Wildlife and jumping men!

Posted: 20/08/2011 in Africa

Masai Warrior

Wildlife wildlife wildlife. I cannot explain how enthralling a game drive actually is but each time we go on one it just gets better. We left our campsite early this morning driving into the vast expanse of Serengeti national park. In the cool of the morning the animals were easy to spot though still not inn abundance due to the dry season. I’m learning a lot about bird life except that my recall usually consists of a description such as, that brown one with the spiky bit on it’s head, rather than a name. James and Keith have an extraordinary knowledge of wildlife and can spot things a mile off. I’ll see something and thankfully keep it to myself because as we get closer it turns out to be a log. It is an African log though! We saw a number of lion prides (still without big daddy), gorgeous coloured birds and the highlight, cheetahs. The first cheetah was running and they do indeed have an amazing speed. I actually caught a photo of it at the end of the run! It didn’t catch it’s meal though and while that would have been exciting, I can’t help but “hurrah” for the impala! The cheetah then met up with it’s stalking partner and they proceeded to the line of trucks and 4x4s lined up on the road. This is where our Africa-in-focus truck comes into it’s own. Standing on our footlockers, all individual roofs open we were at least 2 meters above everyone else and had the perfect view no matter where we pulled over. Even the other trucks were stuck looking out of their windows as they had no roof opening. It quite amusing to see what happens when a good animal sighting occurs. One vehicle will see it and suddenly all these other vehicles turn up whether having heard by radio or from seeing a collection of vehicles. You’ve gone from being on your own to being stuck in a game park traffic jam and the animals don’t care about your vehicle. They will walk around it or past it and sometimes even jump on it. You are simply part of their landscape. And of course if you get out of the truck you will become simply part of their lunch. Once again I was able to get some amazing shots, this time of cheetahs lapping water and sitting on termite mounds. And then I spotted my first animal, before anyone else that is. Ok it was a lizard on a rock right next to the truck but it was pink and purple so I reckon that counts for an interesting spot.

The afternoon was a long drive through Masai heartland to our campsite. The landscape here is fascinating, going from barren and arid desert to areas filled with thorn covered trees. Amongst all this the land is sparsely dotted with Masai huts and you can see Masai shepherds leading large numbers of goats or cattle. It is surreal to see people live the way they always have and in so harsh an environment. Pictures are not really possible unless using a telephoto lens from a long distance as the Masai believe when a photo is taken that their souls are stolen. We stopped at the rim of the Ngorongoro crater for a spectacular view. This dormant volcano is 8288km2 and is home to countless wildlife. The steep walls make it almost impossible for them to leave. In the middle is a large salt lake, currently empty and so providing an unusual image. From the crater rim we head on a winding journey to our red dirt campsite. It’s so red and turns everything else red. I still have red socks! A Masai warrior catches a ride part of the way with us and I have a great chat with him about his culture. Masai are polygamous marrying up to 5 women. They are able to chose their first wife at age 25. Each wife and her children have their own house made of a mud/manue mix and acacia wood and the warrior rotates from wife to wife. At 15 they are circumcised without anaesthetic or pain killers as a transition into manhood. Historically the females were also circumcised although it is still done today in secret. Today they have a balanced diet but the old Masai diet generally consisted of meat and cows blood mixed with milk. Mmm Mmm! The jumping, which is well known around the world, is a competition to see who can jump the highest. It is brilliant to watch and I’m telling you right now, white men can’t jump! Our guys tried and it, they really can’t….

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