Maasai People

The Maasai people live in and around Arusha and Ngorongoro.  We were surprised to see that the Maasai people continue to live quite traditionally. We visited one of the villages.  The Maasai people showed us how they danced.  After we went where the little kids (4-6 year olds) went to school but it was not much of a classroom. The girls sat on one side and the boys sat on the other side.  They showed us how they count to forty in English.  The little kids went to school for 4 hours.  When are seven, the kids go to the public school.  Sadly, not all the Maasi kids go to school L.  Many of them need to help out with the farm.  There aren’t any rules in Tanzania that require the kids to be in school. 

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The Maasai houses are made of cow poop, soil and straw. The men get the wood that frames the house but it is the women that build the houses. In fact, our guide told us that the women and children do most of the work. He said the men just hang out and do nothing while the women tend the cattle, build fences, build the houses, do the cooking and more.   

The houses are very small, maybe 12 to 15 feet in diameter.  There is one small door (Tom could barely fit through the door) and no light.  The houses are not tall enough to stand up in.  Well, tall enough for me to stand up in but not most adults.  They cook inside the house.  The beds are just wooden frames made with tree branches with a cow hide thrown on top.

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The Maasai men can marry as many women as they want.  The villages consist of related families.  In some cases it might be a single family.  There was one village that our guide pointed out to us where the husband had 12 wives and 65 children.  Each wife and her children have their own house.  More photos of the Maasai people are here.

Visit with Bray

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We had the pleasure of meeting with Bray and his family.  Bray is a boy that we have been sponsoring through Compassion Canada for 5 years.  Over the years we exchanged letters and photos.  Our visit was one of the most humbling experiences of our lives.  The smile on Bray’s mother’s face immediately showed us how she felt about our visit.  


We first visited the project that Compassion has developed for the kids that are sponsored.  We later went to Bray’s home where we met the rest of his family.  Even though Bray’s family didn’t have much they were very hospitable, bringing out tea with bread.  

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We had a great visit with them.  They played soccer, cards, and marbles.  Bray rocked at marbles. Every year we send money for his birthday.  Compassion International works with the family on what to get with his birthday money.  A few years ago he bought a goat.  That goat has grown to three goats of which he is very proud.  We also met Bray’s grandmother, who they think is in her mid-90s.  She can no longer see and can hardly hear but still wanted to sit and visit with us. 


When we received Bray’s letters in Canada, we thought that someone else had to be writing them.  His printing was very neat and his comments seem to be more mature than what a 12 year old might write.  Our interpreter asked him if he wrote the letters to us himself and he said that he did.  Then when we visited his home, he showed us some of his schoolwork.  I couldn’t believe the work he had been doing.  The math that he was doing for his grade was more advanced that the math our grade 8 students do in Alberta.  This is surprising because Bray is a couple of grades below Quinn. Bray wants to be a pilot when he grows up. 

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We knew that the home he lived in probably wasn’t much but we quite shocked at its size.  It is the size of two sheds and there are 6 people in his family.  Bray’s mom told us that her dream is to have a real house.  They already have the foundation built and they buy a few materials when they get some extra money.   It would only cost about 4 to 5 million Tanzanian Shillings, which is about $3,000 Canadian.  Our boys are thinking about doing some type of fundraiser when they get back to Canada to help them out.  More photos of our visit are here.

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Even though we had seen many videos and photos of the savannah and its animals, we really weren’t sure what to expect for our safari.   The Great Migration wasn’t happening yet.  We wondered if we would see enough animals.  Would we see lions?  Would we see giraffes?  Would we see the Big Five?  Well, we saw plenty, including the Big Five.

Our vehicle was a Toyota Landcruiser with enough seating for seven people.  The roof popped open which was great for viewing the animals.  We saw lions, zebras, elephants, cheetahs, leopards, warthogs, water buffalo, wildebeest, mongoose, a rhino, hippos (lots and lots of hippos), giraffes, hyenas, jackals, ostriches, flamingos and lots of other birds.

We will share some of our more notable experiences.  A few photos are below.  More photos can be found here.


Notable #1 – Lions Up Close  …. Real Close!!!

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Our mouths dropped in awe when we saw 5 lions, one male and four females, sitting in the shade only about 25 feet from us.  We wanted to scream out in delight but couldn’t since it would disturb the lions.  They didn’t seem to mind much that we stopped so close to them.  Their strength and greatness was to be respected.  They are truly a magnificent animal.  You can see how close they are in the photo.  

