A moment with one of Kenya’s first female safari guides, Alice Mantaine

When you get back from a trip, it’s often not just the landscapes or the wildernesses that leave you with enduring memories of special moments. But the people you share those moments with. Alice Mantaine is a special individual, not only is she breaking the mould as one of Kenya’s very first female guides. She also happens to be one of the most insightful, passionate and positively infectious individuals you could happen to share those moments with. We sat down with her to hear about life on the Mara and the great migration.

What was it like growing up by the Maasai Mara National Park?

I am from a small village on the northern side of the reserve. I come from a large family and we would trek a long distance to school, passing buffalo, elephants and zebra, which my older siblings would teach me how to dodge. We would play games at the weekend and go on long walks in the park whilst looking after our sheep and goats.

I am Maasai and we have lived with the animals for thousands of years. You will often see zebras and giraffes grazing with the village cows. We never eat wild game, and there is a great harmony between us, which is why I always loved nature and wanted to become a safari guide.

How many people in your family have been guides?

I am the first from my village! In our culture guiding and working in hotels was just for men. At first my ambition was a big shock to my father and uncles. But I was determined and had a lot of passion. I was sponsored by well-wishers, and also the European Union, to go to a proper guiding school for a year and a half.

After that it was hard to get employment because most camps didn’t employ women. andBeyond was the first company to employ female guides, so I worked for them before joining Angama. The industry is becoming more popular for women and there are now ten of us in the Mara.

What’s your favourite thing about what you do?

What I love is seeing people get excited by the Mara. It feels different every time, because it’s always someone new.

Can you describe the ecosystem?

Mara means ‘spotted land’ in Maasai, and this is because there are trees dotted everywhere. The Mara triangle is formed by the Oloololo escarpment to the west, the Mara River which runs all the way to the Serengeti and the Kenyan and Tanzanian border. Within the triangle is the most woodland, with the rains coming from the north, and breeding grounds to the south where open grassland makes it safer from predators. The grass is also rich in sulphate because it is close to the volcanic Ngorongoro crater.

The Great Migration, one of the seven wonders of the world, only happens in the Mara and Serengeti. The animals are in search of water and grass, and will follow the rains around the ecosystem all year every year. It is the continuous cycle of life. Some years they’ll arrive across the Mara River in July and stay during August, September and even October. This is the best time to be in the Mara.

What’s the Mara River crossing like?

It’s an amazing, exciting experience to watch. First, the animals will come to the water to drink, but then they feel the need to cross the river. Sometimes they will stand by the water for a long time – they seem to know it is dangerous because of crocodiles. It gives you goosebumps because you do not know what will happen. The only time you know they will cross is after the first one bravely jumps in, and then they all go together.

The Mara feels like a great example of how people and wildlife should coexist?

Yes, I can really say that! The Mara is one of the best places to learn how humans and nature can and should interact with each other. We now provide conservation lessons for schools, so that we can pass our knowledge on to future generations. If the Mara didn’t exist, neither would its people, and this is important to remember.

So you are hopeful for a positive future?

Yes definitely; the lodges and the people here are very serious about conservation. The Mara will be here for millions more years, I am sure.

Want to meet Alice?

Our epic Kenya and Zanzibar itinerary will take you on a journey to the savanna and Angama Mara Lodge (where Alice is a resident guide) to the pristine white sandy beaches of Zanzibar.