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We visited the Masai Village just outside Amboseli National Park, very close to Kibo Safari camp where we were staying. In retrospect, there were things that could have been better when it comes to just being more prepared.

It was our 1st day on a safari, our driver picked us up in Karen, Nairobi and we started the long 5 hour drive to Amboseli. We had been in Kenya for just over 3 days by that point and were very eager to start our true safari experience. With stopovers and due to a bit of a late start from Karen, it was close to 3pm when we started approaching Amboseli. There was a bit of miscommunication or lack of communication that started this whole experience on the wrong foot. I was eager to get into the park and start our first real game drive in the wild and I assumed, without saying anything that that was the plan; to check into Kibo and hit the road. Our driver informed us that he had organized a visit to the Masai village and the masai warriors would pick us up in front of the hotel at 4pm and we would do a bush walk with them to the village. He said the price of the tour was USD30pp plus the conservation fee of USD10( I misunderstood this fee and though it was per visit but it was pp as well). I asked what about our game drive knowing we had to leave the park before sunset and he said we would still go on one right after the tour. Knowing we would have no more than an hour in the park I started the tour anxious.

The Masai guides picked us up from Kibo and walked with us to the village. It was very hot and I was tired from the long drive but also very eager to get to the park so I felt a bit out of place. I also didn’t really do my research and wasn’t sure what to expect from the tour. I had read mixed reviews on line; some people amazed by the visit, some calling it a tourist trap. Our guides were young and cool. Once we made it to the village we waited for everyone to gather around. This is where I think I first started feeling uncomfortable. I don’t enjoy being the centre of attention but also I really don’t like feeling as if people are going out of their way just for me. It took awhile for everyone to gather and they didn’t seem to eager( and I can’t blame them). They started the dance and I felt awkward being the only 2 guests for this performance. They invited us to join in and we did briefly. I gave the guide USD100, doing the math in my head it was USD70 total based on what I understood the driver to say and I added the USD30 as a thank you for putting on this whole performance just for us. I now know I would have felt so much more comfortable if we joined in as a part of a bigger group. We went into the village for a tour, we were shown the inside of a completely dark hut that was empty inside, I don’t believe anyone lived there. We were shown the starting of the fire using just sticks and given a mini talk on herbs they use to cure various health issues.

At the end of the tour there is a display of jewelry and all the women sit in a large circle and you’re expected to stop by each one and look at what they have. I felt so uncomfortable and felt so much pressure, again most likely since it was just the two of us and this whole display was on for us. The men sit next to the women and I felt a bit guilt tripped into buying things I didn’t like. They would say things like “this is my mother, take another look, make her happy, buy something” etc.I ended up picking up 2 or 3 tiny bracelets that were already a bit rusty and paying USD20 for them. By that point I was so uncomfortable I just wanted to leave and I cut the tour of the circle short and said I can’t buy anything more as I don’t have any more money and I feel a bit uncomfortable visiting every woman and looking at their items. My husband didn’t have the same problem I did. He was very cool and kept saying no thank you to everything. I am the emotional sucker and when someone tells me this is my mom please buy something she will be very happy I just lose all sense of reality.

I was amazed by :

  • The mesmerizing beauty of the Masai women
  • The incredible colours they wear, the style and the jewelry
  • Their dance and song
  • The nuances of tribal hierarchy and respect
  • Their knowledge in using herbs as medication

Our guide explained that the Masai were situated outside the park and didn’t make any money from the profits of the park that is on what used to be their land. Since they are skilled warriors poachers often recruit them and lure them in with financial rewards for a successful kill. The locals hoping to help both the Masai people and the animals started educating the Masai that finding their own place in the tourist world of Kenya was a more profitable plan long term and a more stable steady stream of income. Tours like this are a result of such a shift in thinking and it is one of the reasons I wish I took it all in a bit more.

 

My advice for the Maasai tour

  • Ask questions; as many as you can think of, both to your tour guide as well as the Masai people
  • Take it in as a unique opportunity to see first hand what life on the continent used to be like and still is for some places
  • Understand that there is a bit of a “just for tourists” show but that’s not unique to Africa, that is a part of most luaus in Hawaii and any other places around the world
  • Since you’re there try and judge less and enjoy more; it’s just an hour and you will only do it once

The total cost of just the tour should have been USD80 but with adding a bit of extra at the start and buying the bracelets for us it came up to USD120 and it did feel like a lot.

 

In summary

I feel like the tour is a combination of a beautiful insight into a tribes history and culture mixed in with a show for tourists and you should approach it with an open mind
We were on a private safari so the Masai did the whole tour just for the 2 of us and I felt a bit uncomfortable because all these people were coming out to dance and do all of this just for us. I wish we joined the tour as part of a bigger group
I also wish I handled myself better at the end with the jewelry situation. I wanted to buy everything from everyone and make everyone happy but I didn’t have the finances to do that so I hope cutting the tour of the circle short wasn’t an insult to the other women and didn’t make them feel like they wasted their time setting up.

So, in general I think our trip to the Masai village could have been a lot better had we asked more questions or were given more detailed information. I know it’s my fault for not really adapting well and not making the best of it and when life takes us back to Africa I will visit the Masai again with a more open mind and probably in a bigger group. 🙂

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