We observed them for about 30 minutes before we saw another male sitting in the grass about 200 feet away. He got up and strolled towards the rest of the pride.  Eventually all the lions got up to move on and walked right past our truck.  Check out the photos.


Notable #2 – The Kill

As thrilling as it was to be so close to the lions, that wasn’t our best encounter.  The next day we were out on another game drive and our guide saw a lioness sitting in the grass.  Our guide said that she looked hungry and was looking for a meal.  We waited for about 75 minutes just watching her.  We were hoping to see a kill, as gross as that sounds. 

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We watched the lioness slowly crawl up a little bit at a time.  We decided to move the truck up to get a better view and that was when we saw what the lioness was looking at.  There was a red buck just sitting in the grass.  We didn’t wait much longer maybe only another 15 minutes before she went for her kill.  It was quite the sight to see.  We had seen videos on kills like this but seeing it for real was another thing.  We usually cheer for the prey in videos but not this day.  We were hoping she would get something.  

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As soon as she made the kill our guide said, “Oh, Oh, she is about to lose her meal.”  A male lion heard the squeals of the warthog and knew he had an easy lunch.  We all felt sorry for that poor lioness.  She was so patient just waiting for her meal and then the big old male, King of the Jungle, thinking he is all that, just comes right up to her.  She dropped her kill without any fight at all and the male took it away.

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By now there was a crowd of safari trucks ascending on our location.  After all, seeing a kill is pretty exciting for most tourists since, others wanted to see the after scenes of the male lion munching down on a warthog.  Meanwhile, the lioness had crossed the road and since she was still hungry, she was still hunting.  We were the only truck looking the other way while other tourists were loudly talking and looking at the male lion.  They had no idea that behind them the female was about to attempt another kill. 

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She didn’t get the second warthog and I’m not sure if it was all the trucks and people talking so loud or if this warthog was just that much faster.  Our guide said that this is only the second kill in his eight years of guiding that he has seen at this time of year.  We were pretty lucky to experience it.


Notable #3 – Hyenas for Dinner???

We had great accommodations.  Three out of the five nights were spent with wild animals freely walking around our tents (yup I said tents, canvas tents with mesh windows).  Now I say tents but this is really camping on steroids.  One of the places was a mobile camp so the eating area was like a huge dining tent with one side wide open.  When we were dinner one night, a huge hyena walked not more than 20 feet from our tables.  See photo below of place where we ate.  The best part of it was that one of the staff began chasing him with what we think was a screwdriver.  At some of the places we stayed, we needed to have an escort to walk us to and from the dining tent.  We were surprised to see that the escorts only carried a large stick. 

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Notable #4- Ostrich Lovin’

Even though we felt a little awkward, watching ostriches mate was interesting.  Both the male and the female do this dancing thing with their wings. Our case we saw two female attempting to attract the same male.  There was a bit of a standoff but it was clear that he preferred one of the other.  Once they get together, the male does this weird Stevie Wonder move with his entire neck.  Check out the video.

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Notable #5 – Mama Leopard and Baby Leopard

The leopard feeding her cub.  Nathan wrote a great story about that here.


Notable #6 – Are those Rocks and Boulders – No those are Hippos

We made a stop by the hippo pool and what a surprise.  Jaxon wrote a great story about that here.


Where we slept

Here are a couple of the places we slept.  

Hotel in Arusha - Planet Lodge

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Maramboi Tented Camp 

This was our favourite.  The accommodations were tents meaning that the walls were canvas but other than that, they weren’t really like any other tent I have slept in.  They were huge and on stilts so they were off the ground.  Animals roamed the area and were right outside our tents during the night and in the morning.

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Serengeti Kati Kati

This was Quinn’s favourite.  It is a mobile camp that moves when the animals move. These were also tents but they were smaller than the other tents and were on the ground.  To have a shower, one of the staff would lift water up in a bucket which was then dumped in a basin at the top of the shower.  You had 20 litres of water before the basin was empty.  We could hear the animals at night just on the other side of the canvas.  We saw zebras, water buffalo and one hyena at this camp.  While we didn’t see any lions, we heard them while we were in our tents.  

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Ngorongoro Farm House

No animals roaming around here but very beautiful.

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© VanKosh Family 2015