I cannot stop writing about the Masai Mara in Kenya as it has been one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life. The charm of the Masai Mara happens to be its vast grasslands and the animals indigenous to Africa. As if this wasn’t enough the Mara is also the stage for the annual event called the Great Migration, where thousands of Wildebeast and Zebras cross from the Serengiti in Tanzania to Kenya on a yearly trek.
The magic of Masai Mara are its animals and thousands of tourists flock to the Mara to experience the Mara through a game drive. These are some of the images we took during our 3 day game drive safari in Kenya, most of these images were taken without zooming and they haven’t been edited either but they look mesmerizing nevertheless. Wish a certain dentist from the US had shot using a camera instead of a gun.
The wind blows across the vast rolling plains of the Masai Mara, it is occasionally broken by a lone acacia tree. The grasslands have been a sanctuary for a wide variety of animals that call the Mara home. The Mara can be a very hostile region for humans with water being scarce and the constant threat from hippos (hippos cause more harm to humans than other animals as they are territorial), elephants, lions and leopards.
The only tribe that have beautifully coexisted with the wild in the Mara are the people from the Masai tribe. The image of a Masai walking across the grasslands with a red blanket or shukha with miles misleading nothingness around is quite haunting and powerful. On our trip to Kenya we made sure that we could visit a Masai village.
We reached the Mara later in afternoon after an eventful and bumpy ride down a dusty kaccha road. We had packed boxes of lunch which we could not finish and our driver recommended that we save the food for the kids in the village whom we planned to visit that day. We passed a couple of villages in the Mara and finally stopped outside a cluster of mud huts that had been built around a circle. The children filed out of the village and a few men and women came forward.
One of the men who was the chieftains son spoke English and said that the men were out for the day but we are welcome to visit. The Masai villages that are open to tourists charge a small fee upfront for the visit which we were more than happy to pay. It also makes sense as tourism is a main revenue source in the Masai Mara and also why would you open up your homes and way of life to strangers every now and then besides the Masai have very little to go by. The chieftains son introduced himself as John and his friend Moses and said we are welcome to his village.
The women gathered around and sang a traditional welcome song which was quite sweet as the kids distributed and wolfed down the food that we had brought. John then proceeded to show us how to light a fire using his sword as base and wood but the wind kept interfering with his plan. He then invited us into one of the huts which was pitch dark inside save for a fire which was being used to keep warm and for cooking though there wasn’t much cooking that day.
There was a raised platform inside the hut on both sides which was covered with a straw mat and used as a bed. Since it was dark inside John used the flashlight on his mobile to illuminate inside the hut which came as a surprise but then again why not. We also found out during our safari that Airtel had excellent range in most parts of the wild Masai Mara but just not enough in my living room.
John told us that the village was made of two families and that a Masai man typically marries after he reaches the age of 30 and they are polygamous. Women generally marry as young as 15, he then asked us our age and pointed to another lady with a young one tied to her back who he said was my age. We then went out side to look at the cattle which the Masai pride themselves with. As many as 40 cows and sheep were grazing away on the grassland. John looked at us and asked how many cows we owned, the embarrassing answer was none. He seemed very amused by the answer. He then in jest offered 10 cows for my toddler.
The Masai drink the blood of cows along with water as sustenance. The Masai are proud warriors and pride themselves over hunting though the Kenyan government dissuades them from hunting and in case a wild animal kills livestock the government offers a compensation. Our guide asked John where the lions ‘simba’ was that day and he casually pointed over to a stop on the plains. The Masai definitely are one with the land they live in and many of them also act as safari guides to the tourists. The women also make bead jewelry and other souvenirs to be sold to tourists who visit though bargaining is a expected by everyone. The Masai have embraced the good that tourism brings them while remaining true to their origins.
I still can’t believe that these pics were taken by us in our own camera. The experience of traveling in an open jeep in the fabled Savannah grasslands of Kenya was surreal and if I die and have a stupid smile on my face, I am probably thinking of this trip. We planned our safari to the Masai Mara with Cosmic Safaris a tour group in Kenya and they helped make our 4 day trip to Kenya worth every penny.
The safari included Lake Naivasha which I will always remember as the eerie lake which is said to be a paradise for herbivore and Lake Nakuru the salt water lake which is home to flocks of pink flamingos and the white Rhino and the open grasslands of Masai Mara which is legendary for the Great Migration and the big cats call home. Seeing the Big Five is the holy grail for any safari and once we were able to see the leopard the most elusive of the five our safari guide Joseph was all grins and so were we as we drove out of the Masai Mara.
My two year old still talks about the safari in his limited vocabulary of, ‘ jacket, trucku (referring to the jeep we traveled in) and LION! We saw the first of the Big Five- the Rhino at Lake Nakuru which is 5 hours away from Nairobi. The Rhino is very difficult to spot as the black Rhino feeds at night and hides during the day so on a day safari you would count yourself lucky if you spot the rare White Rhino. Hiding is quite a feat for these animals in the open Savannah but they pull it off quite efficiently. We even chanced upon a lioness who had strategically climbed up a tree and the only thing one could see was one of her huge paw.
The next big cat we spotted on our first drive in Masai Mara, this was the cheetah- though technically the cheetah is not part of Big Five which quite baffles me. This cat sat oblivious to the safari jeeps nearby that it continued licking its paws while brilliantly hidden in the tall grass. I am sure the cheetah is not worried as much because if it really needs to take off it can do so at 80 km/hr in less than a minute. We saw the African elephant next, this huge untamed creature is a sight to behold and is quite easy to spot in the Masai Mara.
The buffalo is also part of the Big Five and is another untamed African animal, I draw this analogy because in Asia elephants and buffaloes have been domesticated for centuries but their African counterparts have staunchly refused any such attempts by man instead it is the donkey that is bearing the burden in Africa.
The most magnificent of the Big Five was a pair of male lions that were enjoying a healthy breakfast of a wilde beast with hyenas, jackals and vultures waiting at the table for their turn. One jackal looked mighty pleased with herself as she found an unappetizing organ that the lions had discarded. Chancing at this smorgasbord in the midst of the Masai Mara and being 30 meters away from them was definitely a high point.
Seeing the diversity and the ease with which the animals roam in this slice of land that they call their own is humbling since humans walked these same grasslands as primitive man not very long ago. There are still some tribes like the Masai that live in harmony with the animals on the periphery of the Masai Mara. I will write about our time at the Masai village next, stay tuned.
Pictures credited to Razor Rasu as I was holding the baby.