People and Culture

The Maasai

Maasai womanYou’ll find the graceful Maasai people of southern Kenya and northern Tanzania adorned in colorful clothing –  typically bold reds, simple sandals and wooden bracelets. Maasai women have traditionally made and worn intricately beaded jewelry; today their jewelry also helps to provide a means of self-support. Maasai boys and men have traditionally been responsible for herding their livestock, which once meant a nomadic lifestlye for their families. Today, the Maasai are semi-nomadic, living in communal villages of circular boma (homes made of grass, mud, sticks and cow dung). Among their most valued resources are the cattle, goats and sheep which provide food and livelihoods. Known for their ceremonies, these celebrations of Maasai culture mark the rites of passage through life: from childhood to adulthood, from junior warrior to warrior and from junior to senior elder.


The Leakey Legacy

Called the first family of paleontology, Mary and Louis Leakey are known for the sheer number of fossil and stone tool discoveries made during their East African field studies, beginning in the 1930s. Through tireless work, they contributed a vast amount of data and had considerable impact on the science of early human evolution. In a site called Laetoli, near Oldupai Gorge, Mary and her team found fossilized, human-like footprints of a small primate that walked on two feet, in 1976. She is considered to be a preeminent contributor to the field of human origins. Louis was largely responsible for acceptance of the once controversial idea that Africa was the key to studying human evolution and for helping to initiate Jane Goodall’s studies of chimpanzees and Dian Fossey’s work with mountain gorillas.


Safari Life, 1950s Celebrity-Style

When William Holden went to East Africa on a hunting safari in the 1950s, safaris were lengthy events. In between the hunt, safari-goers spent a few days at a time resting at small inns. With friends, Holden bought one of his favorites, the Mt. Kenya Safari Club on the gorgeous slopes of Mt. Kenya. Open by invitation only, the glitterati came in the 1950s and 1960s – attracted by its gorgeous equatorial views. Today it is the Fairmont Mt. Kenya Safari Club, a Tauck hotel. Holden later created a surrounding wildlife preserve, at a time when conservation was not yet a popular notion. The preserve was transformed into the William Holden Wildlife Foundation after his death, honoring his lifelong support for Africa’s wild.

Fairmont Mt. Kenya Safari Club


Bo-Kaap, Cape Town’s Malay Quarter

In one of the oldest parts of Cape Town, South Africa, you’ll find single-story row houses painted in bright periwinkle, lavender and tangerine. In the 1830s these steep cobbled streets became a magnet for displaced Malays, Indonesians, Sri Lankans and other Southeast Asians who had been freed upon the abolishment of slavery in South Africa. Many had been brought to the Cape of Good Hope under rule of the Dutch East India Company; some were former dissidents. Today Bo-Kaap is a picturesque neighborhood known for its historic mosques, food bazaars and markets, and the aromatic (but not hot) Malay foods adapted to local conditions and ingredients.


Safari Guides: What it Takes

Safari guides often work in teams, pairing a driver who is also a guide with a tracker who sits in a jump seat to help with navigating the terrain and locating wildlife. Incredibly knowledgeable, the guides must be able to find their way in areas without road signs or obvious landmarks. They must know where they are required to stay on the road and where it’s permissible to go off-roading. They are well-versed in animal behaviors, interpreting tracks, trails and droppings, local plants and geological features. Able to speak on many topics, they share their knowledge about everything from snakes to insects, bush safety, ecology, and even the stars! While they understand that every safari-goer hopes to see Africa’s “Big Five,” they also know that it’s not always possible in the wild. To better the chances, guides follow tracking signs and radio back and forth between safari vehicles to share information. And protectively, they make sure that no single animal is ever surrounded by one too many humans.

Safari Guide

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