My childhood ideal of the Masai Mara was based on an image I had seen in a book during my formative years - the image of a flat-topped acacia tree and a giraffe on a distant ridge silhouetted against a wide sky. The idea of space filled my senses. The image was completed many years later on my first visit to the Mara when I photographed a giraffe and an acacia tree on a distant horizon.
This ideal of the perfect image changed the same day I found my childhood dream and it happened on the first evening drive where I had seen young Maasai boys minding cattle and goats on the edge of the reserve and while watching them I wondered at what price western ideas had taken over people living close to the earth.
This was where the Maasai had grazed their cattle, and lived, among the wild animals, for longer than our written history of the continent. It was in my misguided ideals of Africa that I had dreamt of the wide skies and postcard image.
The safari marketing lobby has changed the perception of wilderness appreciation with a drive 'to show the real Africa' to potential visitors. This real Africa is devoid of the sounds and scents of the past.
Westernization has instilled a false perception in our minds. Wilderness areas before colonization were tinged with wood-smoke and human voices. The majority of conservationists believe that a pure wilderness is one without humans. We have destroyed the true wilderness and now prescribe to defining it.
To many people it is an attack on the senses, and the ideals, to have humans wandering freely in the game reserves but these tribesmen are the very link to preserving the earth in our souls. By wanting people out we display an ignorance of the real value of the earth.
It is also due to these very people that we are able to appreciate the wilderness areas today.
The Masai Mara is certainly one of Africa's greatest wildlife sanctuaries, but there is a deeper side to it, a side that combines the past with the present, a side that takes us back to traditional values where man lived in harmony with the earth.
By Leigh Kemp