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Kenya Safari Page 9 - Masai Mara - People and Trees

Another great source of spots on the spotted Masai Mara landscape are the widely scattered trees.  The explanation we received is that the top layer of soil is very shallow, and that trees grow where they find cracks which allow their roots to penetrate into the underlying hard crust.  This provides both stability and an increased supply of water.  There are other locations, especially along rivers, where the trees are found in larger numbers, but on the vast grassland areas there is something about the distinctive spacing which seems unique to this place.  You can almost confirm that a photo comes from the Mara even without other visual clues.

Some years ago we decided to begin a search for the perfect tree as part of our travels.  This idea lasted for about two trips before we realized the futility of deciding from among the thousands of nominees.  If we take up the quest again, the Mara would be a logical place to start.

Africa Kenya Masai Mara Acacia Trees

Africa – Kenya – Masai Mara • The trees of the Masai Mara in Southern Kenya

Our visit to a Maasai village was part of our organized tour, and they brought us to a community which regularly hosts tourists.  However, any sense of being taken into a folkloric tourist trap was nonexistent.  Yes, the ladies sang and the men danced, and everyone except the kids had put away their 21st century western clothes; and there was also an opportunity to purchase their exquisite beadwork.  But these really are the extremely solid mud walled homes in which they live, and the corral for their cattle really is constructed of thorny Acacia limbs, as is the security fence which protects the whole village from predators.  The son of the chief expects to be married at age 27 to a girl he will meet on that day, and the primary diet of beef blood and milk is still the norm.

On the other hand, the chief’s son, who was age 18 when we met him, was preparing to go off to the city to attend college, and the understandable preference to kill lions as a threat to life and livestock is giving way to a willingness to accept salaries to track their whereabouts and protect them from harm.

Africa Kenya Masai Mara Maasai Men Women Mother

Africa – Kenya – Masai Mara • Maasai village women sing for their vistors, and the men dance, while a busy mother goes about her business past the community cattle corral

The vertical dance of the Maasai men is well known; he who leaps the highest impresses the girls.  Similar cultural tidbits have made their way into the international consciousness as part of a general fascination with the truly unique Maasai people and their Samburu cousins to the north.  A brief history is available from a group called “Masai of Kenya“, and numerous other websites offer contradictory versions.

In recent years more attention has been directed towards some of the other tribes of Kenya, a nation comprised of 42 different ethnic groups and 43 languages, counting English. Politics is still strongly influenced by tribal identity, and the Kikuyu (dominant group by population), and the Luo (ancestors of US President Barack Obama) played central roles in a violent political upheaval after contested presidential elections in 2007.  Kenya managed to pull itself back from the brink of disaster, perhaps due to a national pride which expressed itself in a refusal to descend into the sort of chaos that has plagued several of its neighbors.

As this is being written in late 2010, the future looks bright.

 

Kenya Travel – Page 1

Page 2 – Kenya Safari – Amboseli National Park

Page 3 – Aberdare National Park – The Ark

Page 4 – Ol Pejeta Conservancy – Sweetwaters Tented Camp

Page 5 – Kenya Safari – Ol Pejeta Wildlife and Scenery

Page 6 – Nanyuki – Mount Kenya Safari Club

Page 7 – Kenya Safari – Masai Mara National Reserve

Page 8 – Kenya Safari – Masai Mara Wildlife

Page 9 – You Are Here

 

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