Tag Archives: Maasai Mara

Why Zuru Kenya?

Millions of travelers year in, year out, make Kenya their chosen holiday destination. There has to be a good reason why…

One of Africa’s top tourist destinations, not only does Kenya rank high in the world as a safari provider, it also features beautiful white sandy beaches, famous national parks, varied rich cultures, and very welcoming people. Granted some aspects of your trip may be affected by poor infrastructure or a few security concerns in some regions; the adventures, scenery, people and exhilarating experiences will have you coming back to the country for more!!

Here’s why we think Kenya should be top of your destinations to visit list!

1. Home of Safari

George_Elsa_Mak31eCrjpgSubject to a series of safari-inspired film classics such as Mogambo and Born Free, Kenya is famous in the safari world as having been host to the greatest, unrivalled private hunting safaris frequented by American presidents and European royalty. Photography safari was also pioneered here in the 50’s and 60’s and countless documentaries such as BBC’s Big Cat Diary serve as pull factors drawing safari enthusiasts to the country.

2. White sandy beaches  kenya-beach-2The Kenyan Coast boasts of both beautiful white sandy beaches along the warm azure waters of the Indian Ocean and an abundance of unspoilt coral reefs providing for  arguably the best diving sites in the world. The coral reefs harbor dolphins, turtles, tropical fish, as well as whale sharks. Activities here are centred around swimming, diving, game fishing, rafting, snorkeling among others.

The most popular beaches are Mombasa Beach, Lamu Beach, Diani Beach, Bamburi Beach Tana River Delta Beach, Malindi Beach, Watamu Beach and Tiwi Beach.

3. Rich Culture

Samburu-tribal-people-of--013One of the most exciting aspects of a safari in Kenya is the chance to meet and interact with local tribes people …With 43 or so tribes, this country is home to an abundance of culture  bound to give you great appreciation for other peoples way of life. Right from the most known Maasai/Samburu warriors, down to the Swahili culture at the coast…whether you are fishing with the people from the south, or riding camels in the North, here is where you’ll get to sample varied tastes of culture.

4. The exclusivity of Lamu

Lamu_Kenya20120328184732_sThe island of Lamu has seemingly become the place to go for exotic holidays. The place is a buzz with upmarket clientele during the holiday season and is certainly the embodiment of shabby-chic. The islands of north of Lamu also play host to some similarly shabby-chic but nonetheless upmarket beach lodges, notably Kiwayu Lodge and Manda Bay Lodge; great bases from which to explore the island ruins and isolated beaches, as well as to sail and dive the network of waterways.

5. The Great Wildebeest Migration

wildebeest migration in masai mara, kenya2011The most exhilarating experience is to watch thousands of zebras and wildebeests migrating in the “Great Wildebeest Migration” in the Masai Mara and Serengeti. Watch as the migrating animals fight for their chance at greener pastures while escaping the lions and crocodiles preying on them.

6. Our History

Fort_jesusA portrait of Fort Jesus

Kenya does not fall short of historical sites to visit. Some of which hold mysteries and facts bound to leave you in awe…be it political, social or economic, our countries history is one to draw you in. Some of the prominent sites include Fort Jesus, the oldest coastal fort in the world and Shimoni, once used a holding pen for slaves during the slave trade.

7. A wide range of activities

29-ACTIVITIES-3_600x300Enjoy wildlife safaris, bird watching, windsurfing, horseback riding, golfing, canoeing, kayaking, sailing, mountain biking, snorkeling, scuba diving, hot air ballooning, mountain climbing, hiking, water skiing, fishing, and many more wonderful activities.

8. Affordability

Money-ShillingWith a favorable exchange rate against many international currencies, Kenya is a fairly inexpensive tourist destination. Although the Kenya shilling fluctuates, it always gives a much better value compared to other major currencies, such as the United States dollar, sterling pound or the Euro. The cost of living is much lower in Kenya as well when compared to Europe or the United States.

9. Climate

climate-mapKenya enjoys a wonderful tropical climate. It is generally warm all year round, with plenty of sunshine and cooler nights and mornings. Visitors are able to enjoy most activities on the beaches and in the national parks all year round. Since Kenya lies on the equator, the seasonal temperature changes are not extreme. However, due to the differing topography, you will experience different weather patterns when traveling across Kenya. The hottest months of the year are February and March with temperatures as high as 93°F (34°C) while the coolest season falls between July and August with temperatures dropping to around 60°F (16°C). Kenya provides very perfect weather for those who live in colder countries to escape to.

