Michael Benanav shares his stay at Maji Moto Maasai Cultural Camp with his readers at the New York Times:
Though the camp is highly rated on Trip Advisor, I wasn’t really sure where the experience would fall on the spectrum between “farcically touristy” and “viscerally authentic” (which aren’t official review categories, but perhaps should be). Before we even left Narok, I got my first indicator, as Salaton loaded a brown and white ewe, which he had just bought at the market, into the taxi with us; liking the sheep’s looks, he had decided to add it to his flock.
Among other activities, during his 10 day stay Benanav attends a circumcision ceremony and learns about his host, Chief Salaton Ole Ntutu’s campaign to end female genital mutilation in Maji Moto. He also learns about a regional initiative, in collabatoration with several other Kenyans, to protect vast tracts of Maasai lands:
Once communally owned, the area has recently been divvied up into private plots that individuals may sell to anyone, raising fears that they will be bought by commercial or industrial developers who do not have the best interests of the environment or the tribe in mind. Through our conversations about land rights issues, wildlife migrations, livestock grazing patterns and cultural traditions, I began to piece together an increasingly nuanced picture of the context into which I had landed.
One of the highlights of Benanav’s stay was his visit to Masai Mara National Reserve (also spelled Maasai Mara):
It was a bonanza of wildlife. Seeing these animals truly move, not pace or sleep in a zoo enclosure, was a revelation. Once, we stopped to watch a cheetah with three cubs slinking through the grass in front of a family of elephants, as a warthog pranced off in the opposite direction, a hyena lurked to the south and groups of impalas grazed to the north; it was like a live version of the opening scene of “The Lion King.” I put down my camera. It was simply too magnificent, too moving, to want to experience through a viewfinder.
IF YOU GO
Maji Moto Maasai Cultural Camp: majimotomaasaicamp.com.
To reach Salaton directly, call (254-721) 778-424.
My stay at Maji Moto Cultural Camp was arranged from the United States through Susan Olofson Travel; susanolofson.com; (925) 518-3686.
Rates: Huts, $100 per person per night (children under 12, $80); includes three meals and all activities at Maji Moto (not Masai Mara safaris); tents $75 per night; camping with own gear, $40 per night; day tours with no overnight stay, $30 with lunch, $20 without.