When we arrived at the lodge, we set off almost immediately for our next outing -- a visit to a Masai village. The men of the village greeted us with their traditional dance. From a virtual standstill, they jump straight up in the air a couple of feet. It's very amazing to see! Unfortunately, I couldn't get my timing right to capture them in mid-air. The photo at right shows the man in the pinkish blanket about to land.
Masai villages are circular, with low mud houses (seen behind the men in the photo below left) surrounding large livestock pens. Cattle and goats are very important to the Masai culture, so the livestock are kept in the pens at night to protect them from predators. Unfortunately for visitors not used to it, the smells here were almost overwhelming (especially near the goat pen!). The women of the village sang for us (below right). The brambles behind them serve as the fence for the cattle pen.
Some of the other guests at the lodge came to the village, too. We didn't know the Europeans in the photo below left, but it sure was fun watching their daughter playing with the Masai children. We were also given a demonstration of how they make fires using a stick of hard wood and a base of soft wood.
The best moment here was when Wendy filmed some of the kids, and then played it back for them. You should have heard them laugh!
As we were leaving, I walked past the goat herder seen below. It's a nice, pastoral scene, but unfortunately the Masai's livestock causes problems for the wildlife literally right next door in the game reserve. They aren't supposed to graze their herds within the borders of the park, but we saw this happening several times. Since livestock equals wealth in their culture, protecting their goats and cattle from predators is a natural reaction. In the past, every young Masai warrior had to kill a lion before he would be considered a man. Today, they have made a concession to modern times and send out a group of young men to kill only one lion between them. I sure hope they can achieve a ballance between preserving their traditional ways and protecting the dwindling wildlife.
After lunch, we headed out on our final game drive. The two Rhino Safari vans split up to find the animals. We just had a nice encounter with the giraffe (can you spot all three in the photo?), when Pepe got word over the radio that our other van was stuck in the mud! The roads were still in bad shape from yesterday's downpour, and we had seen several vans being rescued this morning from our vantage point in the balloon. It took us a little while to find them, and then we had to get out and push. It sort of capped-off our whole safari experience! Pepe said if you are foolish enough to come during the rainy season (April to June), you'll be doing this almost every day.
Since we didn't have much time to search out animals, Pepe returned to a place they had visited during the morning game drive (when we were ballooning). They had found the hangout of five lionesses, who had eleven cubs between them, and they were still there! Those cubs were soooo adorable that you just wanted to pick them up. But when Pepe pointed out the lioness off to one side on guard duty, crouched and intently staring at us, it was a good reminder that these were not housecats!
We came back to the lodge for our last dinner with the entire Rhino Safaris group. During dinner, some more Masai dancers performed for us. Here's a good shot of just how high they can jump!
It was sad that our time in Kenya was quickly running out. But, given how many great experiences we crammed into a single week, no one was complaining! The Masai Mara was the perfect culmination of a trip that got progressively better with each day.
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