Robert Tarimo was born in Arusha and spent much of his childhood in the 1980s and ‘90s in the Maswa Game Reserve, working with his uncle’s hunting company. Having gained an in-depth knowledge of the land and its wildlife, he decided to leave the hunting industry and become a safari guide instead. Robert now works on a freelance basis and is one of Tanzania’s most popular guides. We caught up with him to find out what inspired him to be a safari guide, what he most enjoys about guiding, and what it is he loves about Tanzania…
Tell us about your upbringing in Tanzania and how you first became interested in wildlife.
I was born in Arusha, and grew up between Arusha and Moshi. Uncle used to have a hunting camp and company in North Maswa. My first time in the bush was 1987 when I was a young boy. I flew up in June to prepare the camp and since then went every year during school holidays (June and December) for a week or two…that’s when I first became interested!
Why was it that you chose not to pursue a career in hunting with your uncle?
I understand the importance of controlled hunting for conservation. I have shot a few animals before, but I do not get a good feeling about it and even more so if I had to do it for a living. I know hunting is not for me!
You spent two years studying in the US, but returned to Tanzania afterwards: what is it about your home country that you love so much?
The wildlife experience, guiding, and here is where my family and friends are. I feel at home. It is a very good geographical accident that I was born and brought up here.
You have been working as a safari guide for many years now. What have been the highlights?
A lot of highlights. I remember in the year 2002 spotting grey-headed social weavers building their nests using dead wildebeest tail hairs instead of grass. That has never been recorded before anywhere else, only in this part of western Tanzania.
What personality traits and skills do you think make a great safari guide?
Love of life for all creatures, passion for nature conservation, pursuit for knowledge and respect to humanity makes a great guide. I am always willing to share the knowledge and experiences the best way I can.
Is there an animal that you like to spot the most?
All the animals have something interesting in their behaviour and ecological niche. I like watching elephants, they are always busy doing something.
We know you love birding…which is your favourite bird to see in Tanzania?
Too many to mention! But forest birds are fascinating especially turacos and trogans, very colourful.
What are your favourite places in Tanzania?
All of the national parks. Depending on time of year…Ngorongoro, for instance, in the rainy season is great as it is less crowded by then.
When you’re not showing visitors around your amazing country, what do you like to do?
Reading books, mostly non-fiction, and spending time with family and friends.
How do you think conservation efforts can be improved in Tanzania? Are there still major problems or are you optimistic about the future?
Conservation efforts can be improved by involving communities adjacent to the wilderness areas. They need to understand that the areas need to be protected through education, awareness, opportunities for employment, and a market for community products. It is already happening and even if it’s a bit late, it is the way forward.
A major problem we are facing now is the poaching of elephants all across Africa. If the above efforts are successful, it will reduce the problem.