Already at 3 am I woke up to the sound of the people at the neighboring Maasai Mara village. They were singing, dancing and had lit up a big fire that cast orange flames over the star filled sky. Apparently a lion had entered the village the night before and killed one of their cattle, and they now did their best attempts to keep it away.
At 5 am the alarm clocks of my fellow travelers went off and one by one they stepped out of their tents and ate breakfast still half asleep. It might seem ridiculously early to enter parks at this hour but this is in fact the best time; as the sun rises the grassland turns all wet and juicy form condensation and it’s still not too hot for predators to hunt.
Masai Mara National Reserve is Kenya’s most famous reserve and covers an area of 1,510 square kilometers. It’s connected to Serengeti, Tanzania in the south and therefore you’ve a great chance to see all of the big five – rhinoceros, lion, water buffalo, leopard and elephant. During the Great Migration the park will be all covered with herds, but I went in the end of February so most of the animals we saw where the older ones who didn’t have the energy to walk the long distances or newborns (baby boom usually takes place in February-March). Nevertheless, the day was not a disappointment because during our full day in the park we saw a lot of different species; impala, gazelle, wildebeest, giraffe, elephants, buffaloes, meerkats, ostriches, zebras, lions, hippos, crocodiles, warthogs and tons of birds.
After our game-drive we headed back to camp where a Maasai warrior was offering us a tour of their village. They do ask for payment, but it’s not expensive and during the tour you’re permitted to take as many photos you like, something the Maasai people usually don’t allow and should be respected when spotting their red shúkà along the roads of Kenya and Tanzania or in the reserves.
Originally the Maasai people where nomads and moved freely over the savannah covering Eastern Africa. They build their houses of branches, dried mud and manure from their cattle. These houses would stand for about 5-7 years, and once wore-down they would then move on to the next place. Today, this village with about 200 inhabitants but they have left their nomadic lifestyle due to the school that had been built just a few kilometers down the road (since 2003 compulsory education exists in Kenya).
Nevertheless, their traditions have not changed and everyone in the village live of milk and meat from the cows who every night is gathered in the center of the village or in each family’s house. Boys at the age of eight move out of the house to sleep outside with the teenagers. They’ve one blue, tarp to cover them during rainy nights and hot days, but it was really just the older boys who got a chance to crawl up underneath it. At the age of 15 they boys are circumcised and during the procedure it’s not acceptable to show any pain, otherwise you’ll never be a man. The 15-year olds then camp in the wilderness for about three years; learning about survival, hunting and old customs. Once they’ve killed a lion they’re considered a warrior and is allowed back in the village and to get married.
Women stay in the villages taking care of children and cattle. They usually wed at the age of 17-20. They’re excellent singers and dancers, and while at the village they put up a great show for us.