We probably know too much or too little about the Maasai people. The much we know is that they move around a lot, they like their cows, they have colorful attires, and they can jump really high. Most of what we don’t know is their culture, how they live, and of course, their names. That’s part of the reason we were introducing ourselves to them. Not so much for ourselves but so we could ask them theirs. With a lot of people, we meet, we hardly go about asking what their names mean. But while there you may want to know. Names carry a lot of meaning. Literally every culture on earth places a really big emphasis on their power. That’s why after having experienced a fruitful game drive on days one and two, we decided to switch up the game and experience the Maasai culture. It’s a paid tour and we parted with 5000 Ksh for 7 people.
At the Maasai homestead, you’re guaranteed a dance, lessons on how to light a fire without matches, and a visit to their Manyatta. A lot of what you may think is a fashion choice actually carries meaning. The different colors of their shukas denote which family they come from. The Shukas also act as a passport for them. They don’t need papers to cross from Kenya into Tanzania or vice versa.
Then there’s the “jumping dance”. The name for it is adumu and it’s so graceful to watch. Damn those guys can jump. For just one second you almost feel like someone will take flight. They even let you join in and you can see how well (or not) you compare. If you’re Maasai and you were looking to get hitched, the higher you jump; the less dowry you’re required to pay, so don’t skip leg day.
We were separated into groups and your host’s job is to showcase the Manyatta they spend their lives in and tell you more about their culture. The manyatta looks small from the outside but it’s a three-roomed house with a guest room, a firewood point, and a home for the goats. There are no windows but there are holes in the wall for ventilation. This design is intentional because it prevents mosquitoes from getting in. Also, because there’s always a fire going in the house, you’d never get cold. Our host offered to host us for a night or two in case any of us were feeling adventurous. You have to carry your own food though.
The community, made up of 200 people, also makes jewellery and shukas for guests as an income-generating avenue for the community. The money goes into funding their projects like schools and social facilities and supporting their livelihoods. Part of sustainable tourism dictates that you support the economic activities by the local communities. If you haven’t budgeted for buying souvenirs, you can still leave a tip for your host.
As a parting shot, one of the things you can do is get a new name. They try to link it with their impression of you. Maasai names have a nice ring to them too. We were really happy that they christened (is christened the right word?) us (Cynthia) henceforth as “Nashuru”, meaning- “bring a baby to another village” and they probably gave it to her because of her height. Ha! Ess- “Nalotuasha”- A baby that’s born with the blessing of the rain.
Lenchada camp would be our home for the three-day stay. Its located outside the park, and is a budget camp. Some of us hear of budget camps in the wild and their minds click to “the gods must be crazy” kind of experience. The camp is comfortable enough; suitable for singles, couples, groups of friends and families. It comprises of deluxe and standard tents. The tents are fitted with comfortable beds with mosquito nets and warm beddings as it can get chilly.
Home isn’t where the heart is, it’s where you can poop in peace. In general, the cost of your camp depends on whether you’re inside the camp or outside it and also how close or far you are from the park entrance. On our first morning, most of us were talking about how we had a cozy and warm night which is an indictment of how comfortable the place is.
The tents are ensuite, equipped with Safari Shower, a hand wash basin, and a flush toilet. The campsite is powered by a solar system to conserve energy; the lights go on at 5:30 am to around 6:30 am when everyone is off for the game drive. In the evening they go on at around 6:00 pm and off at 11 pm. Guests who want to stay up past then aren’t completely in the dark because there’s still the bonfire or natural light from the Moon. You may want to carry flashlights.
There’s a dining area where guests are served with their daily meals and the TV is always on so you don’t have to worry about missing out on a football or a basketball or tennis in case it is match day. Our food was delicious especially the ‘mokimo’ and the meat. In general, though, the food at budget camps in Mara is no great feast. This must be because it’s literally the bush so sourcing ingredients must be hard. The meals at the camp exceeded our expectations. I wouldn’t worry too much about it though because you don’t go to the Mara for the food, you go there for the view.
At the bonfire/storytelling arena, the “Maasai” narrate stories as they enjoy the heat of the fire. Am sure you are wondering why the word “Maasai” is in quotes? We heard them talk Kikuyu and we realized that our Kiambu people had made their way to the Mara region to seek their fortunes. They’ve got the language and the dress code down pat.
In line with the MOH Guidelines, the camp has adopted measures that ensure that the guests are safe and that they enhance social distancing while taking meals as well as during bonfire. Once the guests arrive, the staffs who are fully equipped with masks and other gear sanitize take temperatures of the guests. Would we go back? Absolutely. It’s a popular place and its popular for a reason. It’s the real deal. Looking out at those plains dotted with wildebeests is so fulfilling and the spaces so wide that it feels like your mind is trying to stretch out to cover every inch of it. We were staring at them for hours. We wonder what everyone was thinking about then. 10/10 would recommend.
Yours, Nashuru and Nalotuasha.