And then, of course, there were the Cheetahs. They may be the fastest animals on earth, but on the days we saw them, they were very relaxed and playful. Some cubs were climbing in a tree while their mother napped nearby. I should say, rather, they were TRYING to climb the tree. Cheetahs aren’t big climbers, so it was hysterical to watch them help each other up – and then have no idea how to get back down.
Toward the end of our stay, we visited the Sadaras Village, and as we stepped out of the cars were greeted by singing – deep men’s voices accompanied by VERY childlike women’s voices, and they danced out of the village enclosure to welcome us in their brightly colored blankets. Both men and women were adorned with beaded necklaces and belts, which they put on us, as they encouraged us to dance with them. So we hopped and danced along, our beaded bangles bouncing up and down with us, jumping into a huge, tight circle. It was a very happy, vibrant welcoming dance.
Sadaras Village is a polygamist community with six men and 22 wives, each wife occupying a primitive mud house. We toured one of the small, clean, dark homes, noting the simplicity of furnishing – one room only, with two stick beds covered with animal hide blankets, and nothing more. There was an open fire pit in the middle of the room, with only a small hole in the side of one mud wall for the smoke to escape. There were no windows. The Sadaras were extraordinarily proud of their homes.
The men showed us how they start their daily fire, beginning with dried clumps of manure, topped with wood shaving and tiny twigs – then quickly spinning a stick between their hands (basically a hand drill, but poop is the base). It took about ten minutes.
I asked Eddie why they didn’t splurge on matches, as there was a tiny market in a neighboring town.
“Why would they do that? They are perfectly capable of starting a fire without them.” (Me thinks me is quite spoiled.)
These beautiful men next showed us their traditional Maasai jumping contest, where they compete to see who can jump the highest – the winner getting to choose his bride. The tall fellow who had been holding my hand and hop-dancing with me jumped the highest, and grinning widely with his two-toothed smile, he winked at me.
Before leaving, we shopped among the ladies’ handmade trinkets – there was colorful beaded jewelry, carved wooden bowls, handpainted art, vibrant clothing and blankets. I wished I could have brought all of it home with me, but had to settle with some small-sized purchases.
Through Christopher and his Duma African Safaris, I simply stumbled upon the Sentinel Mara Camp, which is a small, tightly run tent camp nestled above the rushing Mara River, within the Maasai Mara National Reserve. This owner-run luxury, seasonal camp feels old-fashioned and historic, but is actually quite modern with it’s comfortable bedding, solar electricity, stellar cuisine and experienced guides who found the Big Five for us on our first day out.
I used to be nervous about traveling to Africa. But I would return in a heartbeat.
I suppose there are as many ways to do an African Safari as there are ways to write about them, in fact, the ten people in my group all had different answers to their favorite part of the same trip. For one it was the sunsets, another – the apparent tameness of the lions. One liked the hippos who grunted and laughed at us from the river below, while another relished being able to get up close and personal with the elephants.
Me? My favorite part of the trip was the warmth of the African people.