Fellow Travellers

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Massai & Ngorongoro Crater Lodge

Dec 23, 2009

On route to the Ngorongoro Crater, we made a stop to visit the Massai people.  The Massai are a nomadic tribe known for their bright red, blue and purple tartan wraps.  They live as an extended family in smaller communities between 50 and 100 people in huts built from cow dung and earth.  They are a meat eating people who raise cattle as their source of food although their culinary choice of milk mixed with blood didn’t entice us.

The men are known to be fearsome warriors and a young man’s right of passage from boy to manhood use to involve killing a lion although now the Tanazian government discourages them.   The women raise the children and run the house.  The tribes are only recently beginning to be educated which will hopefully help to improve their standard of living.

The village we visited has been set up for tourists and the families rotate in an out of the village taking turns earning fees for entrance.  We were treated to a traditional dance performed with “some” enthusiasm and then we entered the village.  The women had made masses of beaded jewelry that were on display in the center of the huts. 

Our visit included a tour of one of the homes which consists of two or three small areas off of a central fire spot for cooking.  There is absolutely no light inside the homes as there are no windows only a little hole is left for the smoke from the fire to escape.  We really did not see much until we say our photos later as the flash had captured the essence of the place – small, dark and eerie.  

We waved goodbye to the people we met and continued on to our lodge where we would spend our final nights on safari.  Staying at the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge  was glorious.  We had our own bungalow and small communal rooms for relaxing and dining.  We arrived in the mid afternoon and had a lovely lunch.  We spent the rest of the day relaxing and reading before a scrumptious dinner.  The views were stunning and Cliff managed to spot two rhinos from the telescope on the deck.  There are only 7 in the crater so we were off to a good start!

Dec 24, 2009

We arose very early in the morning and found the crater was shrouded with mist which made it seem as though we were in heaven looking down on the clouds.  The lodge loaded us up with a picnic breakfast and sent us off.

It took about an hour to descend from the rim to the crater floor which is dense and lush.  It was very cold that morning with a little bit of drizzle so we were very happy to have our fleece jackets and scarves.  There is also no off roading allowed in the crater so we had to do our best to spot animals from the road.  We were still in search of a male lion and hoped to see the rhinos.  Our hopes were realized as we spotted a male lion in two different areas.  One lone male in a field of grass and another male accompanied by 3 females.   From a distance we saw two adult rhinos and a baby which was such a thrill. 

There were many herds of buffalo, antelope, wildebeest and zebra.  We also spotted some hippos out of a walk in the cold drizzle as they did not need to worry about the sun.  We spotted hyena’s, jackals and many warthogs.  The only missing animal is the giraffe as they cannot climb down from the rim!

We noticed the animals in the crater seemed much more relaxed around the trucks loaded with tourists.  They do not run or even hurry away as trucks approach, it would seem they are quite use to all the activity.  Many people are trying to lobby the government to limit the number of people allowed in the crater there are times when there are several hundred vehicles driving on the crater floor in a day.  A tough decision for the government as it means a loss of park entrance fees which are $100 USD per person.  The government does seem to realize that if the wildlife disappear so will the tourists so hopefully they can strike the right balance.

That evening, the lodge  arranged for the Massai to come and perform a song and dance to entertain us before dinner.  It was quick the spectacle with fire torches waving precariously close to the grass roof whilst the Massai chanted and jumped high in the air. 

The tables sparkled with crystal glassware and gold chargers.  Little gifts had been placed at each setting, a Massai beaded necklace for the ladies and beaded key chain.  A beautiful menu was served for our Christmas Eve dinner of Moroccan lamb.  We enjoyed a great bottle of wine and toasted to a fabulous safari vacation!

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