Sea Star 7

1998 Bayliner LeClercq

Elephants! Leopards! Giraffe! oh my!

We left Legendary Lodge right after breakfast.  Melissa was still feeling crappy, so she elected to wear a mask to protect our guide, Shabani while in the jeep.  Much of the landscape was somewhat barren as this this the very end of the dry season here.  In the rainy season this same land would be lush and green.

We stopped to check out the huge termite mounds, and were immediately approached by some young Maasai boys who were tending their herd of cattle and became curious about us.  They spoke no Swahili (the national language) – so Shabani explained that these were truly “primitives” that had little to no experience with outsiders.

Typically young kids will expect gifts in exchange for letting you take their picture.  But these kids were so primitive they were unaware of this expectation.  Before Shabani realized this though, he had offered them water in exchange.

The looks on their faces was hilarious when they drank the cold water.  We suspected they had never tasted anything cold before.

As Shabani was explaining how the termites live, one of the boys climbed the termite mound to show us what a proud Maasai warrior he was!

The boys continued their curiosity about our jeep.  Melissa was a little concerned that they might be inching closer to the truck to find something to swipe – but Shabani said that no, that wouldn’t be allowed in their culture and that they probably had not been so close to a truck before.

Next stop, the river bed – which looked to be dry.  But the Maasai would dig down to find water for their herd.  Check out how they get the water out for the cows.  They do this several hours a day.

We watched the Maasai also drink out of this same trough.

Before Shabani had talked to the tribal elders who were manually getting water from the watering hole, she made the mistake of snapping this picture of the Maasai on the other side of the river using an gas pump to get water out for the cows.  The Maasai started shaking their sticks at her because this is not allowed – pictures without permission.  However, Shabani smoothed it all over so that Melissa could take all the pictures she wanted to.

Conversation then ensued about the life of the Maasai tribes in Tanzania.  They continue to live as their ancestors did in mud huts.  This despite that some of them now work and participate in “modern life”.  They are taught that the tribe is everything.  Cows are considered more valuable than cars.  Give a Maasai the choice between a cow and a car and he will pick the cow.

The Maasai are a polygamist tribe.  The first wife of a son is chosen by his parents.  Girls are often promised while still in the womb when they are from “good stock”.  A typical “bride price” is 10 cows, some sheep, some tabaco, and some honey.  Women are married when they begin to menstruate and are not considered worth anything until they bear children.  The first wife decides when a man should take his second wife and so on based on when they need more children to take care of the growing herd.  The more cows the richer you are and the more wives and children you need to take care of them.

Female genitalia mutilation is the norm among the Maasai and many of the primitive tribes here.  It is illegal in Tanzania, but the tribe believes that if a woman enjoys sex that she will be more likely to be unfaithful.  Utterly bizarre because the women are expected to “service” any male in the tribe that is of the “age set” of her husband.  So when her husband’s friend comes to visit, he puts his spear outside the hut of one of the wives he chooses to visit with.  Any children that result from these visits belong to the husband.  Its considered impolite to ask whether a child is genetically “yours” or not even when physical characteristics make it apparent the child is not biologically related to the husband.

None the less, they mutilate the girls.  It used to be that a family ceremony took place when the girl began to ovulate to mutilate her as this was a celebrated right of passage.  However, since Tanzania made it illegal, and will jail those who do it - the practice has become hidden.  Girls are educated to run away if their parents said they were going to cut a girl, and a few indeed escaped.  But it isn't clear where any large number of girls could be taken care of - and those that do run away often go hungry.  This all has resulted in the procedure being performed on girls who are too young to have free will.  A third of the girls having been cut before they were a year old.  Often with dirty knives causing infection.  Many girls bleed out and die.  Despite all this the practice continues and is normally performed by the grandmother.  Education is making progress, but its very very slow and will take generations.

Divorce is not a thing in the Maasai culture, though sometimes women can be allowed to pick up and leave.  But they have to leave their children behind as they belong to the husband.

In modern Tanzania life among “city people”, divorce has become common place.  Shabani blames the internet for this as people troll constantly for “better mates”.  It has become common place for very young women (think 20) to marry very old wealthy men.  The women take the men to the attorney to have a will drafted before the wedding to leave them all their wealth – knowing they will die soon.  The men then use Viagra – aggravating poor health conditions and pass away leaving a rich young wife.  Conversely, older women, who now have jobs and can support themselves are attracted to very young men.  Similarly, these young men are “attracted” the women’s wealth.  So this materialistic culture is leading to a lot of divorce as people “trade up”.


Next it was onto the game range where we would be staying at Maramboi Camp.  Shortly after we passed through the game reserve gates, we came across our first giraffe just standing by the side of the road.

And then a bit further on, we found a giraffe skeleton.  Shabani explained that it must have died of natural causes because the skeleton was largely intact.  Had it been taken down by lions, the hyenas would have dragged off any of the remaining leftover pieces.

When we reached the lodge – wow.  There was game everywhere.  The zebras were hanging at the pool.  The lake you see in the background is Lake Manyara.  It’s a very salty alkaline lake that the animals don’t drink from much.

And the sweeping view from our room of the plains and the mountains behind (the edge of a crater actually) – was amazing.  A constant revolving door of wildlife.

You can see the giraffe through the window here too:

The lodge grounds are gorgeous:

After a bit of lunch, it was time for our first real game drive.  There were all sorts of animals.

There are lots of different kinds of Antelope.  We saw Impala:

Which is big compared to a dig dig – the smallest antelope in Africa – standing about a foot high.

This is a baobab tree.  They store a lot of water, so in the dry season, the elephants eat them – hence the reason this one is all hallowed out.  The hallowed-out tree stays alive and becomes home for other animals and sometimes tribes people.

The elephants are Melissa’s favorite.  There were tons of them and they could care less about the jeep – they would walk right across our path.

This Mom got a little nervous though with her calf right next to her, and Shabani told us to sit down slowly so as not to upset her.  You don’t want an angry elephant Mom battering your jeep!

We went down to watch them in the dry river bed.  The elephants dig holes with their feet and trunks and find the water further down.  When they are done all the other animals – buffalo, giraffe, zebras, and so forth all come to drink from these elephant made holes.

The dry riverbed stretches for miles.

There were of course more zebras.  They might look like horses, but they are domesticatable as they are quite mean.  In groups they have been known to kill lions.

One of the most spectacular things we got to see was this female leopard sleeping in a tree.  There were three lionesses circling around so she apparently stayed up there for days.

Arriving back at the camp, we found our pals the black faced monkeys hanging out ready to steal any food they could get their hands on.

Sunset over the plain was spectacular watching all the animals.

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