Maasai Mara is a spectacular place that is home not only to a large variety of wildlife but also a few nomadic Maasai tribes. Living inside or near national reserves has allowed the Maasai to add tourism to their revenue sources, but has barely modernized their way of life. In Maasai Mara National Reserve you can visit a Maasai village and see their traditional way of life.
Our guide arranged for a young man from a local Maasai tribe to join us for a day and give us a tour of his village. The young Maasai explained a little about Maasai culture as we drove to his village, which was inside the Maasai Mara National Reserve. Maasai are nomadic cattle farmers, following the rain to find grass for their cattle. Cows are an important part of Maasai’s beliefs and culture. They believe that their god, Enkai, brought cows from heaven and gave all of the cows in the world to the Maasai. Each day young men and boys take the cattle out into the savannah to find grass. Their main role is to protect the cows from lions. They carry spears and bows and arrows for weapons.
Their main diet is beef, milk, potatoes and corn but also includes cow’s blood during traditional ceremonies. They drain enough blood from a live cow to be used during the ceremony, but not enough to kill the animal. The wound is sealed with cow dung. We were glad we didn’t see that tradition.
We entered the village through a lion-proof, spikey fence that surrounds the village. Inside were a few one-room homes made from a mixture of cow dung, cow urine, sticks and mud. The homes form a semi circle leaving an open central area for their cows to be housed at night.
Women dressed in bright colours came to welcome us. Many had colourful beaded earrings hanging from their stretched earlobes. They were eager to sell us their home-made bracelets and necklaces. Their children were very shy, not wanting to get too close.
Men wear a traditional red shawl over a red tunic and carried a spear. Hand picked young men are sent on perilous challenges. The successful ones become warriors and are responsible for the safety of the village. They are differentiated by their hair. Warriors are the only ones allowed to wear their hair long, usually in braids. They also carry a rungu; a wooden club with a round end used in hunting.
One fun tradition we saw, was when the warriors had a jumping contest. Maasai are typically tall, and they can jump very high. We were told that the one who jumps the highest gets the girl.
We were invited to enter one of the houses. They have no electricity or running water. Smoke from the cow dung fire filled the the small room. The combination of smoke and cow dung was unbearable and we could only stay inside for a few minutes. The smell wasn’t much better outside since it is essentially a cow paddock. We were constantly swatting away thousands of flies, but the Maasai didn’t seem to be bothered by them.
Our Maasai guide said he had been sent to Nairobi for school as a form of punishment. Usually one child from each large Maasai family is sent to the city for school. It’s the ‘bad’ child that is sent away. The ‘good’ children stay with their family. After spending time in the village, we thought we’d prefer to be the ones be sent to the city.
Maasai Mara National Reserve
As well as visiting the Maasai village we went on a wildlife safari in Maasai Mara National Reserve. Although much smaller than Serengeti in Tanzania, they share a border and have a very similar landscape and wildlife. Our driver took us to the Tanzania side where we stepped across for a few minutes. It’s not officially allowed, but not patrolled and probably done be most of the tourists to the park.
As we found in Serengeti, the open savannah grassland allowed us to see animals in every direction. The two days spent in this park were filled with amazing wildlife sightings.
We weren’t in Kenya during the wildebeest migration but we still went to the Mara River to see where it happens. During the migration millions of wildebeest and other antelopes race across the plains searching for grass after the rainy season. A favourite crossing is the Mara River in Maasai Mara National Reserve. It’s a wide but shallow river with gentle river banks. Resting on those banks were massive crocodiles waiting for their next meal to attempt a river crossing. In the water were dozens of hippopotamuses. Those aren’t all rocks in the last picture below.
One of the funniest scenes was a giraffe fight. Two giraffes stood side by side. They wound up their long necks by stretching it to one side. Then with a powerful force, swung their necks to the other side to hit the other giraffe in the head or neck! We watched them fight for at least 15 minutes and then all of us sudden it ended. We’re not sure who won, but I’m sure they had headaches.
There are many lions in the park. We missed seeing a lion kill an antelope but saw it soon after with it’s lunch.
There are many different types of birds in the park. We saw ostriches, pretty cranes and the odd looking secretary bird. There were many flat-topped acacia trees and funny looking sausage tree.
Lake Nakuru National Park
The Rift Valley is a deep expansive Kenyan valley with many soda lakes. The lakes are shallow with little drainage and become very alkaline. These conditions are good for algae which is eaten by fish and crustaceans. The large fish population brings many different water birds. Lake Nakuru is a soda lake in the Rift Valley that attracts over 400 species of birds including thousands of flamingos.
The national park surrounds the lake and is filled with grassland and forests which are home to many mammals. It’s not as large as other parks, but its unique setting is a nice spot for a safari.
Coming Next: Climbing in Yosemite
To read about more of our adventures go to Destinations.
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