"I went to Africa to see animals but came away with an appreciation and fascination with its history and culture." – Ron Glazier
Many visitors travel to Tanzania and Kenya to enjoy a safari adventure, watch the magnificent wildlife and view the natural wilderness areas while staying in all-inclusive lodges and tented camps. The highlight activity on a safari through the great plains of East Africa can be an authentic Maasai village visit experience to learn about their culture and way of life in between exploring the safari destinations. Beyond the game drives, the Maasai cultural-rich tribal groups are eager to share their traditions with visitors, after all no tribal group amongst the 120 living in Tanzania captures the imagination quite like the Maasai, a respected and brave group of warrior men and builder women whose culture spans centuries and whose land seamlessly crosses the political border between Tanzania and Kenya.
The Maasai tribal people are best known around East Africa as expert cattle herders, and up until less than a decade ago, men coming of age were expected to kill a lion with a spear in order to pass into esteemed “warrior” status in their society. These days, lions only raise concern when they attack Maasai cattle, but nonetheless the allure of their survival skills still remains. Meeting the Maasai people who make Africa loom so large in the collective imagination of travellers completes the purpose of going on a safari in Tanzania and Kenya.
As natives of East Africa, we admire the Maasai, their character and approach to life; from the colourful dress code, their beadmaking, hand craft skills and humble lifestyle, it’s well rounded. Taking a break from game drives that become routine after a few days on safari, you can opt for an optional Maasai village visit around the Ngorongoro Crater area or Serengeti or Masai Mara where they live in round huts locally known as “Manyattas”. Travellers are graciously welcomed by the local Maasai elders who become your guides around the village. Shortly after meet and greet with the Maasai elders you will be met by other village members who will welcome you with a traditional chant show.
Thereafter the Maasai elders lead visitors to their Maasai village where the realty of the incredible contradictions of living a semi-nomadic pastoralist life is in full display. It is clear that the Maasai people do not lead an easy life but their survival skills are amazing to watch and learn when they showcase them. Their homes are built of thatched wood held together by a mixture of mud and cow dung that dries into a kind of concrete after baking in the hot sun. Visitors are invited into the homes for an introduction on how they live in them. Your village guides will share information about traditional household roles and how they are evolving.
Some of the Maasai people also work in the classic safari tented camps and lodges. Travellers’ short stays in some of them allows guests to enjoy nature walks led by the knowledgeable Maasai guides from the camp. Walking with them in the wild and listening to them helps travellers appreciate the wilderness more and understand the challenges of balancing traditional culture and wildlife conservation. Most important, the feeling of discovery on foot and uncertainty reveals to travellers how travel to far-flung destinations is transformative.
The tented camps and boutique lodges in Serengeti and Masai Mara that we feature in our safari itineraries have Maasai people within their team of hosts and naturalists. They are always open to share their cultures and their land, with visitors in Tanzania’s and Kenya’s wildlife-dense areas. The Maasai have a well-received reputation as being one of the bravest and most recognizable tribes in all of Africa. Guests staying in the smaller tented camps and lodges also join to share how special their experience was around the sundowner campfire and at the dining/lounge areas. The incredible food with pan-African and international influences, help create the conversations and camaraderie between guests during their stays on a safari.
Simply said, no visit to East Africa is complete without exploring the diverse cultures and traditions of the people of this region. It has an extensive fossil record of human evolution, and today’s East Africa is a rich tapestry of the constantly changing and mingling culture that have lived here through the ages. Our team of driver guides are able to welcome you to some of the special places in East Africa for cultural heritage experiences. Discovering these interesting cultures helps to give visitors a true understanding of these precious places and the lifestyles they have.