The plains are a beautiful green, like neatly mowed lawns dispersed with lone trees. The very trees that give Kenya’s Masai Mara its name.
The word Mara literally means ‘spotted’, which refers to both the landscape patched with groves of acacia and thorn bushes, as well as the colour red of the earth that pushes through the grass. Sun-bleached bones litter the land as wildebeest and zebra graze nearby oblivious to the pack of lions that lie fully sated under a tree, legs in the air occasionally swatting at lazy flies, all the while looking deceptively domesticated.
After enjoying an early safari from Olare Mara Kempinski where I am staying, as well as a break for coffee and brunch, we have driven about an hour from camp with our guide David Lomali, who is dressed head to toe in his traditional Masai warrior gear. As the open vehicle veers and curves along the narrow track, I hear the sound of the adornments around his necklace clinking against each other. It’s rather mesmerising in this magical place that has captured my heart.
When David had suggested we visit a Masai Mara village I wasn’t sure, having visited too many overly commercial and slightly forced ‘cultural experiences’ in the past that had left me upset and despondent, I had initially declined. But thankfully he had encouraged that no visit to the Mara should be complete without time in a real Masai village with the residents. How right he was.
Initially described as about 2 hours walk away, the drive takes an hour. We park the landrover outside an unassuming settlement with a makeshift fence constructed from branches. The middle ‘kraal’ area is where the goats are kept at night, about ten mud hut homes circle it. Greeted by a predictably beautiful Masai Warrior Ben Kay, we are welcomed to enter the remote and untouched Intarakwa Masai village.
Adorned in their red check blankets, synonymous with the culture, we are warmly welcomed for a tour of their village and insight into their life. Here Ben Nashula, Ben Kay and Robin ole Njapit dance with their elder as part of a lesson in their life and rich traditions. Did you know that the Masai wear red to stand out in the bush as a precaution against wild animals? Same with their decorative jewellery which is part celebratory yet also makes a warning noise to scare off wild animals.
We have lessons in fire-making, and sit in one of the huts chatting about tradition and the need to protect theirs. There were conversations about values and truth, conservation and coexistence with nature, and the balance of home and studies in the capital. How they’re all on Facebook on their device kept charged by the sun. Life for the men, life for the women. Time with these regal, proud and incredibly beautiful people was a gift that taught values and tradition creating ever memories.
Here’s a look at the day in pics.
The Maasai Warriors
Adorned with beaded bracelets and homegrown fabric to take away with me, I get back on the vehicle for the drive back to the Lodge. The full moon is rising over the African plains as I do. The drive back with David leaves me quiet and contemplative, knowing that he has shown me a piece of his Africa, that is now part of my Africa too. If ever you have an invitation to visit a Maasai Village such as this one, to see how life is lived and to learn about this unique culture, take it. There are few greater privileges than time with these beautiful proud people.