The Geography of The Great Swamp

Bonde la Hatari

The Great Swamp is located in a valley named Bonde la Hatari somewhere amidst central African jungles. The lowlands inside the valley are for the most part covered in dense jungle foliage. It is home to a great many species including predators that can pose a threat to humans. Rivers run down from the mountains all around. The waters eventually gather in the Great Swamp and the large lake Ziwa Tulivu to its South.


Bonde la Hatari is isolated from the outside world by the surrounding mountain ranges. There are no established roads or even trails that would lead into or out of the valley. Only few have dared make their own paths through the jungle and across the mountains on foot. Fewer have succeeded. Thankfully today it is possible to reach the valley by plane. The only place suitable to land one though is Ziwa Tulivu, so you had better bring a seaplane.

Local Population

There are only rough estimates concerning the size of the local population. Currently it is estimated that there are about 11000 indigenous people living in the entire valley. They are organized in at least 5 tribes each with their own village. Their way of life does not seem to have changed much in the past thousand years or so. They have had very little contact with the world outside the valley and still live their lives in very much the same ways as their ancestors did. I have had contact with 3 of the tribes and their leaders. None of the chieftans had any objections to me building TGS camp. Well, one of them thought I was joking and would not stop laughing, the other two called me crazy for attempting to build anything at all in the swamps. But it appears that none of them want to lay claim to these lands. The other tribes were not as happy to see an outsider and I decided to keep my distance from them. Overall I try to keep contact to any of the tribes to a minimum so as to not contaminate their cultures. They should be allowed to preserve their ancient ways. None of the tours will ever lead into their territories either and TGS visitors are encouraged to leave the locals to themselves.

The one person who might want to lay claim to a part of The Great Swamp is Shetani. Though she is rumored to have built a hut somewhere in the Western part of TGS, its exact location is unknown and she apparently prefers to keep it that way. At least thus far she has not complained about her new neighbors. Her story and how she ended up living in the swamp shall be told another time.

Natural Resources

There are none. At least there do not seem to be any resources that the civilized world would consider to be particularily valueable. This factor has contributed to the valley’s isolation. The only thing that may be considered valuable here is the natural beauty of the land. But so far the valley has been considered unsuitable for tourism due to its abuandant natural hazards. We will see how that works out for TGS camp.

The Great Swamp

Where the constant flow of water from the rivers and streams slows down as they fan out, the jungle transitions into The Great Swamp. To the West, the river Mwalamu is considered its border, to the North and east it is harder to draw a meaningful line on the map as the transition between those biomes is quite blurry. To the South it is bordered by the lake Ziwa Tulivu. The Great Swamp itself is also not exactly one biome but can be further subdivided and it gives room for a great variety of flora and fauna. The properties of the soil, the humidity, the even amount of sunlight and temperature vary a lot. And as usual nature adapts and provides the life forms best suited for each respective region. Though collectively called The Great Swamp, people will also use the plural “swamps” when referring to this region as it better emphasizes its heterogenous nature. If there is anything the entire Great Swamp has in common, it is probably quicksand. Though that may also be a bit of an over-generalization, because there are also many different types of it to be found or sunk into, if you are not careful. Though not everyone may agree on exactly where the eastern border should be drawn, it is still safe to says that the Great Swamp covers at least 120 square kilometers in its entirety.

The Great Swamp - Western half

The Western part of the swamp has been explored quite a bit though there are certainly still discoveries to be made. Along its West side runs the river Mwalamu and its side arm Mdogo. The lush jungle foliage in that region makes it quite pleasant to explore and take some pictures. Do not be deceived by the transquility of the place though and always watch out for quicksand, especially along the river banks. The Mwalamu eventually feeds into the lake Ziwa Tulivu further south. There are even some sand beaches that people like to go to there. Farther to the east along the shore you will find that the tall reed blocks your path and view. There are only a few hard-to-find paths that lead to the lake and some other beaches. It can be quite dangerous to try and force one’s way through the reeds as there are many bogs hidden among them. The safest and easiest way to access the lake from within the swamp is the boardwalk built at TGS camp (more on that later). Other notable areas in the Western part of TGS include the peat bogs to the North-West extending all the way to the center of the Great Swamp. However, if you look farther East, the plant life becomes less vibrant and eventually there are not any live plants at all. That is when you have arrived at the central peat bogs, which is part of the border between TGS West and East. This central peat land stretches far and is an eerie place mostly covered in dense fog and with moist peat covering most of the ground. So far an examination of the soil has provided no explanation why all the trees in this area have died. But it does explain why the locals call this area “nyumba ya kifo " which you could translate as “death’s home”. The dense fog and lack of landmarks makes it easy to loose your way. As does the fact that no compass or GPS seems to work reliably in that area. And of course the peat can be dangerously deep in some places. If you avoid the peat bogs and try to enter TGS East farther to the South, you will end up in the maze that is the Mangrove Swamp. While this swamp may not look as forboding it is still quite dangerous to traverse. The mostly shallow water hides many quicksand pits and it is just as easy to get lost here. Even farther South you will again meet with the reed marshes as you come closer to the lake. Only here you are much more likely to encounter not only bogs but also crocodiles. If you would rather find actual quicksand composed of silt, you will find a great many creeks and ponds in the Western part of TGS that have exactly that. Of course not every patch of mud is a bottomless death trap, but it can be hard to tell the difference before it is too late. You should expect to find some form of mud, clay or quicksand near every body of water, except one. That one exception is a small lake named Ziwa la Kioo which is located dead center in the TGS West region. It is a bit of a natural safe haven and you can not only swim but also safely drink its water.

