SEARCH FOR TRIPS

Maasailand safari: more information and guidelines

07.28.2011 This background information and trip guidelines are developed to help you get the most out of your visit, while leaving the community and culture as they wish. We look forward to having you at the Merrueshi community!

Background

Wildland Adventures has been working for more than a decade with Maasai communities around the Maasai Mara and Amboseli regions. These community-based programs are the result of a unique partnership between Wildland Adventures, the Maasai Environmental Resource Coalition (MERC) and the Maasai Association. This grassroots network of Maasai communities, organizations and individuals is dedicated to the protection of traditional land rights of the Maasai people, and to the conservation, management and sustainable use of the land. It is hoped that this partnership will serve as a model for transforming the way safari tourism is conducted in East Africa by establishing a standard that creates more meaningful and memorable cross-cultural experiences for travelers that directly benefits our Maasai hosts.

Kenya, Maasailand, and Game Parks

Your first stop will be Merrueshi community located 260 km (approximately) southeast of Nairobi 65 kilometers from Amboseli National Park located on the foot of Mt. Kilimanjaro, and 120 kilometers from Tsavo West Game Reserve.

The Merrueshi Community is widely known as a corridor for wildlife migrating from and to Amboseli and Tsavo West Game Reserves. Wildlife such as zebras, wildebeest, gazelles, giraffe, Eland, lions, leopards and cheetah are found in the area. The area is famous for its ancient historical Maasai villages, including a 1000 year-old Mancala game board carved in the bedrock, an important site studied by Leaky.

Ideal Participant

The Maasailand Safari is ideal for travelers keenly interested in complimenting their African wildlife experiences with meaningful, cross-cultural interactions among native Maasai. Designed for active travelers who prefer off-the-beaten-track cultural encounters and walking opportunities, the trip is also recommended for families, school groups and others who seek experiential learning and cultural insights among indigenous peoples.

Leadership

Kakuta Ole Maimai was born and raised in the Maasai society of southern Kenya. He was a warrior coordinator for ten years prior to furthering his studies in the United States. Mr. Maimai has a Political Economy degree from the Evergreen State College, Olympia, Washington. He is the founder of the Maasai Association, and principal founder and guide of the Merrushi Living Among the Maasai project. He lives part-time in his native Kenya and part-time in Washington State where he completed his Masters Degree in International Development at the School for International Training and works on African exhibits in zoos throughout the U.S.

Transportation

We use Land Rovers equipped with four-wheel drive. The vehicles are driven by well-trained drivers with many years of experience working with travelers from all over the world.

Program Activities

Travelers are encouraged to participate in the following activities:

  • Daily nature walks lead by Maasai warriors
  • Lessons and techniques for animal tracking
  • Meet the elders and exchange stories/talk about world issues
  • Bead-making lessons facilitated by Maasai women
  • A visit to Maasai Associations community development projects
  • Maasai songs and dance

The community offers presentations on various topics including:

  • Habitat and wildlife conservation
  • Community based anti-poaching effort in Merrueshi Group Ranch
  • Savanna survival strategies for wildlife and people
  • Traditional medicine and plants
  • Maasai community leadership
  • Local methods of problem solving and conflict resolution
  • The importance of rite of passage
  • Animal husbandry

At the end of each day, participants and local guides will meet around the bonfire and reflect on activities completed during the day.

Food

A professionally trained cook along with local trained staff will provide breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Note that mineral/bottled water will be available on site. The cost of mineral bottled water is not included in the price provided herein.

Security

Security is our number one priority. There will be warriors on site twenty-four hours a day. All the animals of the African savanna know and are scared of the warriors. The warriors will accompany you during all nature walks and throughout the safari. This would be the safest place you can be in Africa.

Accommodation at the Game Parks and Reserves

We stay at world-class safari camps or lodges. At the Amboseli Game Park we usually stay at the village or possibly spend one night at Oltukai Lodge, while in Maasai Mara we usually stay at Mara Sarova or a similar permanent tent camp.

Important travel information

Documents

It is the responsibility of each participant to have:

  • Valid passport (with extra blank pages) and visa fee
  • Two passport size pictures
  • Health vaccination certificate
  • Anti-malarial medication

Please see our pre-departure dossier sent to you upon registration for the trip and consult with your health provider/physician for further advice on vaccination and other health related matters.

Note: Please make sure to submit a valid passport to the Kenyan Embassy for your visa, 60 days prior to your departure. In case you are unable to submit your passport to the Kenyan Embassy for visa, it is possible to obtain a visa upon your arrival to Kenya. However, the cost of visa in Kenya will be much higher (about $50) compared to obtaining it in the U.S.

Important guidelines for participants

The following guidelines are developed to help visitors to Merrueshi Community get the most out of their visit, while leaving the community and culture intact.

Greeting Local People

Shaking hands with women and elders is common in the Maasai society. Patting the top of the head is common for adults to greet children.

Supa means hello in Maa language. Visitors can also use Jambo (Swahili greeting), as each villager is familiar with the greeting. Dont hug anyone.

On Ground Advice

Considering the remoteness and the presence of wildlife in the area, it is discouraged from venturing into the bush alone without a guide.

Handouts

With the exception of tipping guides and onsite staff, it is prohibited to handout the following items to the villagers:

  • Food items
  • Clothing
  • Cosmetic products
  • Toothpaste and toothbrush
  • Money

Treat community members, as you would expect to treat guests in your own home. Be respectful and reserved.

Acceptable Gifts for the Community

School writing journals, chalk, pencils, note pads, soccer balls, and basketballs are welcomed. Also, beads for village women are welcomed.

Photographs

It is discouraged to photograph and film the local people without consent. Unless you obtained a letter of consent from the community, it is prohibited to use moving and still images from the village for commercial purposes such as advertisement.

Discouraged Behaviors and Manners

  • Yelling
  • Cutting of plants and grass
  • Chopping trees or wood
  • Religious teaching
  • Public affection such as kissing with exception of holding hands
  • Inappropriate dressing (mini skirts and pants below waist is considered improper in the Maasai community)
  • Loud music (please keep it personal.)
  • Vehicles must remain on designated areas and established roads.

Do Not Collect or Purchase the Following Items

  • Wildlife products
  • Items that are obviously very old and of significant cultural value

Suggested Items To Share

  • Words of encouragement and inspiration
  • Ideas of community development
  • Benefits of formal education
  • Stories and pictures about your family and friends
  • Stories about your daily life, your country and growing up

Community Market

There will be a community market where visitors will be able to buy local arts and crafts. As is tradition in Africa, buyers and sellers must bargain for better prices. Make sure you bargain and do not feel obligated to buy product(s) from articulate local merchants. Based on past experiences, visitors to the community have enjoyed the bargaining culture of the local people at the market as it gave them an opportunity to learn about the concept of a third world market economy. On the other hand some visitors felt uncomfortable bargaining with the local people. It is hoped that you will feel comfortable and negotiate freely at the Merrueshi village market. Different from traditional Maasai bomas, the villagers of Merrueshi community are genial and do not harass visitors at the market.

Politics

As with your community, this community has its own politics. Stay away from local politics, especially in the Maasai world where the western way of thought is very foreign.