10. Great Game

39.-Three-male-Lions-walking-closely-together-Masai-Mara-KenyaKenya offers some of the best and most accessible game viewing in the world, including the hard-to-resist attraction of the Big Five (lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino). These, together with many other animals that are unique to Africa, can be seen at the national parks and game reserves throughout Kenya.

The months between June and October, and December to March are the most popular times of the year to Visit Kenya. April, May and November can be quite wet.

 

 

 

 

Tribute to Leopard Queen of Talek, Olive.

25th of September was a sad day in the Mara, one of the Talek leopards was no more. Known for her appearances in BBC’s Big Cat Diary, Leopard queen Olive is believed to have died from what are suspected to be lion bite marks and there seemed to have been a struggle before her death. The famous Mara leopard was born to Bella, another Big Cat star who already passed on and named after a certain Olive tree (Olea africana) which was her favorite resting spot. Olive is survived by seven offspring, who will carry her legacy. These are, in the order of birth; Binti & Ayah, Kali, Paja & Nkaiyoni, Bahati and Saba. She was expecting cub number eight upon her death.
image 3Olive found dead with sustained injuries at the back of the neck and tail
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Photo credit: Paul Kirui
For an in-depth look into Olive’s life, paul tells the story of a leopard he knew and admired so much, Leopard queen of Talek River .
_KP_3119Rhino Ridge male and Olive courting, Photo Credit: Paul Kirui
  _KP_6244Olive strolls across the open savanna one morning near Olkiombo airstrip
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091006-133231-_R8K1272Olive and cub, Photo Credit: Paul Kirui
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The leopard queen of the Talek river will surely be missed by many of her admirers around the world.
  March 2000 – September 2013
 
 
 

Kenya: my mission to become the first female Masai warrior

Driven to test the tribe’s male-dominated culture Mindy Budgor went to Kenya … to become the first female Masai warrior

 

MindyMindy Budgor with tribesmen in Kenya during her training as a Masai warrior

It was 5.12am, deep in Kenya’s Forest of the Lost Child. Seven Masai warriors, standing with spears high in the sky and ready to kill, were huddled around me. I was nudged by one of the taut, muscular bodies, scantily covered in its tiny red tartan cotton robe, and I had to make a decision: be a warrior by joining the front line to protect my tribe from a snorting, slobbering 500kg bitch of a buffalo, or stay on the sidelines by hustling up a tree to watch from above as the true warriors went to battle.

A year before, my instincts might have said something else, but by this time I had seven weeks of warrior training under my beaded belt, and a renewed trust in my personal power. I looked the buffalo straight in the eye and with a flex of my muscles, I charged like the warrior I had trained to be, sprinting and screaming with the spear ready to strike.

The Masai are a semi-nomadic tribe living in Kenya and Tanzania. Their warriors are similar to a typical military force, but the main offenders in the bush are the lions, buffalo, elephants and hippo. While the goal of the tribe is to live in harmony with the land and the animals, the warriors will back away from nothing if the community is in harm’s way. Showing one hint of fear as a warrior is strictly prohibited.

One standard practice to prove a warrior’s strength is the circumcision, which occurs when a male is in his teens. The procedure is not a little snip snip – it is a complete skinning of the penis. One wince during this procedure could get you shunned from society. The Masai live in the wild in homes made of mud, sticks, grass, cow dung, human urine and ash, and their diet is animal blood, meat and milk. I was a 27-year-old Jewish girl from California, who had spent the past four years building a concierge service for college students. I spent four years building the business before selling it.

Masai manMasai man. Mara national park, Kenya Photograph: Angelo Cavalli

My most extreme backpacking excursion had been on a cruise ship to Alaska. I loved my manicures and pedicures, and driving around in my BMW and I believed that life wouldn’t be OK without a just-out-of-the-oven croissant and a cup of Earl Grey tea in the morning. But I wanted to test myself. After selling my company I started applying to business schools. Once the applications were submitted, I faced a significant time gap. I sent out an email to solicit ideas. A college friend responded, raving about a trip she took with a US-based foundation that sends westerners to places, including Kenya, to help build schools and clinics. The particular trip my friend mentioned was to build a clinic in the Masai Mara game reserve in south-western Kenya. This was the type of experience I wanted, so I submitted a check and the registration for the trip the same day.

