Another time-saving flight and we are landing at the Wilson airstrip in the Maasai Mara Game Reserve to the southwest.
The Maasai Mara offers the greatest concentration and diversity of wildlife in Kenya. But first, let’s sidetrack for a cultural safari. The local Maasai are a handsome people – tall, slender and elegant. They are known for their distinctive woven red fabrics and elaborate beaded jewelry. Their beautiful ebony skin and brightly colored attire contrast sharply with the dusky earth tones of the surrounding savannah.
It is possible to visit a Maasai village or manyatta with a guide contingent on the permission of the chief. The settlement is comprised of a circle of rounded huts made from a framework of sticks packed with dung. These are low structures with several small unadorned rooms inside for family members and perhaps a small calf.
Women from the tribe welcome visitors with song. Next, young men demonstrate their strength and agility with a jumping ritual. The Maasai are traditionally herdsmen with cattle being their source of food, status and wealth. The cattle are brought into the center at night to protect them from predators.
Outside the compound, another circle has been set up with a huge assortment of handicrafts displayed on hand woven cloths: intricately beaded bracelets and necklaces, hand woven siskal baskets, wood carvings of indigenous animals.
I hope you brought some cash with you today. Remember the economy here operates on cash, not credit. Greenbacks are most welcome as are European currencies. But be sure to inquire about the prices before you scoop up an armful of souvenirs and gifts. I witnessed one traveler make this mistake. She had a severe case of sticker shock when the total came to over $200 U.S.! That’s two hundred, not twenty. These were very expensive trinkets. An interesting negotiation ensued.
My impression is that this particular village has become accustomed to a steady stream of foreigners. One of the chief’s sons gave us a rather cursory tour and answered our questions but quickly led us to the shopping opportunity. I know that cash flow has far reaching benefits for local residents in these areas. However, this village seemed a little jaded from perhaps too much superficial contact.