A Lion's Pride and the Will of the Tribe in Kenya
Story and photos by Luke Maguire Armstrong

On an African safari in Kenya, a thirst for adventure as the sun goes down needs to take a back seat for the sake of group harmony.

Kenya travel

I sat in the van angry and silent as my washing machine mind spun through another cycle of thinking how unfair this was. What irked my ire most was that everyone else was upset with me when I felt that it should be me upset with them. So after my brother Calvin reiterated the reasons I had to go back to camp with everyone else instead of playing billiards in a barroom of tipsy Maasai warriors, I stared on in stone cold silence. No longer in the spirit of discovery, but the attitude of adolescent defiance, I resolved to walk back later on my own.

Only hours earlier, we'd stood side by side, solidified by our mutual wonderment driving along the eastern steppes of the famed Masai Mara Game Preserve. When people think of Africa, odds are they are conjuring up images from Masai Mara. For many, the Maasai people and animals that inhabit the preserve fit the global archetype that represents an entire continent.

Safari van

Our open-roof safari van had carried us through a world of larger than life beasts. Elephants turned around to waive their trunks in our direction before bounding onwards in a way that evoked four words in my mind, "Welcome to Jurassic Park." We'd seen a mother lion, lazy from feasting on a buffalo, roughhousing with her two cubs. Our van rolled through khaki colored grass under a bright blue sky, past giraffe, zebras, gazelle, river resting hippos, into a searing sunset. Back at the camp we ate and watched via satellite TV as Obama gave his 2013 inaugural address.

Then we conscripted our guide to drive us a few kilometers to a remote village where my brothers and a few others from camp drank bottles of Tusker beer to close out the day. How such a wonderful day could terminate in angry silence?

From the village bar, I had ventured out and came upon a shanty pool hall where a dozen Maasai warriors donning their traditional garb and clutching spears crowded the billiards table. Whenever one of the contenders sunk a ball, they beat the butts in their spears on the ground and cheered.

Maasai village

They waved me inside to join them and I said I'd be right back. I dashed back to the bar to share the news with my party. By day I'd gotten to know Africa's animals and breathe in her landscapes. Now was my chance to connect with the people who lived among both.

But at the bar, I was immediately shut down. "No, we're all going back now, and you're coming with us."

When I protested, I was insulted to be told by Calvin, "Those guys are drunk and could be dangerous." A mental list of an eight years of navigating through such social situations in far-flung places begged my anger to grow. I might never again be in Masai Mara and felt a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity was being robbed from me.

Kenya safari

Back at camp, I shared a tent with my other brother, Tyler, who watched from his bed as I readied my bag to go. "Why don't you just stay?" he asked.

"I'm going," I said, "this is why I don't like traveling with people who don't travel much, you think everything's dangerous."

Tyler reminded me of the early wakeup call the next morning. I said nothing, feeling that either he was with me, or against me.

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The Expeditioner's Guide to the World

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