As the sun sets, the orchestra of the Mara comes alive. A magical stream of light guides you down a winding forest pathway as your Maasai protector shines his flashlight into the night. Listen closely and you might hear a lion’s roar or a conversation between a hippo and a hyena in the darkness. There is a thrilling sense of mystery and danger, yet you trust that you are safe with him by your side.
The Maasai have an unbreakable bond with this land and an intricate relationship with its wild creatures, having lived in harmony with them for centuries. They hold an unwavering reverence for nature and have formed a unique and meaningful bond with this land they call home. Courage is intrinsic to their way of life and they are renowned for their composed demeanour in the face of danger.
Maasai warriors, known as Moran, embark on a transformative rite of passage at the age of eighteen. Stripped of all comforts and armed with nothing but spears and knives, they leave their villages in groups and brave the harsh wilderness for months. United by their spirit of camaraderie and trust, they immerse themselves in the unknown, deepening their understanding of nature while reading its signs for survival. The Moran overcome challenges together and develop strength, courage, and endurance, their journey creating true character within.
On their journey, the warriors’ senses synchronise with their environment, allowing them to become deeply attuned to its rhythm and flow. They spend time exploring unfamiliar territories and with each passing day find that their spirit of discovery grows stronger and stronger. They observe animals, plants, and other living creatures, becoming more connected to the world around them and learning to appreciate the power of its force.
When the Moran return, a joyous celebration honouring their remarkable journey takes place. The entire village rejoices, singing in unison to warmly welcome them back into the community. These very songs, resonating with emotion and poignant meaning, are sung to embrace each guest who arrives at Ishara, celebrating the fated path that has brought them to this cherished place.
Bravery, courage, and a deep connection to the wild are values that the Moran carry with them throughout their lives, and at Ishara, we bear witness to their magnificent spirit every day. As an unfenced camp, our team of warriors stand as the formidable backbone of our operation, diligently ensuring that our guests are safe and can move around without reason to worry.
Every skilled warrior must face tests of will, and Sumare, one of our most revered and experienced staff members, has done this time and time again. He has risen to each challenge with a strength that is truly remarkable, and his courage and skill have grown stronger with every encounter.
Several years ago, while tending to his cows near his home, Sumare unknowingly passed two elderly male buffalos. A shift in the wind caught their attention, and one of them, having spotted him, concealed himself amidst the bushes. He patiently awaited Sumare’s approach before launching a swift and brutal attack from behind. The force of the strike sent Sumare flying through the air and when he eventually regained consciousness beneath a croton bush, he lay disoriented and bleeding from his wounds.
With infrequent vehicles in the area, he was left with no choice but to embark on a twenty-kilometre trek on foot to the main gate in search of medical attention. After three more hours of waiting, he met a man on a bicycle who kindly offered to take him the additional fourteen kilometres to the hospital, where he received the treatment he needed.
Shortly after recovering from the buffalo incident, a leopard managed to get into Sumare’s boma, creating a loud disturbance as it attacked his sheep. The noise prompted him to rush to the scene, and to his dismay he found the leopard feasting on his livestock. Startled by his presence, the leopard launched itself at Sumare, targeting his head and causing severe injuries before fleeing from the scene. He luckily managed to get to hospital in time and made a full recovery.
To this day, Sumare still bears the scars of this encounter and continues to tell his story with a smile. Sumare respects the power and majesty possessed by wildlife, and his two fateful encounters have deepened his understanding of animal behaviour. His narrative serves as a source of motivation, a demonstration of fortitude, and a representation of unyielding resolve.
Our warriors interact with many animals while patrolling the camp from elephants and hippos to buffalos, leopards, and lions. They are able to use their skills and knowledge to anticipate the animals’ movements and recognise subtle changes in their behaviour, reacting accordingly to ensure that all encounters remain safe for both humans and animals.
The Maasai’s deep connection to the land and animals has been passed down for generations, creating a powerful legacy of harmony and balance with nature. With each meeting, they strengthen their bond and reaffirm their commitment to protecting this beautiful wilderness.
Photo credits: Eric Averdung, Mary Beth Koeth, Azhar Madhani