The simple life: I was born in 1985, in a village called Kirimon, in Kenya, and have lived there all my life. I’m the youngest of six children, three boys and three girls. We are from the Maasai tribe. Our life is simple. We live in a round mud house made with cow dung and soil. There are about 85 people in our village; we are all related, a clan. My parents were pastoralists. Sometimes lions and leopards would attack our cows or goats; when that happened, we’d often eat the carcass that was left behind. I went to a primary school not far from our village. It was at school that I was introduced to Christianity and later I was baptised. Education isn’t a big part of Maasai culture and after a couple of years at school, when I was nine, my father said I didn’t need to go any more. I stayed home for three months, but I missed school and wanted to go back, so I decided to try and sneak back. When I returned from school at noon my mum didn’t say anything, but in the evening my dad asked where I’d been. He beat me because I wouldn’t tell him. Sneaking into school: The next day I sneaked off to school again. I’d hidden my school book in a bush and retrieved it before making my way to class. That evening I got another beating from my father. This went on for 10 days – school and then a beating. I was getting tired of being beaten every day, so I asked one of the teachers to come to our house and explain to my father that I’d been going to school. My father was a little aggressive towards the teacher – this isn’t what he wanted to hear – but eventually he said I could go to school. On my way to school, I walked past elephants and giraffes. I never worried about wildlife, it was normal to have them around. In a pastoralist family, someone is always responsible for looking after the cows and goats in the bush and bringing them back. Who, I wondered, looks after the wild animals? Tom to the rescue: When I finished primary school, my father said he didn’t have the money to send me to secondary school. The only way to get money would have been by selling some cows or goats, and he’d never have done that in order to send me to school. One of my brothers was working at a nearby nature conservancy and I used to visit him when I was feeling low. It was there I met Tom Silvester, the CEO of Loisaba Conservancy. He offered to pay my school fees for one year. I showed my school papers to him, they didn’t mean anything to my parents. Tom ended up covering my fees through secondary school and then offered me work, initially in the kitchen, then as a barman, a waiter and then as a swimming-pool attendant. The best places to see tigers and rhinos in India White-bellied go-away-bird: I enjoyed chatting to the guests at the pool and one day a guest asked me the name of a bird. I didn’t know what it was, so I asked my colleague. He said it was a “white-bellied go-away-bird”. What a crazy name, I thought, that couldn’t be correct. I checked it in a guide book, flicking through the pages until I found a picture of the bird. My colleague was right – it was a white-bellied go-away-bird. I was a little ashamed that although I’d gone to school, it was my uneducated colleague who knew what this bird was called. My colleague suggested I try to become a guide and encouraged me to write a letter to the CEO. Luckily, the CEO offered me a chance to start working towards being a guide. I continued to work as a pool attendant and studied the guide books. After seven months, I took the one-day exam to be a guide – and passed. Next, I learned how to drive and passed my driving test. Then I accompanied the guides on bush walks for two months and learned from them. Elephant encounter: I was 21 when I took out my first guests as a guide. I led two Chinese couples for a couple of days. Soon after we set out, we encountered a big bull elephant. It wasn’t until we got close to him that I realised he was in must; this means he is sexually active, and elephants are aggressive during this period. I’d been trained that if you encounter this situation you turn off the engine and stay as quiet as possible. The elephant came directly towards us, he was huge and towered over the car, breathing heavily. I think he was attracted by the sound of the guests’ cameras. I asked the guests to turn off the sound on the camera and keep still. The elephant stayed with us for 35 minutes before finally retreating. I asked the guests if they wanted to continue the drive, but they wanted to go back. So did I, my heart was beating fast. Spot your Lion King favourites at 3 African safari getaways Childhood sweetheart: Usually parents select a wife for their child, but I preferred to select my own. I first spotted Faith when I was returning home from primary school. She’s also Maasai, but from a different clan. Her father wouldn’t have approved of me going to her village or home, so we used to meet by the river when she went to collect water or firewood. We dated in my last year of secondary school and after a couple of years got married. We’ve got a six-year-old daughter called Nasarin. We live in the same village that I grew up in. My father passed away a while ago and I stay with my mother and take care of her. In the Maasai tribe, the firstborn is responsible for looking after the father and the youngest must take care of the mother. The ones in the middle I just call “freelancers”, they don’t have a responsibility for their parents. Out of Africa: I’m now in my eighth year of guiding. The biggest change I’ve seen is an increase in the number of wild animals – lions, elephants and leopards – since there has been a clampdown on poachers. The lions tend to stay around the nature conservation areas because when they go outside those areas they are more threatened. This is my first trip outside Africa. I am also going to Manila and Singapore. Hong Kong is a wonderful city. I can’t believe how tall the buildings are. We arrived in the evening and one of the first things I noticed was that you can’t see the stars, just the moon. Samuel Lengalai was in Hong Kong courtesy of A2A Safaris to share his experience of wildlife coexisting in harmony with livestock and humans.