It was around 1 am, and the sound grew louder. There was a short silence and once more we heard it, not far away, maybe around 80 mts. Our Maasai friends grew alert, they recognised the sound and with swift moves, formed a protective circle around us.
I had been exploring the Savannah grasslands (bush) of Kenya for around 5 days now with a small group of people from across the world. Tonight we pitched tent on some open land at Lolita Hills, in the Maasai heartland and the next day was reserved for exploring the Masai Mara (one of the world’s largest game reserves)
The Maasai, are a semi-nomadic, ethnic tribe living across Kenya and Tanzania, who move their livestock in search of pastures. The staple food of the Maasai is milk, meat and blood. Earlier that evening we visited the nearby Maasai village which is a small community of 30 people, living in houses made of mud and cow dung. The women, dressed in red shukas with brightly coloured beaded jewellery, welcomed us with a celebratory song and dance. Next came the men with their deep throaty chanting, carrying spears, who performed a warrior dance and the jumping ritual. As per customs, the Maasai women are attracted to men who jump the highest, signalling a sign of aspiration and an ability to provide. Between the age of 16 to 25 the young men of the tribe live in the bush mastering their hunting skills. The young man who is first among the group to attack and kill a lion, will then be a celebrated hero among the tribe, who wears the mane of the slain lion on his head.
That night, 3 of the Maasai warriors lit a fire at our camp to ward of wild animals who stray from the Maasai Mara (the Masai Mara has no fence bordering it). They were to spend the night by the fire guarding us from an attack. As we sat under the stars, warming ourselves by the camp fire, revelling in their fascinating stories of hunting, witch doctors and polygamy we were captivated and taken back to an era long gone. The Maasai men are polygamist and marry several women often up to 5 and 7, depending on their wealth which is determined by the number of cattle they own, was explained to us by the chief’s son, who was already on his 2nd wife and was scouting for his 3rd.
Nearing midnight, most of our group had gone back to their tents and it was just 4 of us sitting by the fire sipping on Tusker (local Kenyan beer) hearing mesmerizing stories of Maasai rituals and ways of life. The warriors now decided to patrol the area around our tents to ensure no wild animal was lurking in the bush. Armed with their traditional spear and the Maasai stick, the 3 of them set out, while 4 of us insisted we go with them to explore the Maasai heartland in the black of the night.
While the Maasai hunters knew their way through the ups and downs and twists and turns, we switched on our torches which provided light for upto 2 mts away. We walked in silence, but bursting with excitment at the unplanned but sudden adventure we found ourselves in.
Suddenly, out of nowhere there appeared a gazzle (deer family) sprinting across the bush. Seeing our excitement, the hunters quick to act, threw their spears to catch the gazzle. They offered to take her to our camp side for a hearty lunch the next day, however our tour guide being unaware of our midnight adventure, we declined the invitation. Now once again a silence descended and as we started trudging ahead. One Massai in the front leading the way, four of us and two other warriors making up the rear. Suddenly the baboons (monkey family) in the trees nearby began to chatter, softly at first. Had they seen us and were afraid?
And then suddenly we heard it. It was 1 am, and the sound grew louder. There was a short silence and once more we heard it, not far away, maybe around 80 mts. Our Maasai friends grew alert, they recognised the sound and with swift moves, formed a protective circle.
It was an angry lion. Seems like the gazzle was his dinner plan that night, which we so unwittingly disturbed. Our Maasai friends were not in the least bit scared, but the hair on our hands started to rise. In the darkness of the night, our torches were of no use. We could not spot the lion, but could hear him loud and clear. The Maasai hunters explained that the sounds seems not too far away and lions being nocturnal, he could see upto 7 times better than a human eye in the dark and could easily spot the 7 of us. While they insisted we were safe and they had all killed lions in the past and though our hearts were pounding with excitement, we knew that had the King of the Jungle was warning us not to come any further.
We slowly turned around and started our walk back to the tents. As the fire crackled and the familiar orange sparks warmed our hearts, all hopes of sleep that night had gone. The adrenaline rush of hearing a lion growl, out there, in the midst of the Savannah grasslands was a high that none else can match.
The next morning, we packed out tent, said good bye to our new friends and headed over for a game drive in the Masai Mara. From our 4X4 jeeps, we spotted several prides of lions laze about in the hot sun, wander around, but none match the thrill of hearing the growl of the King of the Jungle signaling his presence in the dead of the night.
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