Walking with the Maasai – week 3
By Stuart Butler, Photographer & Author
Stuart Butler, photographer and author of the Lonely Planet guide books to Kenya and East Africa, will spend a month from late-May to the end of June, walking with a Maasai friend across the heart of Kenyan Maasai land.
Tourism & the Maasai Mara
At the end of last week I was in the Lekanka hills hearing stories about how the last Maasai moran had fought lions to prove their manhood. This week though I’ve mainly been seeing how tourism and a few visionary people have been changing Maasai life.
Most of the week has been spent in Sekenani, the village that sits at the main entrance to the Masai Mara National Reserve, staying with Maasai friends in their manyatta. Here I met up with my old friend James Ole Lesaloi. A man who has grown up watching endless streams of safari vehicles and the big dollars they represent pour into the reserve. He had wondered why his community never seemed to benefit from this tourist windfall. He vowed to do something to improve the lot of the Sekenani Maasai community. Read his story here: http://www.walkingwiththemaasai.com/sekenani/
Young Maasai girls facing danger everyday
One of the saddest Sekenani days was spent at a girls rescue centre where Maasai girls as young as five came to live after being rescued from situations such as circumcisions, arranged marriages (often to men many years their elder) and even, in the case of the youngest, when they were given up to another family as part of a marriage dowry. Although all the girls said they were pleased to be out of that situation they also, across the board and no matter what it was their family had done to them, said they missed their parents and siblings. This wasn’t the only time I was to encounter such stories. A couple of days ago I met a policeman who, over the past three years, had rescued around 450 girls from similar situations – often at his own expense and during his own time.
Scams in the Mara
I spent another day at one of the ‘cultural’ villages that line the road to the park. Here I learnt of the scam that many cheaper, and rather immoral, safari companies use whereby they encourage their guests to visit a Maasai manyatta. A fee of around US$20-30 per person is charged per person but the village only takes around US$5 per person and the driver pockets the remainder. If the village refuses to play then the driver simply stops taking tourists there and tells tourists the manyattas are dangerous because of terrorists or disease.
For more on both the girls rescue centres and the cultural villages look out over the next few days for the full story on the website www.walkingwiththemaasai.com/blog
I’ve now left Sekenani and am finally in the conservancies where I’m walking with herds of herbivores and trying to avoid getting overly close to large, toothy creatures…
For more on the project and to follow the progress of the walk please see the dedicated project website –www.walkingwiththemaasai.com
Please be sure to follow the dedicated Facebook page –Walking with the Maasai
If you would like to spend some time at our camps please get in touch with your trusted travel agent or make an enquiry with us.
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