Deep within the woodlands of Central Serengeti, rises the song of the women of Dunia. This luxury safari tented camp by Asilia Africa is the first of its kind; from the head chef and waitresses to the guides, the semi-permanent camp is run entirely by women. These Dunia Angels, as they are known, have given up a traditional way of life, leaving their homes and families for months at a time, to work in the bush. Their goal is simple, but mighty: to be independent, support themselves and their families, and provide an exceptional experience for guests.
A safari in Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park is a bucket list item for many first-time visitors due to the Great Migration, where thousands of wildebeest and zebra move across the vast plains in search of food and water, as lions and other predators lurk in the grasses. Safari goers are treated to dramatic predator action and memorable sightings of herds of elephants, bloats of hippo and, if lucky, the elusive leopard and endangered black rhino. The region is also home to many striking birds, from the elegant saddle-billed stork to the kori bustard, the largest flying bird in Africa.
But a safari isn’t only about the game drives. The camp/lodging visitors choose further enhances the experience. At Dunia, from the moment your vehicle arrives at camp from the closest airstrip, you are greeted by the rising song and dance of the Dunia Angels. Their joy and pride are palpable, and one can’t help but feel inspired by their perseverance to beat all odds to succeed in the male-dominated safari industry.
During my stay at Dunia last October, I had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with these pioneering women. Keep reading to learn more about what drives them, the obstacles they face, and how they are inspiring the next generation of Tanzanian women.
Doris Moshi, Waitress
Doris Moshi began her professional journey at Asilia as a trainee at another camp, and began working at Dunia in 2021. “The former camp was mixed, so it feels good working with the ladies. It’s kind of fun, apart from working,” she says, laughing. After COVID-19 closures, Dunia reopened and Moshi was asked to join full-time.
Given that everyone hails from various parts of the country, often traveling long distances and leaving their families behind, the women find it easier to work at an all-female camp because of the camaraderie. “I enjoy having the sisters around. That’s how we live.” If she’s ever in any trouble, the Dunia women are the only ones first attending to her.
Throughout history, women were not allowed to work outside of the home. “Nowadays, the world is changing. People are accepting that ladies should get an education and work.”
Still, it’s hard for women in the safari industry. Many miss their families, as the work takes them away for weeks at a time. “I am a Chagga. We normally gather in December to do the ceremonies and meetings. But, nowadays, I miss that opportunity as we have a lot of guests then, and I cannot be in town.”
But back home, before she started working, Moshi remembers sitting with her family one day with nothing to do, wondering if they’d be better off if more hands were bringing something back to the family. “If one person is working, it will be a burden [on the others]. If I will also work, there will be two hands putting something in the family. We bring something together.”
As for working in the bush, where there’s a fear of encountering wild animals, Moshi focuses on the positive and encourages others to come and work. “It is breathtaking here, the animals and nature. Everybody is dying to be here. I feel lucky being here.” When she goes home, she tells her friends about how she gets to see these incredible animals and mingle with guests from around the world.
Grace Matemba, Safari Guide
Grace Matemba knew exactly what she wanted to do from a young age. “I got the dream of becoming a guide when I was in secondary school,” she says, while scanning a lake for avian life during our breakfast stop one morning. When her initial schooling didn’t land her the dream job, she went back to study international languages, specifically French, as “most companies said there is an advantage to having another language.”
Matemba worked as a freelance guide before getting hired by Asilia, which she shares is “one of the best companies. It offers a lot for the trainees and empowers women. It feels like we are still in school.”
Prior to becoming a guide at Asilia, Matemba wasn’t even allowed to drive her own safari vehicle. “I was sitting on the left side of the driver with me. I was helping the driver.” Now, she’s in charge of her own 4x4, leading game drives, and often driving long distances alone to pick up safari-goers. She is trained in how to jack the car, change a tire, and is prepared for anything she may encounter in the Serengeti.
At Asilia, anyone wanting to become a guide is eligible to apply. After the person passes the interview, they train for a year, and get a chance to be a trainee to learn from more experienced guides. They then can become a junior guide.
“Being a guide is a difficult thing,” shares Matemba, and worries that many women might give up when they start facing challenges. “Those who are hardworking and not willing to give up, I see a good future for these young girls.”
