Around the Serengeti

Around the Serengeti

All visitors to Mara should approach it via the stupendous Serengeti National Park in order to appreciate fully its setting.

The park has no boundary fence and animals move in and out of it at will. Our link school at Issenye sits on a rocky hill overlooking the Serengeti and is frequently host to a wide variety of animals. In some years the annual migration, often described as one of the world’s most spectacular events, deviates from its more normal course and passes right through the school’s grounds. This is exhilarating for students and staff, and sometimes provides an unexpected dietary supplement.

But for local farmers it is a disaster. The two million wildebeest and zebra on the move are in search of just one thing – grass. And they don’t care who’s grass it is. When the migration makes this digression, Issenye’s pastoralists are forced to move their cattle out of the way and spend weeks away from their families guarding their livestock in more distant areas.

Visitors from Christ the King always spend time in the Serengeti and all have tales of close encounters of the exhilarating kind.

The Taturu

When the Serengeti National Park was established in 1951, the people who had up to that time inhabited it and grazed their animals there were moved away in order to preserve the wild life. The Maasai people were shifted eastwards, into what then became the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, whilst the lesser known Taturu were moved westwards, into what is now Mara Region.

There is a strong Taturu presence in Issenye and they cling to their traditional way of life, which is centred around the herding of cows, sheep and goats. They are not averse, however, to taking up innovations which they deem useful. On recent trips, visitors from Christ the King have noticed the use of mobile phones and even solar panels.

Teach a man to fish

Village communities in Tanzania are accustomed to working collaboratively, and the Church is active in helping them start new initiatives. This fish farm produces tilapia, full of protein and a rare delicacy in this village far from Lake Victoria. The men of the village dug it out themselves, guided by experts from Mara Diocese’s Integrated Community Development Programme. An added bonus is the rabbit hutch, standing in the water. Rabbit droppings full of residual nutrient add to the available food supply for the tilapia – a perfect symbiotic relationship, but possibly not one to think too much about at tea time.

Duck for Dinner

Hospitality is paramount in Tanzania. The guest is the one who conveys a favour on the host, rather than the other way round. Visitors always get the best seat, the best food and the best bed. Meat is a luxury for most villagers in Tanzania, but if a visitor turns up, the fatted calf – or in this case the unsuspecting duck – is offered to celebrate the occasion. This can be embarrassing for those of us coming from an affluent country such as England when we see the relative poverty of our hosts, but we should gracefully accept and work out how to return the favour.

Lock up your waters

Water is precious everywhere, but in Tanzania even more so. It rarely comes via a tap, but when it does so, precautions are necessary. With 475 teenagers on campus, Issenye High School makes sure that not a drop is wasted by attaching padlocks to its standpipes! Mara Diocese, which owns and manages the school, was fortunate in attracting funding from the nearby Grumeti Hotel for its water supply and students now rarely have to go down to the spring for this most necessary of commodities. Their water is safe from contamination.

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