In mid February of 2014 i set out upon my first trip to Africa. As a film maker and photographer a safari trip was on my bucket list. I’d recently met a Sydney man who had started his own safari tours for Aussie’s to the Masai mara game reserve in Kenya. After speaking with Dan, i quickly booked the Real Masai Safari 7 day package and i was off!
I arrived at Nairobi airport and was greeted by Dan and his Masai business partner Nelson, plus 3 other travellers which had also arrived from Scotland and the US. The 5 hour drive to the camp was excellent. We saw many giraffe, elephants, wildebeest and zebra as we passed the many Masai villages. Upon arriving at the camp we were welcomed by a group of Masai Warriors, who performed a traditional dance. This was a very entertaining and pleasant surprise for my arrival before being shown to my accommodation. The permanent tents are a good size and fitted with bathrooms, hot shower etc. and surrounded by beautiful bushland. The camp has a very relaxed and natural feel and is very comfortable. The staff are excellent and very friendly, i was initially concerned about the food in such a remote place. However the head chef “Willy” cooked incredible meals 3 times per day. His food was extraordinary and plentiful, with a mix of African and western food. Lunch was ready upon our arrival, so i ate my vegetable fried rice with a Masai style chicken curry dish and set out upon my first ever Safari Game drive.
I was somewhat hesitant about doing a safari in Masai mara outside the Wildebeest Migration months, which starts usually takes place around July through to October. However, my fears were put to rest upon entering the Reserve. We immediately came across Large herds of Elephants that were feeding by the road side upon entering the reserve gates. This was quickly followed by a huge herd of Cape Buffalo and many zebras. After 40 mins of driving and exploring these beautiful plains, Nelson got a call on the radio in Swahili and we were off to see the first of the big cats. Three cheetah brothers rolling around with full bellies. They had a small wildebeest kill which they had been feeding on. Shortly after leaving the cheetah’s we encountered a large pride of Lions lazing around in the hot afternoon sun beside the Mara river. There were around 8 lions in total. A large pride male, Two large lionesses, adolescents and cubs. After half an hour of watching these lions, (which were a couple of metres from our Safari vehicle) a warthog appeared on the scene. The lions attention quickly turned to this warthog’s presence. Although the warthog was 150 metres away the lions quickly got into position and began stalking the unsuspecting animal. The warthog however, quickly realised what was unfolding and made a run for his life. A lioness gave a half hearted chase in the hot conditions, as the other lions watched closely, hoping for an early dinner snack. I managed to film the event unfold on my iphone and will attach it to my blog post. We spent over an hour with these social cats that seemed to be enjoying our company. We were the only vehicle there unlike the cheetahs earlier. My First afternoon Safari drive was more than i had expected and i was very excited and looking forward to the following 6 days. After an incredible dinner by Chef “Willie” i was looking forward to my first nights sleep in the African Bush. The campsite is patrolled by a group of Masai Warriors at Sunset through to Sunrise. I slept very well and my bed was most comfortable. During the night i woke up to the sounds of Hyenas and lions roaring in the distance. I could not stop thinking about the warriors patrolling the camp area in the pitch black night. These fearless warriors were real Men.
My Second day began were the first left off. We entered the reserve by 7am. We were greeted by herds of elephants, gazelle and Cape Buffalo. We later found a Lioness mother with tiny cubs, a clan of Hyenas, circling vultures and a cheetah preparing to hunt Thomson Gazelle’s. We explored the incredible Savannah plains, as well as the Sand River which borders Tanzania’s Serengeti plains. Each day provided a new experience on the Mara plains. Of my 5 days inside the mara there wasn’t one day that disappointed. Nelson is a highly experienced guide and never fails to find the animals you want to see. I experienced a night safari drive in the neighbouring Masai land. We set out at sunset and saw a few Hyenas running about as it got dark as well as many zebra and antelopes. This was a great experience. We stopped and parked the vehicle for a little while and listened to the african night. I asked Nelson (Dan’s Masai business partner) why the animals don’t attack his Masai warriors that patrol the camp? Nelson grinned and quickly answered. ” All the animals fear the Masai” apparently hyena’s and lions can smell humans from 3 kilometres away! The Masai patrol the camp with no torch or lights. Nelson said there was no need as the animals already know where the Masai were and would not dare come close. Dan Suggested we experience it for ourselves and patrol the camp area with the Warriors. This is was not part of the 7 day itinerary and not something i planned on experiencing, but what the heck… It was 11pm and very dark. Dan had also asked another 3 girls that were also staying at the camp to join us. They were definitely up for the experience and were keen to join the warriors on their nightly patrol. We were given powerful torches and set off into the black night. My heart was pounding so hard i could feel it in my throat, but i tried to play it cool. Within 5 minutes of walking we saw yellow flashing eyes, reflecting from our torch light in nearby bushes. We stopped.. The warriors said ” This are Hyena, … many Hyena here” i could barely move from the fear and really wanted to run back to my tent. We stood still and watched the flashing eyes running everywhere. According to the warriors, the Hyenas were scared and were running for cover. The Masai’s jewellery and clothing have little chains that make a distinctive sounds. The animals are all familiar with this sound. There were many yellow eyes flashing everywhere, but fortunately they were running in the opposite direction. After ten minutes of walking we had all seen enough and headed back to camp. My respect for the Masai was now sky high. These guys do not know the meaning of fear. I learnt that the wild animals fear humans or rather the Masai. I slept like a baby that night.
My trip to the Masai village the next day with Dan, Nelson and the warriors was the highlight of my trip. Their villages are located in the midst of the wild plains and surrounded by “bomas”, which are tree branches, forming a fenced perimeter around the village to protect their livestock from predators. The Masai homes are built out of cow dung! This is the job of the Masai women, to smear the dung on the house walls. Inside these dark tiny huts, sleeps the Warrior and his wife. There are small compartments in each hut which houses small goats and calves. These small livestock are most vulnerable to leopards which are capable of jumping the over the bomas. The Masai villages do not have electricity, plumbing, toilets etc. Water is fetched from the local river by the women who also gather fire wood. The Warriors showed us how they make a fire each night by rubbing a stick on a knife blade. Numerous warriors take turns rubbing the stick to create enough friction and start a small flame which is then transferred onto dried grass. Livestock is their lively hood. Most Masai do not use money but trade with cattle, goats and donkeys. Their main diet is maze, oats, milk, meat. We were entertained by a traditional warriors dance and singing by the colourfully dressed masai women. After leaving the village we visited two schools built through Dan and Nelsons businesses. One of which was built through a Sydney fundraiser in 2013. Dan and Nelson are both putting back into the community and helping educate the kids which are the key to the declining wildlife in the Masai Mara.
The following days apart from the amazing daily safari drives i walked with the warriors through the camp grounds. They took me into the hills and showed me a breathtaking lookout which overlooks the Serengeti plains. The Masai find their herbal medicines here in the hills. I learnt about their anti malaria herbs and saw how they made toothbrushes. The warriors also knew if elephants or Cape buffalo were in the area through their amazing tracking skills. My 7 day Safari trip had come to an end. I met some incredible people at the fantastic and friendly camp, i enjoyed every minute of this life changing experience. A big Thank you to Nelson and Dan. I will definitely be back some day with friends to do it all again.
Alfio Stuto jnr
My Failed Lion hunt video caught on my iPhone https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aVnLAiDX6q0