Through the eyes of Saruni Kisemei

Q. What is the most exciting / memorable story / sighting?
A. When I found a leopard with two cubs last year. One cub was up in a tree eating a kill with the mother and one down at the base of the tree. Whilst we were watching a hyena came in and grabbed the cub on the ground. I tried to rescue the baby by going after the hyena with the car, but we did not succeed. The hyena actually ran away with the cub. I was very excited as I had never seen such a scene, but my guests were crying!

Q. Why do you love Kenya?
A. It is my home, so of course I love it. If I had to pick another country I would most like to visit, it’s Botswana and go into the Okavango Delta. It seems to be the only place in the world to rival the Mara in terms of wildlife. The lions like to tackle buffalos which we don’t have here so often.

Q. What’s the strangest / funniest thing you have ever been asked?
A. One of my clients got out of the car and walked up to a buffalo. He thought it was safe because in Italy they milk buffalo. I had to scare the buffalo away to protect the client.

Q. When was the last time the wildlife of the Masai Mara scared you?
A. When I was at home looking after the cows on food I was surprised by a buffalo who was threatened by my Maasai singing. It ran towards me and luckily I threw myself to the ground and he jumped over me and then I ran away with my cows. But I had to go back and collect my spear the next day.

Q. What motivated you to become a guide?
A. I really love nature and wildlife. I grew up with all of this and fell in love. Further, I really enjoy meeting people from all other the world and learning about their culture.

Q. What makes Saruni different?
A. Saruni is special because it is named after me! Ha ha, also here at Saruni the staff are all locally employed and community works very closely with the lodge. Lots of help.

Q. What is your favourite animal species in the Mara?
A. Hyena, not because it takes leopard cubs, but because it is one of the ecosystems cleaners so it has a big role to play. They also have very complicated social systems that are fascinating.

Saruni is the Maasai adjective for the Provider or the Peacemaker, a mediator or one who brings people of different points of view together, which is probably one of the most apt descriptions of Leonard Saruni Kisemei. Saruni is a guide ever-ready to share his knowledge of both his natural and cultural heritage with persons from all sorts of diverse backgrounds. He was born Ol Donyo Orienga in the early 1980s and since an early age developed a keen interest in his surroundings whilst herding his father’s livestock. After leaving school, Saruni worked in a variety of jobs. However his deep interest in nature, great confidence in the bush, ability to make clients and guests feel immersed in the wilderness and easy charm prompted our lodge to offer this bright young man a full sponsorship to Koyiaki Guiding School. Saruni graduated with distinction, also winning the title of the “best smile of the year”. Saruni was part of the very first team who assembled at the lodge site when the construction started, in September 2002. Since then he has been a casual worker, a trainee waiter, a waiter, the head of the waiters. Now, as professional guide, he spends most of the time in the bush, where he feels most at ease. The feedback from our guests is already very positive and Saruni is now the happiest young guide in the Masai Mara. His specialty? Teach our guests how to throw the spear and how to use bow and arrows.