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Walking With the Maasai: A Slow Safari Experience

OVERVIEW

For travelers who want to slow things down a notch—and who desire a more visceral safari experience—there is no substitute to taking a safari on foot with a Maasai tribesman as your guide. The Maasai are a semi-nomadic people whose ancestral homeland covers the Maasai Mara Reserve, Ngorongoro highlands and northern Serengeti plains, and many Maasai communities still live according to the traditional pastoral practices of their ancestors. You may also come into contact with the Samburu, or ‘Lokop’ as they call themselves, as they are distant relatives of the Maasai, and reside in north central Kenya. The Maasai region also offers some of the best game viewing in all of Africa, and an exceptional number of lions, leopards, cheetahs, spotted hyena and other top game populate the area. Opportunities abound to encounter wildlife and engage with the local ecosystem in the same sensual, respectful manner as the Maasai have been living for centuries. On foot with a tribesman as guide you can see, feel, touch and smell the African bush, while at the same time immersing yourself in the culture of one of the last remaining nomadic groups on the continent.

WHAT WE LOVE

  • Track with a Maasai Guide: Reduce your carbon footprint by taking a walking safari, and learn tracking techniques directly from your Maasai guide. Trips can be arranged to last from a few hours to a few days, but either way you will be in the hands of a authentic expert, one who will bring an insiders knowledge of the best spots to view wildlife, and who can share age-old tips on how to read footprints and animal waste and, if necessary, how to survive a night in the bush. Your Maasai guide has a personal stake in ensuring that you travel with consideration, and leave with a full appreciation of the importance of preserving his tribal homeland.
  • Experience Maasai Culture: Northern Tanzania and southern Kenya contain some of the most authentic Maasai communities in the region, and spending time as their guest is an outstanding way to learn to appreciate first hand the low-impact hunting, gathering, food cultivation, design and building practices that have allowed the Maasai to thrive for centuries in harmony with their environment. For an even more interactive cultural experience, train with a genuine Maasai warrior in ancient stick fighting techniques, or participate in a traditional jumping ceremony.
  • Balloon Safari at Sunrise: The plains of northern Tanzania are breathtaking in early morning, when the sun first illuminates the broad and beautiful grassy landscape. A balloon safari at sunrise is a spectacular way to absorb the sheer depth of the landscape, and watch in silence as the dark coat of night slowly peels away from the vast plains. The experience is absolutely transcendental.
  • Moonlight in the Bush: Hopping on the back of a jeep to follow the Big 5 is not what this experience is about, but small game drives can be arranged at sunset simply for the chance to observe local wildlife winding down for the night. End the drive with an intimate outdoor dining experience, lit by the moon and the expansive starry sky, as your guide serves a bush-cooked dinner made with the freshest of local ingredients. 

REST & REJUVENATE

When you aren't out tracking wildlife or learning about local tribal customs, allow yourself a little time to get pampered. There are a number of top lodges and tented camps in the region that—after a long day in the bush—put luxury accommodations, fine dining, high-end spa treatments and other indulgences directly at your disposal.

  • Chem Chem Lodge: Located on a private concession of nearly 50,000 acres in northern Tanzania, adjacent to the Tarangire National Park, Chem Chem is one of the premiere lodges in all of Tanzania. Nestled inside a secluded oasis of palm, Chem Chem features eight luxurious tented suites, each spaced to maximize privacy, and all offering limitless sunset views. Chem Chem also offers proximity to some amazing wildlife from all corners—including the magnificent flocks of pink flamingos who populate nearby Lake Manyara—and private meals can be arranged in a number spots throughout the camp that will allow guests to observe the area’s permanent natural residents at play.
  • Little Chem Chem: As the “sunrise camp,” Little Chem Chem faces east towards the Tarangire National Park, and is the base from which to jump off into authentic Maasai and bush walking experiences. Little Chem Chem comprises just five luxury vintage safari tents, each with a private veranda and fireplace, and each offering sweeping views of the plains at sunrise.
  • Governor’s Camp: Governor’s Camp is aptly named, as the complex was originally built more than a century ago for use as a retreat by Kenya’s colonial governors. This classic luxury camp exists in a magical spread of forest along the banks of the Mara River, right in the center of Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Reserve. Each of the 37 canvas tents is spacious and bright, allowing plenty of room for natural sunlight to stream inside, and all offer stunning, uninterrupted views of the river or open plains.
  • Little Governor’s Camp: Designed as a more intimate lodging experience, Little Governor’s Camp contains 17 luxury tents that surround a watering hole teeming with wildlife—including a famous family of warthogs that has made its home on the grounds. Elephants have also been known to wander close, and in the center of the camp is a private viewing veranda that allows an exciting vantage point from which to observe the animals and their activities.
  • Il Moran: For an extra dose of luxury, Il Moran—just ten spacious, private tents sheltered under ancient trees that line the Kenyan side of the Mara River—is the premier location for secluded game viewing in the region. Each tent features a king size bed fashioned from fallen olive trees, punctuated by thoughtful touches of authentic Victorian design. Guests also have the romantic options of private gourmet dining in-tent, or picnicking under the Evergreens that line the riverbanks.
  • Campi ya Kanzi: The only lodge located on 280,000 acres of a pristine Maasai reservation in Kenya, Campi ya Kanzi is operated in partnership with a local Maasai community and offers one of the most authentic tribal experiences in the region. Each guest has access to a personal Maasai host, who will help plan and guide safaris and bushwalks to track the amazing array of wildlife—more than 65 big mammals and 400 plus species of birdlife—that inhabit the reservation. Guests have the option of staying in the main villa Kanzi House along with the camp’s head guide and host, or else in a classically outfitted private tent. But all guests will sleep secure in the knowledge that a portion of their stay is being invested back into serving the Maasai people, and into protecting their ancestral homeland. Learn more about the  Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust (MWCT).

WHAT TO KNOW

  • This trip is available year round, though many lodges in Eastern Africa are closed in April and May for the long rains.

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