On the flight from Nairobi, I peered down at the thin, twisting valleys etched through parched, dusty-brown land dotted with fluffy green treetops. When the pilot pointed out the volunteer centre, a pinprick of a settlement in the middle of the savanna, I knew that being left alone with my thoughts and nature was exactly what I needed.

For the next two weeks, while laying bricks and making mortar with the locals, I learned about the Masai. I took morning hikes with Winston, a chief from the tribe and also our guide while volunteering. His deep, almost spiritual sense of purpose and confidence was what I wanted.

Winston explained that his tribe was at a crossroads because the Kenyan government was taking away more and more of its land and because global warming meant continual droughts that caused their cattle (their main asset) to die. There was widespread fear among the tribe that the Masai culture will no longer exist in 50 years.

Losing the integrity of a tribe because of westernisation seemed unacceptable to me, but I felt one element of modern life – women’s rights – could help the tribe continue while remaining true to its practices and beliefs.

Maasai wedding, Loita Hills, KenyaWomen at a Masai wedding. Photograph: Kristian Buus/Corbis

Masai women are extraordinarily strong: they build homes, chop trees for firewood, walk seven hours a day to fetch water. But they are not treated as equals. I knew that the warriors had the utmost respect in the tribe and that they were given greater access to education and not married off when they were 12. I believed that providing women with the right to become warriors would broaden the tribe’s perspective of their personal power, which could only help them fight to maintain their customs.

On a hike I asked Winston the question that had been gnawing at me since I met him: “How many women are warriors?”

His reply: “None. Women aren’t strong or brave enough to do it.”

His response ignited a fire within me that made me want prove him wrong. I asked him to explain what was involved in becoming a warrior. He said: “You need to be a man. You need to go through rites of passage that only a man can do. You need to live where you can only eat meat and drink blood and herb soup that makes you lose your mind. You need to get circumcised and not wince from the pain. You need to be fearless. You need to protect and entertain your community and be able to face any animal head-on. You need to be able to throw a spear and use a sword with total accuracy. And you need to be a man

I said: “Don’t Masai women want to be warriors?”

“Of course they do. Who wouldn’t want to be like us?”

“And they’ve never had a chance?”

“No.”

“But everything you just said is something a woman can do – something I can do – except for the penis part,” I said.

The Chief wasn’t entertained. “Women aren’t built emotionally or physically for the work that warriors do.” He shrugged his sculpted shoulders and turned back to the mountain. Winston’s words and that shrug made me furious! I can take no for an answer if there’s a good reason, but the idea that women couldn’t be warriors just because they weren’t men wasn’t sitting well with me. Winston and I made a deal that if I left my stilettos behind, he would take me through the traditional rites of passage to become a warrior.

I was excited about this, and tried not to spend any time thinking about the dangers. But later that day Faith, a Masai woman who worked at the volunteer centre, told me that women in her tribe had been trying to get the right to be warriors for generations, and if for some reason a white, Jewish girl had the opportunity to make a change, I should take it seriously.

I went home to California to prepare for a longer stay with the Masai, but after reviewing myself in my bedroom mirror, I wondered if my pleasantly plump figure was going to be able to climb a tree if needed. Deciding not to wait until a hippo was about to swallow me whole, I started training to get myself fit.

Two months later, I returned to Kenya with Becca, a friend from the US. Becca and I had met in Kenya on the building trip and became friends when we agreed that women should have the right to be warriors. Landing in Nairobi, we travelled back to the clinic and found Winston, the chief.

“What are you doing here?” he asked. I reminded him of our deal. Clearly, he hadn’t taken me seriously, and despite our pleading, turned us down. He said he would not have the deaths of two Americans on his head.

Becca and I were back at our hotel in Nairobi. Our project seemed roadblocked when out of the blue a friend from California introduced us to the man who would guide us through the rites of passage: Lanet Danson Lekuroun, a university-educated Masai warrior who was raised to believe that women’s voices should be heard.

“I can’t promise that you will become warriors. I also can’t tell you that my tribe will accept you. There is going to be much danger. I will do my best to help prepare you, but there is no way to predict the future in my world or yours. All we can do is try.”