The Great Swamp - Eastern half

While TGS West certainly has its hazards, they are kind of manageable. Such is not the case with the eastern part of TGS which is why no tours are being offered into this region. Most of this swamp is still unexplored and so information is quite vague. The fact that a thick layer of fog seems to cover it all day and all year around, makes it impossible to get a good picture of it even from up in the air. And approaching it on foot is - as you can probably imagine by now - anything but safe. The areas you would need to cross in from the West have already been described above (either the Central Peat Bogs or the Mangrove Swamp). If you try to enter it from the lake, your best chance is probably to go up along one of the rivers by boat. But even with minimum gage, you will soon run aground on some bank of muck. And if you get yourself stuck in that while trying to free your boat, you had better hope it is not too deep and the crocodiles are not too hungry. If you prefer to enter TGS East from the jungles to its North and East, you will have to evade plenty of bogs, snakes, possibly other predators. And when the fog gets thicker, it only gets harder not to take that last wrong step. I have yet to find someone who has reached the heart of the eastern swamps and lived to tell about it. This mysterious, largely still unknown region has inspired quite a few myths which only makes it harder to tell fact from fiction when gathering information about it.

Myths and Legends

One of the most widespread myths among the local tribes concerns the origin of the eastern half of the Great Swamp. According to legend this region used to be hospitable fertile land inhabited by a prosperous tribe. Life was good and nature was kind to them. But there was one downside. They worshipped an ancient Earth god and each season the shaman would name one person in the village to be sacrificed to their deity. This was usually done by having them sink into a quicksand pit. This went on for countless generations, until one season the shaman announced the chieftan’s daughter was to become the next sacrifice. This resulted in a long heated argument between the chieftan and the shaman. Details on what exactly was said vary depending on the storyteller, but it always ends with the shaman attempting to assassinate the chieftan’s daughter in some way later on. Her father successfully protected her and had the shaman locked up. Then he openly declared defiance to their god by announcing the end to those sacrifices. The tribe’s people felt uneasy with this decision at first, but they sided with their chieftan nonetheless. Soon after, clouds gathered in the sky above the village and rain started pouring down. The heavy rain continued uninterrupted for several days and the once dry ground could soon no longer soak up all the water. New ponds and creeks formed. The land transformed into a waterlogged mass of mud and quicksand. Some people evacuated their homes in time to seek shelter elsewhere but the majority of them were either unwilling to leave or they only made up their minds when it was already too late. Not only is TGS East considered a place where a great many people found their doom, but the locals seem to believe that it remains cursed by that god’s wrath to this day.

Another legend seems to have originated outside the valley. According to it there lived an extremely wealthy ruler over a thousand years ago. His country apparently bordered to the valley’s mountain ranges. With his wealth also came a great paranoia that someone would try to steal his gold. Most say that he became in fact quite mad. He knew about the valley beyond the mountains and how hard it was to get there. Eventually the king decided to have his gold hidden there. And so he gathered the few men whom he still considered trustworthy enough, packed his valueables and went on the journey. Naturally he never returned. There are different versions on what happened to him. Some sources say that his men betrayed and killed him for his riches. Others claim that he fell to his death in the mountains. Still others say that he reached the valley only to have his gold and eventually himself go under in one of the numerous bogs. Even though there are hardly any tangible clues that said king and his riches were ever real, the stories still inspire would-be treasure hunters to occasionally come to the valley.

There are many more tales about curses and foul beasts concerning the eastern swamps. This very dangerous and largely unknown area is a great source of inspiration for any sort of spooky tale and so new ones seem to spawn all the time.

TGS camp

Work on the camp began in 2018. At that time it was just a bunch of tents and a fireplace. Since then it has gradually expanded. More permanent structures have been built to accomodate staff and visitors. The primary building material has been wood from the surrounding area. The camp is situated in the western half of TGS right next to Ziwa Tulivu. A boardwalk has been built to enable easy access to and from the lake. This has allowed me to bring in more staff and material. A tall fence has also been erected to provide protection from predators and eventually TGS camp officially opened to visitors in 2020. While still relying on wares and resources from the outside, the camp is making good progress towards becoming more self-sufficient. Most of the food served in the camp is made by our chef from the local crops. We have also installed solar panels which usually provide enough power to cover the camp’s energy needs. The old generators are now merely a backup. As of 2021, the camp is still expanding to provide more housing and sufficient food for our visitors. But there is also a limit set to the expansion by myself, as I do not want the camp to have too much of an impact on the swamp. It is meant to be a base camp for those who want to see the swamps and experience the natural untamed wilderness which I intend to preserve. So even if for some unforeseen reason every tourist on Earth should suddenly want to come to TGS, rest assured that I will never build a huge hotel here to satisfy such demand.