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The Photographer’s Story: walking with Kenya’s Maasai people

STUART BUTLER is a writer, photographer and guidebook author.
James ole Siloma lives in the village where we finished a six-week walk in Kenya. His headdress shows that when he was younger he was a moran (warrior) and killed a lion without getting hurt, and his white jewellery that he’s from the remote Loita Hills.
The Photographer’s Story STUART BULTER

While researching the Lonely Planet Kenya guide, I discovered it was possible to explore the country’s Maasai lands on foot. I wanted to learn more about the area and contemporary Maasai life, so I went walking there for six weeks with a local Maasai friend, Josphat Mako. The walk itself was easy, taking in surprisingly diverse landscapes: forest-covered mountains home to buffalo and colobus monkeys, high moorlands that felt like Dartmoor, and classic Masai Mara scenery of open savannahs and acacia trees. Every day we walked with wildlife, from big herds of zebra, wildebeest and impala to giraffes that would come over and peer at us. We stayed in villages, camped in the bush, and interviewed those we met – one day a traditional healer or a poacher, the next a hospital worker or conservationist. People were very welcoming, and would invite us into their houses and tell us their life stories. It was incredibly rewarding – and very interesting to learn how Maasai lifestyles had changed. Among older folk, a lot of traditions are kept alive, but everything from education to religion has altered. I wouldn’t have got the same access if I’d driven; walking, people gave me more respect. To me, the best way to see the African bush – and smell it, touch it and taste it – is on foot.

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