“Ladies and gents, we are about to start our decent!” shouted the pilot as he turned in his squeaky seat just in front of me. Yes, there were no doors separating the pilot’s cabin from the main cabin of the tiny Blue Sky Airline’s operated Cessna Caravan 208B. Nor were there seatbelts, luggage storage or uniformed, smiling flight crew. The two hour bumpy flight across the Masai Mara savannah was about to be over. These were the words I dreaded every summer when I was a kid. I could never understand how my brother could sleep so blissfully throughout these flights. Nor could I understand how dad would be calmly getting his camera ready whilst mom would be gazing out through the window, trying to spot our home for the next few months. I was the only one who was nervously clinging to the sides of the worn leather seat.
Then there was always the inevitable sharp turn and all I was able to see through a scratched window was a rusty blue metal propeller, which reminded me of a horror film, and the dark orange cracked ground dotted with tiny black spots, which were the herds of animals. The first year we landed in amongst a herd of zebras. The second year it was warthogs. Wondering what it would be this year used to take my mind off the landing for a few minutes and from the sickening scenario of the plane crashing.
Once the thick cloud of dust, raised by the animals trying to escape the landing strip, settled down, we saw the familiar faces of the Maasai people. Their skinny tall bodies were wrapped in dark red and purple checked sheets. The Maasai always had extensive weaves of beaded jewelry as well as piercing all over their bodies. “Jambo! We’ve missed you”. Suddenly all the fear and tiredness was forgotten and the warm sense of belonging filled my heart. I knew the best days of the year were ahead.
Waking up at 5am everyday was a challenge, but watching the bright yellow sun slowly rising in the dark orange sky uncovering the weirdly shaped acacia trees in the horizon was worth it. After a hearty breakfast with the wild monkeys, the freezing water barrel bath was waiting. The only motivation was that once we were done, we would be hopping in a khaki coloured jeep, made to blend in with the wilderness, and spend the day animal spotting. One day it was baby lions playing around with each other, their mouths red covered in blood after a hunt; another day it was a big mama elephant chasing our jeep across the savannah for getting too close to her baby or lazy hippos slowly crossing the Mara River at feeding time.
The hours spent in that jeep hidden behind brown dried out bushes waiting for nature to come alive were filled with the thrill of the unknown and the appreciation of these once in a lifetime moments.
It was during the summers when the TV was replaced with novels about Africa; the Internet with human interaction and parties with bonfires nights listening to the local legends. African nights were highlighted by dark blue skies with millions of bright white stars which drew the perfect signs of the zodiac. You could also spot the wildebeest silhouetted against the stunning night sky, appearing to be completely captivated by the stars. I have never seen such beautiful skies anywhere else in the world.
The writer Pico Iyer said “…home has really less to do with a piece of soil than, you could say, with a piece of soul.” And I completely agree. Kenya will always be home for me. The wild animals and the Maasai people became family and the wonderful savannah under starry skies became home. It’s a place where I have learnt to explore, respect and appreciate nature and take responsibility for preserving it. The summers there were not only sacred because of all the beauty that filled my heart but they also taught me more than any formal education I have ever had and I will always be grateful that I got to experience this beauty before it got destroyed bit by bit by mass tourism.
About the Author: Milda is a Travel Community Manager @ AsiaRooms.com. Born in Lithuania, studied in the UK, traveled around Asia and taught in Africa. Now residing in Singapore, she is wandering around Asia blogging about her travels. Her free time is dedicated to yoga (anytime and anywhere) and capturing her best moments in photos and films!