Masai warriors traditional jumping In the round … Masai men form a circle and perform a traditional ‘jump’ dance.

Photograph: Adam Jones/Getty

Within hours we piled into a taxi and were on the road headed into the bush – again. As the main road ended, my teeth clenched and my hands were in tight fists as we slowly crept over rocks and tall grass. On the way, Lanet explained that a new warrior class only happens every five to seven years, but the training that he would put us through would be exactly the same as what the Masai men do.

Lanet also told us that he had chosen six other Masai men to live with us deep in the forest while we underwent training. He said the men chosen were known as community leaders and also quite progressive in their thoughts about women’s rights.

For the next two months, we lived on a 20-square-foot patch of land in the forest and slept in a communal bed made mainly of oak leaves. On many occasions, I truly believed that I was going to die.

On day one, we were almost stampeded by elephants, and I had to suffocate a goat and then drink its blood directly from the jugular. On day two, my hands were covered with bloody blisters from learning how to use a spear and a sword. And a few weeks later, I was very nearly swallowed by a hippo. It was only a pull of my belt by a fellow warrior that yanked me back.

I had a daily urge to wave the white flag, especially after 10 smelly days without a bath. But just as the flag was about to go up, Lanet would remind me that this mission was about much more than my personal goal. And this reminder allowed me to transition to Masai life. I quickly learned that by just doing and not questioning, I would have a greater chance of surviving.

Hipp yawningOpen wide … one of Mindy’s most extreme experiences was nearly being swallowed by a hippo. Photograph: Manoj Shah/Getty

Initially, the tribesmen thought that Becca and I would last less than a day. Surely the nightly calls from the hyenas or the diet of raw kidneys and goat brain soup would make us bolt back to a five-star hotel. Once several weeks passed, however, we proved that we were able to live an authentic Masai life. Most important, though, our values adapted to those of the Masai, which revolve around community, courage, selflessness and living in the moment.

After a little over four weeks of training, we moved camp to a more dangerous part of the forest. It was a regular day of spear training and trekking until we purposely went to what the Masai called a “buffalo playground” so that we could test our mental and physical strength.

Just as we arrived, we saw a baby buffalo grazing on the grass. Everyone went silent as we knew that the calf would not be far from its mother. If the mother saw us, she would try to kill us to protect her baby. I stood petrified, as the ground started to rumble. The baby buffalo trotted to the edge of the field and the sea of green parted again to reveal the meanest animal I had ever seen.

Grunting and howling, I sprinted towards the beast and released my spear. As it rocketed through the air, the other Masai released their spears, but mine landed first, in the edge of the buffalo’s right butt cheek. The buffalo died, but only because it was going to kill us. I was able to claim the kill because my spear hit the buffalo first.

That night, the elders decided that Becca and I had proved we were strong and brave enough to be warriors. They felt that the training we had gone through and our fearlessness and selflessness were at an equal level to the male warriors. One of the elders, who was a senior leader of the Rhino clan, inducted us into his clan with a short ceremony followed by a long speech over the fire, which allowed us to be officially recognised as the first female Masai warriors.

We stayed with the Masai for another month. Our first major community interaction was at a wedding, two days after we left the forest. Lanet told us hundreds of people would be at the wedding. It would be like my coming-out party. Lanet had said from the beginning that he wasn’t sure if his tribe would accept us, and we were finally going to find out their true feelings.

At the wedding we sang and danced as warriors. I felt completely at one with the tribe until an elder male approached me, screaming and waving his sword. I was paralysed with fear and just as he swung his sword again, Lanet and another warrior whisked me away. I asked what happened. Lanet told me that the man was angry that Becca and I had been recognised as warriors.

He said: “This is now up to the tribal leadership to decide if Masai females will have the right to become warriors. There will be much opposition, but there will be, and already is, much support.”

While making this change is not unanimously accepted by men and women in the tribe, the vast majority believe steps towards equality will help sustain the culture in the long term, and one of those steps is allowing women to become warriors. And I am so proud to say that there are at least 20 girls in Loita who are ready to be part of the next warrior age set.

As a result of our training and advocacy, the Masai in Loita, Kenya, are leading the charge to change tribal law and allow all Masai women the right to become warriors.

-Mindy Budgor, the guardian.

