the comfort of a luxury lodge with an in-depth experience of a working farm and local culture.  One is able to experience Tanzania in ways that normally only the most intrepid traveller might discover.  But instead of a backpack one has the comfort of a beautiful lodge. 
Learning about medicinal plants with a Maasai healer

Author: Roddy Bray
Published Date: 03 Jun 2011
Location: East Africa | Tanzania
Themes: travel