Tanzania Day 15 - Massai Cultural Tour and Camping in the Serengeti

We woke up at 6:30 to lots of birds chirping this morning. Fable brought us tea to our tent, and we got ready for breakfast. Breakfast consisted of fried bread, baked beans, a “sausage” (hot dog), and a muffin. At around 8, we headed off towards the Serengeti.

It was so nice waking up to tea outside our tent!
Breakfast at Karatu Forest Tented Camp

One of the towns we drove through included a pit stop to weld one of the foot boards back together. This involved the mechanic hooking his homemade welder to live electric wires bare-handed. Twenty minutes and $7 (10,000 TSH) later, we were all ready to go. There was another safari vehicle at this rinky-dink shop (a.k.a. a dirt spot to park a car and a guy to fix it). They had a bit bigger problem than us - a broken rear suspension.

We need to weld one of our foot boards back together, and this guy hooked his homemade welder to live electric wires bare-handed!

Our next stop was a Massai village to do a cultural tour. We met with the son of the chief, who gave us the tour. They started with a demonstration of a Massai song and dance, and at the end they had Charlie jump with the Massai men. The adumu, often called the "jumping dance", is actually done by the young tribe members who are graduating to the ranks of manhood. It is said that the higher and more graceful they jump, the more appeal the warrior has to the young women looking on.

Massai men jumping during their ceremony

After the "jumping dance", we walked over to the schoolhouse where there were about 15-20 little kids who sang us a song and counted numbers in English. They requested a donation for “uniforms”, so Charlie gave them $10.

Massai school children

Next, we walked over to one of the houses. They are made of mud, sticks, and elephant dung. Inside, they have a bed made from cowhide and even a small fire. The women are the ones who build the houses, and they need to be replaced every 7 years. The chief’s son explained that from age 20-25 you get married. Your parents choose who you marry, and you need to pay 10 cows to get married. After age 25, you become a warrior.

Massai village huts
Inside of Massai mud hut
Exploring the Massai hut

The village we visited has 120 people. We actually drove past a village yesterday where 1 man has 200 children and 30 wives. He is 65-70 years old and is still having kids. Apparently the government built him a school in his village for all his kids.

The last thing we did during the cultural tour (which we were dreading) was walking around the “shops” outside everyone’s hut. There were some very pretty and intricate bowls, bracelets, and necklaces made of beads. They kept having me try on the bracelets that I didn’t want, and they wouldn’t tell us the price of anything until we did a final tally at the end.

Everybody's hut had a shop outside of it with their homemade crafts. Although it was nice looking at everything, it was very annoying being pressured to buy everything we touched.

At the end, we ended up with two wooden animal carvings, a bead bowl, 3 bracelets, and one intricate necklace. Some of the stuff was picked out by us, and others just ended up in the pile. The chief’s son wanted 200,000 shillings for everything, which is about $120. First off, we weren’t going to pay that much for all that stuff, and second, we didn’t even have that much money.

Charlie told the chief’s son that we didn’t have that much money, and that we only had 100,000 shillings and just a few U.S. dollars. The chief’s son then said we could pay him 100,000 shillings PLUS $70. Ummm… NO! The next thing we did was get rid of stuff we really didn’t need/want. This included the 3 bracelets and intricate necklace. He still wanted over 100,000 shillings for the bowl, two wooden animals, and a “gift” of one of the bracelets. We got him to go down to 100,000 shillings mainly to get him to leave us alone. What a scam, and now we are $60 poorer. Later on, Charlie mentioned that he saw the chief’s son wearing a Rolex (or some other kind of fancy watch). Not surprised.

We were both pretty quiet/cranky for the next hour or so. All that money we just spent probably did not go “to the women” or “for school uniforms”. Best to just forget it now, and hope that we don’t have any more cultural experiences.

To get to the Serengeti, you first have to drive through Ngorongoro Crater. The road was very curvy and bumpy, and there were many times we played “big fish, little fish” (avoid getting hit by the bigger trucks heading towards you in half your lane). We drove up to the crater rim which had an awesome view at the top. Then, we drove down the other side and drove over to Serengeti National Park.

Baby zebra and mom in Tanzania

At the entrance of the Serengeti, we parked the Land Rover and took a break to take a short hike up Naabi Hill. It gave us a beautiful view of the Serengeti Plains, and it's unbelievable how vast it is. There's going to be a lot of wildlife out there!

It was surprisingly cloudy and chilly at Serengeti. Although I was a bit cold at times, I’d prefer this over 90 degrees and sunny (did I really just say that?). We just saw some hippos which was a first for us. We missed seeing a leopard two times, and surprisingly didn’t see any elephants either. We did see giraffe, water buffalo, dik dik, impala, wildebeest, and zebra. My favorite was a family of baboons. There was a mom cleaning a dad, and a baby less than a week old who was adorable.

We learned more about the gazelles as well. There are two groups - the bachelor group and the female group. The bachelors fight each other, and the one that wins gets the females all to himself. Then, another male kicks him out, and that gazelle lives the rest of his life by himself and dies on his own.

We drove around some more and then made our way to our campsite. This was more of a campsite that I was expecting. It had a spot for tents, a dining hut, a “kitchen”, and bathroom/showers. Elvis advised us to set our tent up in the dirt instead of the grass. He said at night the buffalo will graze on the grass, then the lions will attack them and squish us in our tents :).

Our campsite in the Serengeti.
African buffalo skull at our campsite in the Serengeti.
The Acacia Tree. Giraffes love eating this, and they use their long tongues to navigate the "Devil's Thorns".

The Acacia Tree. Giraffes love eating this, and they use their long tongues to navigate the "Devil's Thorns".

We set up our tent, relaxed in the sun, and watched some giraffes graze across the road from our tent. Then we had some dinner: fish, french fries, salad, and leek soup. I ate soooo many french fries because they were so good.

We went to bed early because we need to get up early tomorrow if we want to see the cats! I can’t wait!