When Matemba expressed interest in becoming a guide with her family, she received a lot of support, especially from her brother who is also a guide. But plenty of others posed questions, because they couldn’t believe a safari camp could be run entirely by women. “‘How do you get to operate an all-female camp?’ ‘How can you be on your own without men in the camp?’ So it’s amazing for people,” says Matemba.
Dunia is considered one of the top safari camps in the Serengeti, proving that women can, in fact, succeed without men.
Yasinta Charles Mabula, Assistant Manager
Yasinta Charles Mabula, who was Assistant Manager in training when I visited Dunia, has an air of confidence and a smile that whisks your worries away. Her journey to leadership was long, but nonetheless uplifting. Mabula worked as a housekeeper, but had big dreams and the skills to boot. She quickly moved up the ladder, getting training within Asilia to become housekeeper supervisor and then assistant manager. This included rotating between several Asilia properties throughout East Africa.
“I am proud of myself and I continue to do my level best,” she says, beaming from a couch in the airy lounge at Dunia. Mabula was filling in for the manager (who was on leave), when I arrived. She’s the first person to greet each guest, check in about their daily activities, and ensure that their needs are met. She’s also the ringleader during the nightly singing and dancing performance the group puts on for the guests, complete with drumming and clapping. Her favorite song to sing is Wanawake Tunaweza, which is about how “women can do anything”.
Mabula uses her achievements to inspire others. At most safari camps, staff work for two months and return home for three weeks. When she goes back home, she encourages others to work in the bush and explains how Asilia can support them throughout their professional journey. “By working in the bush, you get a lot of experience, you mingle with other guests, you change views and ideas,” she recalls telling her neighbors back home.
All of this is possible because of her supportive family, including her husband, who cares for her two sons at home.
Siyaeli (Elly) Moshi, Camp Manager
Towards the end of my stay, I had the pleasure of meeting Siyaeli (Elly) Moshi, the manager of Dunia Camp, upon her return from leave. Moshi (no relation to Doris), oversees 25 staff members, but she needs them just as much as they need her. “We love being together. We have a sisterhood. We play and have fun together and that’s the most fun about it,” she shares, as we sit on the veranda, overlooking the sunset beyond the tall grasses of the Serengeti.
As the manager, Moshi has to worry about mechanical issues, and getting supplies and spare parts to the remote location. But what sustains her and the others is the second family they’ve come to rely on. “We work together and make it happen as a team. Of course, we laugh, enjoy ourselves when it comes to work, and we work hard.”
What sets Dunia Camp apart from all the others is the celebratory singing and dancing, which Moshi says has been present from the beginning and adds life to everything. For the Dunia sisters, singing is kind of a comfort, and it’s soothing from the inside, says Moshi. “We just sing, even when we don’t have guests. We put on some music and we dance.”
As we neared the end of our conversation, Moshi proudly discussed the strides women have made in Tanzania. “As you can see, our president [Samia Suluhu Hassan] is a lady. We are going to run the world,” she says, explaining how more and more girls are going to schools, getting educated, and “starting to own their space.”
Before departing, Moshi handed me a Tanzanian flag bracelet she was wearing. Every time I have it on, it connects me to the family of Dunia sisters of which I was a part, if only for a short time.
About Asilia’s Dunia Camp
Founded in 2004, Asilia Africa is a Tanzania-based company that operates eco-friendly camps and lodges in Kenya and Tanzania. It boasts 95% of staff from the African continent and sustainable camps powered by solar energy.
The 9-unit, Dunia camp offers luxurious tents with four-poster beds, ensuite bathrooms with hot showers, gourmet meals, and Wi-Fi. The all-inclusive stay features two daily game drives – one early in the morning to catch the sunrise accompanied by breakfast in the bush, and another right before sunset – followed by a sundowner. Guests can relax in between, with meals in the open-air lounge/dining area, and tea time in the late afternoon with hot beverages and sweet treats. Before dinner, guests can congregate by the roaring fire pit outside for “BUSH TV”, where the only entertainment is the sky and the fire, and of course the vivacious songs of the Dunia angels.
Guests cannot book directly with Asilia Africa, so it’s recommended to consult with a tour operator close to home with ties to African properties. Alluring Africa, based in Florida, is a conscious tour operator that can help arrange your safari, taking care of all the details from booking flights to activities on the ground. Once you’ve booked your journey, check out these additional tips for a memorable safari in Tanzania.