Danny Yee >> Travelogues >> Kenya + Tanzania

Loita Plains, Maji Moto
and Siana Conservation Area

Monday 14th March

While Duncan and Demetrios packed up the camp, Kassim and a local Maasai guide took us on a walk, across a kind of dry wadi and then over part of the Loita plains. Kassim did the actual guiding; I think the Maasai was there with his spear in case any lions turned up. Nothing so exciting happened, but we saw gazelle, zebra, wildebeest and impala, as well as Maasai herding cattle, and I got to look for the different species of ants on whistling thorn acacias.

29mm, f/5.6, 1/640s, ISO 100
Kassim checking ant species
our Maasai guide
Zebra (?) bones
zebra with foal

The vehicle picked us up when we reached the road and we drove to the Maji Moto tourist campsite, which is run by a Maasai Community Based Organisation. From there Maasai guides Jonathan and Lisa took us to visit the Enkiteng Lepa school, run by a feisty woman Hellen.

"Nothing but the best"
Enkiteng Lepa was the best looking school of the three we visited on the trip, with clean, spacious classrooms and a low student-teacher ratio — the school motto seemed more than aspirational. (I was only half-joking when I suggested it was probably better than the school my nephews went to in Oxford.) But we didn't get to see the nearby government school, which would have been an interesting comparison.

Funding for the school building had come from the Polish government and an American NGO, in response to a grant application written by a nineteen year old from the Polish Embassy (whose skirt hangs in the widows' village as a kind of memorial) — a pretty impressive achievement.

Enkiteng Lepa classroom
Hellen explained that they have to bring in teachers from outside and that that was the biggest recurrent expense, over a million shillings (about $12,000) a year. As a private school they don't get government funding for teachers, but they get the freedom to choose teachers and can allow the students to wear traditional clothing three days a week. I'm not sure how they manage to fund this, and the other costs like providing lunches for the pupils, but the desks were labelled as IntoAfrica donations and Hellen's spiel extracted a decent sum from us.

So far the school only has four grades and sixty pupils, but it's steadily expanding as the existing students progress. Maybe three quarters of the pupils are girls, and the school doubles as a refuge for girls running away from genital cutting. (Their dormitory had some serious security!)

I'm not sure how well this is going to work when it comes to preserving traditional Maasai culture, however. How many of the girls being educated here will be content to build dung houses, herd goats, and milk cows? Will students stay in the community at all if they end up as doctors and lawyers? But a Maasai school should give both the students and community more control over how this works.

The visit offered some fascinating insights into Kenyan education, anyway. Interestingly, everyone learns and uses Swahili, but instruction is in English from pretty much the beginning — note the "TAKE AWAY" on the blackboard in the photo.

This web page has some information about the school.

We had lunch back at the camp and visited a nearby widows village, where Camilla bought some jewellry as a kind of donation.

random trees
Maasai widows' dance

We did a game drive in the Siana Conservation Area on our way to the Masai Mara National Reserve ("the Mara").

running ostriches
giraffe around a tree
bat-eared fox

Our "tented lodge" was at the end of a bumpy road some distance from the dingy looking "town" around the park gate, but it turned out to be very comfortable, among the most comfortable of the trip. We were the only guests.

After dinner we were supposed to go on a night drive, but about five minutes into that a fuse blew on the lighter socket which provided power for the spotlight. So we had to abandon the expedition, which was a shame.

Next: Masai Mara morning
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