Wonders of the Mara

Doubling up as a wonder of the world as well as Africa’s greatest Wildlife reserve, the Masai Mara is a sight to behold. Home to the Great Wildebeest Migration, this reserve will offer you a safari of a lifetime; watching over two million animals cross-over from the Serengeti in Tanzania in search of greener pasture. This experience serves both as a ‘wow’/’chilling’ moment seeing this magical migration of wildebeests, gazelles and zebras in their thousands , while at the same time having to watch some of them make their last cross as the predators; lions, crocodiles and hyenas seize their opportunity across the Mara river.

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wildebeest migration in masai mara, kenya2011

The annual Migration has highly boosted Kenya’s place as a favorite safari destination and during June/July the reserve receives numerous guests ready to watch this natural spectacle. The millions of wildebeests spend much of the year grazing throughout the plains of the Serengeti and when the dry season dawns in June, they begin to gather, forming a single vast herd ready to head north. The experience is amazing as you anxiously await for the herds, one can envision the numbers hearing the sound of the approaching herd with the rumbling of hooves and low grunts; very awe-inspiring indeed. By July, the predators are set on the Kenyan side, Knowing the feasting opportunity that awaits.  The river crossing serves as a major challenge for the migration as many of the animals succumb to their fate either through drowning, being swept away by strong currents or by the wrath of the hungry crocodiles.

MAASAI MARA CHEETAH-HUNTING

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Come October, the herds start their journey back to the Serengeti to the renewed grasslands. Out of all the calves born in the Serengeti before the migration, two out of three never return from this excruciating adventure. This is thus a test of both renewal and sustenance as well as life and death. The Mara aside from being host to the greatest migration ever seen, is home to the famed Maasai people. It is beyond amazing how man and wildlife share the same space of existence in utmost harmony. This co-existence probably makes Maasai Mara one of the most unusual and unique wilderness regions the world over.

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Other co-inhabitants include; herds of zebra, giraffe, gazelle,topi, an array of bird life, monkeys, elephants and buffalos  in the Musiara Swamp and numerous hippos and crocodiles in the Mara and Talek rivers. The Maasai Mara is also packed with a wide range of Accommodation for any budget and is a popular attraction with Safari operators. The reserve is ideal for game drives and there are select camps and lodges that will provide you with opportunities of safari walks as well as spectacular balloon safaris. You are bound to encounter wildlife at many areas of the Mara as they are allowed to move freely in and out of the reserve and through neighbouring Maasai lands.

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Outside the boundaries of the reserve there are many other small camps and lodges, some of which offer walking, horse riding and other safari options. One can also take part in high forest trekking in the nearby Loita Hills and the Nguruman Escarpment.

Pikolinos Maasai Campaign 2013

Meet William Kikanae Ole Pere; the Maasai elder whom thanks to his tireless endeavor in search of a better and quality life for his tribe, saw the creation of the  “Maasai Project“.

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The project which was successfully launched in 2008 saw the coming together of Pikolinos, the Spanish footwear brand & non-profit company and Alternative Trade & Microcredits (ADCAM). William initiated the idea of collaborating the Eco-friendly and socially responsible companies to create a footwear line that earns profits to further women’s development and additional projects in the Maasai Mara National Reserve.

ESTRADA FOOTWEAR - Spring/Summer 2013 campaign

The Maasai Project seeks to supply the Maasai people with  resources and tools  needed to better both their educational and medical needs as well as help in preserving their endangered culture. All the embroidery featured in the campaign footwear is hand sewn by the Maasai women showcasing their intricate designs and natural artistic talents; this has seen about 1,600 women gain employment.

The embroidered leather pieces – brought to Kenya to be worked on by the Maasai women – are flown back to Spain where the processing of the complete product is done. Proceeds are then distributed to the Maasai tribe.

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Olivia Palermo; model, fashion consultant and this year’s Maasai Project Brand Ambassador, got to experience first hand, the life and challenges  of the Maasai people during her tour to Maasai land in pursuit of getting to know the process of embroidery work as well as shoot the Summer 2013 campaign for Pikolinos.

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In her own description of the amazing work produced by the collaboration,

“Fashion and development, cooperation and fashion, fashion and Free Trade – this combination is possible.”

“Thanks, Pikolinos, because indeed another world is possible.”

Olivia Palermo’s look book on her work and experience during her project trip to Kenya…

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olivia-palermo-william-kikanae-pikolinosWilliam Kikanae and Olivia Palermo