A Cultural Trip Through the World’s Most Impressive Wildlife Spectacle, The Maasai Mara, Kenya
The Maasai Mara National Reserve and surrounding conservancies are indeed considered the World’s Most Impressive Wildlife Spectacle on earth. On this occassion, the kids & I find ourselves completely engaged in a vibrant cultural experience whilst being immersed amongst this fabulous spectacle in the Maasai Mara.
As a Kenyan national, when a cultural tourist attraction tries to lure me in, I am, honestly, filled with dread! Naff shows for mass toursits, flirty beach acrobats, haggling tribesmen and women laden with substandard beaded products … are not the Kenya that I love, but stiff-upper lip, shoulders back and off we go.
Maji Moto Eco Camp, Loita Hills – Our cultural Maasai experience
Our first port of call was the Maji Moto Eco Camp, at USD120 per adult, per night, including all accommodation, all food plus teas and coffees, fully guided activities (nature walks, cultural Maasai experiences such as warrior training, fire making, beading, walking safaris, school and natural hot spring visits, use of 24-speed mountain bikes), I was intriqued! (Pssst. that is super-cheap for African travel as park fees alone are up to USD80 per person, let alone accommodation!).
Location-wise it’s an ideal one-nighter in between Nairobi and the Maasai Mara for those fascinated by the Maasai culture. The camp is a small, simple, clean, characterful and (almost) environmentally sensitive tented camp operated fully by the Maasai people from the nearby village of Maji Moto. I wouldn’t suggest more than a night; in my mind its more of an experience than accommodation, but definitely worth it if this unique culture interests you!
We arrived to a cultural Maasai welcome of dancing, walking, jumping, singing, hmmmmmM’ing & waaaaYaYaYa’ing closely followed by the friendliest of Maasai men showing us the camp itself, their cute little pup tents and the women showing us the beaded work they make (its OK I can cope, its for a good cause!). Once we were settled the men continued to show and teach us about their culture and traditions, their dancing and hunting skills, the medicinal uses for local plants, their diet; they lead their clients on beautiful walks through the Loita hills and spend hours telling of their wonderful life-stories around the campfire, they take you to see where their natural water springs are and what makes their life better.
I was pretty aprehensive when it came to mealtimes .. but the vegetarian food was indeed edible, in fact it was tasty for me … though I would recommend bringing snacks for fussy eaters and kids (I didn’t feel arguing with them about eating boiled cabbage a worthy cause!!), maybe also bring some biltong for the carnivores out there! Oh and a little bottle of red wine or two for the evening if thats what you fancy (nothing that needs to be cold)?
Indeed it certainly is a cultural experience through and through, not wildlife, but culture… and you know what, my kids loved it, which of course meant I did. A stay here certainly does immerse you in the ancient culture and knowledge of the Maasai people.
Kandili Camp, Leopard Gorge, Maasai Mara
Off we head to our ‘wildlife Masai Mara experience’, in the company of the cultural immersed Maasai people.
Arriving in a pretty frail mood after the directions were hard to follow, or was it my ability to read directions??? Either way we were 2 or was it 3 hours late and it was getting dark! With 2 young kids, deep breaths were truly required.
On arrival, our mood was lightened immediately as we were met by the professional, charming and indeed interesting William, a handsome Maasai gentleman who manages Kandili … whilst we were exchanging nicities, a group of ba’jingled Maasai ladies began singing, standing, crouching, singing, standing, crouching, hmmmmmM’ing & waaaaYaYaYa’ing, in true cultural Maasai tradition. Kenyans really do know how to welcome people, it’s an exceptional trait and in no time the kids were also bejangled and jumping in the thick of it. No sooner had this finished another two wonderful Maasai gentleman had arrived and swooped up Billy and Zia and a football, and firm friends were made. Happiness is … when ‘family-friendly camp’ teams actually are fantastic with kids, it immediately makes me feel at ease and in my experience, the kids are immediately better behaved as they’re not constantly being shouted and sssshhhhhhed at!
To increase this level of welcome even more, the charming William had judged the kids (and my 😳!!) exhaustion levels on arrival and rather than expecting us to join the other guests for a campfire chat and later supper, he had set up a little dining table by our gorgeous, spacious, tasteful family tent, next to our very own bonfire and supper was already on its way. This is what made me LOVE Kandili, right then and there, this was it!! 😊
The camp itself … as they state on their website ‘Kandili has been designed to preserve and not interfere with the wildlife that inhabits the fascinating conservancy area‘, I’d agree with this statement. Kandili is a perfect tented camp; it’s attractive, unobtrusive, adventurous, terribly comfortable and we couldn’t have felt more welcome. May I add that Kandili Camp is 100% green. The camp fully runs on solar power for electricity and for hot water and they try to use 0 plastic … I love this!
After a blissful night sleep with the sounds of Africa sneaking through our dreams, we were whisked off on a mind-clearing early morning drive and a little walk through Leopard gorge, a beautiful place to spend a morning.
You will generally drive here with your own vehicle and guide … and everything else at Kandili for a family with young kids is spot on!
– Maji Moto (MM) – For those looking to experience real Maasai cultural experience, a night here will certainly offer you just that.
– Kandili Camp (KC) – A simple but stylish tented camp with everything you should want and an amazing team to look after you. This is incredible value for money!
– MM – you’re here for culture and real life, and that is indeed what you get.
– KC – The area is absolutely beautiful, prime wildlife area in low season, in high season, I imagine it will get rather popular with other tourists, but this is what happens when somewhere is as awesome as the Maasai Mara!!
For those travelling to Kenya with kids – Do it, stay at both these places!!
– MM will teach them how to live for a night with no luxuries but gaining a lot of knowledge.
– at KC, if you as a family enjoy nature, wildlife and the concept of safari, you’ll have a ball as a family … and its super comfy!
Weather – warm days and a little bit chilly nights.
What to Pack? – A good camera and binoculars (even for the kids, it’ll help them get into it more). Layers … jeans and a warm jumper / jacket for the evening and early mornings and shorts and a t-shirt for the day. High SPF sun cream, hats.
– MM – USD120 per adult, per night (and no conservation fees) – this includes all accommodation, all food plus teas and coffees, fully guided activities (nature walks, cultural experiences such as warrior training, fire making, beading, walking safaris, school and natural hot spring visits, use of 24-speed mountain bikes).
– KC – From only USD125 per person per night, conservation fees are on top of this – this includes accommodation, all food and a lovely walk in low season to USD235 in high season. They also have a stay 4, pay for 3 night special 😲 For this price, you just can’t go wrong!!
My advise: People go on holiday for very many different reasons, if you are looking to experience a safari how it always was, at an unbeatable rate, but with all the luxuries you need (comfy beds, beautiful tented rooms, cold drinks, yummy bush food, great hosting etc.) Kandili Camp will suit you perfectly.
If you would like to experience real cultural Maasai safari, then Maji Moto is for you.
In both instances, it is important to have your own vehicle and an amazing guide. Please contact Chania to help you with this and / or to book your stay at either or both places …. or anywhere else in Africa, for you or your family!!
Want to know the ideal time to plan a Family Safari to the Maasai Mara? Find out here!
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