The area around the nearby village of Karatu was cultivated as early as 2,000 years ago by the Mbulu or Iraqw, a Cushitic group of people who migrated south from Ethiopia and Yemen, and who still dominate the area today. The Maasai came fairly recently, in the late 1700s, but were driven into other areas more suitable for cattle herding by the sleeping sickness in their herds and repeated wars with their agricultural neighbors.
Europeans began visiting Tanzania as early as 1700, and the Germans were the first to settle in the area in the late 1700s. Dr. Albert Freiherr von Poelnitz, a German duke purchased the land (the area that is now Gibb’s Farm) from his brother-in-law and continued to cultivate it as a coffee plantation. The original farmhouse was built in 1929, and what is today known as the Deutsche House cottage was built to commemorate the German heritage of the farm. Upon completing his home, Dr. Freiherr von Poelnitz described it as:
“The building was successful, it is cool, rain proof and friendly. Bats, butterflies, bees and lizards share the house with use because we recklessly sleep with the doors and windows wide open. In front of the house a patio swings out in a half round and in front of it lies a flower garden. Throughout the year we have violets, carnations, oleander, lilies, cannas, snap dragons, chrysanthemums, eucalyptus, cedars and lilac.”
After the First World War, Tanganyika became a British Protectorate. In the late 1920s a coffee farm was established by a German farmer, subsidized by the German Government. During the Second World War, the British Custodian of Enemy Property took over the farm. Neglected through the war years, the farm was bought in 1948 by James Gibb, a British war veteran, who returned it to production. In 1959, he married Margaret, who was born in Tanzania to British parents. Margaret, an avid gardener, started a small vegetable and flower garden.
In 1960, the Serengeti National Park was partitioned and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area was established along the northern boundary of the farm. To accommodate an influx of visitors attracted to the conservation area and surrounding national parks, James and Margaret built guest cottages in 1972, making Gibb’s Farm one of the first guesthouses in northern Tanzania. James Gibb died in 1977, but Margaret continued to run the farm until 2003, when she and her late husband, Per Kullander, passed on the Gibb’s Farm tradition to new investors. Today, Gibb’s Farm continues to build upon the gracious hospitality and legacy of conservation—an organic farm for over 27 years!—so carefully cultivated for future generations to enjoy.