• Day72

    Worth the Wait

    March 13, 2016 in Kenya ⋅ ⛅ 2 °C

    What an amazing experience! Today confirmed that waiting for the Masai Mara to do our big safari was worth it. In the first 3 hours of our full day game drive, we saw lions, giraffes, elephants, zebras, bunch of antelopes, wildebeest, wart hogs, and I'm sure I'm missing some.

    We saw a male lion walking across an open field within feet of our van, just strutting it's stuff. It was our first big cat sighting, and Jack was in awe. I loved seeing the lion, but I LOVED seeing her see the lion. Probably quite like she loved seeing me see chimpanzees.

    We later saw a lioness with 3 cubs laying down within feet of each other. One cub stood up and walked over to us, laying within feet of us with its paws pouring into the street. It sounds ridiculous, but Jack agrees with me, that for a few seconds, the cub looked up at the truck and actually maintained eye contact with Jack. I swear, there was a few seconds where Jack and this baby lion were just starring at each other. Quite like me and my chimps, she actually shed a tear as we pulled away. I absolutely loved her in that moment, she was feeling just pure joy.

    Families of elephants with babies, and giraffes in groups of 5-6, everything was breathtaking. Ostriches! They look so funny, exactly like old flamingo dancer with the large feathers. Perfect little burlesque performers.

    Animals are apparently more active in the morning, so we saw tons starting off our day. Eventually, in the afternoon, sightings became rarer. I could tell our driver was looking for something specific and speaking over the radio with other drivers on locations... And finally, laying under a bush for shade, a cheetah! How fucking cool! A cheetah! Just chiling.

    Everytime we saw something, we all stood up from our seats, popping our heads out the top of the van (pop up top), snapping pictures. It was truly an amazing experience, and I get to do it all over again in the morning. Let's hope for more big kitties!

    Upon our return to camp, we were walked over to the near by Masai village for a cultural experience of some kind. I felt a little awkward about it, having to pay someone to fake their traditional ways, knowing very well that most of these rituals or ways of doing things have changed. We get there, and they give their obligatory "your money is going to help over 200 Masai communities" speech, to which I felt like answering "but I thought the Masai were self sufficient and didn't need money?" 10$ later, they talk to us about their traditions, they show us a dance they would normally do when celebrating... During this dance, the men have to jump as high as they can. Whoever jumps the highest gets to pay fewer cows for his wife... Yep, it's 10 cows to buy a wife, unless you jump high enough. Then you get a discount.

    There was a little too much English around this village for me to truly believe they live in the ways they describe. They're polygamist, so a man can have as many wifes as he has cows to buy them with. I got a house tour of someone who's father had 4 wifes, and who had 24 siblings. Their houses are made of wood covered with mud so they have to move every 9 years because of termites, making them nomads. So many of these facts could be challenged. Like they currently have this community right next to their primary school, which the kids from the village attend. So we asked how could they relocate? His answer was "well because of the school we wouldn't go far"... Mhm.

    One man said they get circumcised at 15 years old, then as a group of around 20, they must leave the community and go live in the "woods" for 5 years, and to return only once they have killed a male lion. First off, that's illegal and I highly doubt you still do that. There's no second. But later on during my private little house tour, the guy said circumcision was at 14, 4 years in the woods, to return at 18. Then we brought up school, so they all have to quit school at 14/15 then? To which they said they would go to school and return to the woods when school was off... All starting to sound a little fishy...

    I believe all of human kind evolves eventually. Communities, including tribal ones, need to evolve and adapt to the world changing around them in order to survive. I'm sure being relocated from their land when it became an official National park in the mid 60s, instigated a lot of change in this Masai community. That is why visiting this village today, and having them put on a show of their traditions, yet fully knowing that many of these things no longer exists, feels a little odd. It's a catch 22, you want to see what their culture used to be, and how they live now, but to do so you have accept this almost fake show put on for paying tourists... Human safari.

    FYI : Many of us have this formed idea of what a Masai person looks like, or what a traditional tribe in Africa looks like, and the Masai people stick pretty close to that image. They often have one largely gauge ear, without plugs in them so leaving a hanging ear lobe, they are always drapped in red fabric, they have tons of bead work on themselves, men with beaded belts and necklaces, women adding earrings... The interesting part is that you can find them everywhere now! We saw traditionally dressed Masai people in markets, walking around in towns, even having a beeer in a bar. They advertise Masai markets where you can buy their handy work in many towns. The tradition of being self sufficient and secluded is no longer upheld. They integrated into whatever society they chose, and yet kept a lot of their traditional clothing and accessories. It's interesting. I bought ice cream in a supermarket and in front of me in line was a Masai man drapping his shoulder with a red blanket, large ear lobe, beaded belt.
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