Kenya is one of the most scenic and diverse travel destinations. The country is filled with amazing landscapes, spectacular wildlife safaris, and unique indigenous tribes. The Maasai tribe is one of the most well-known tribes in all of Africa due to their vibrant clothing and fascinating traditions. Many travelers flock to Kenya in order to visit the Maasai villages and learn about their culture.
However, there are some facts about indigenous tourism that you should be aware of before you decide to book a tour to visit the Maasai tribe.
A Brief History of Maasai Indigenous Tourism
The Maasai tribe migrated south from the lower Nile valley in the 15th century. They resided peacefully in southern Kenya for many centuries until British colonialists forced them out of their territory so that ranch settlers could move in. The local government also forced the Maasai tribe off their lands to create national parks and wildlife reserves.
The influence of colonialists was felt widely amongst indigenous tribes in Kenya. The Maasai, however, did their best to maintain their culture and traditions. This is one of the reasons the Maasai are well known compared to other tribes- because they maintained their identity.
Nowadays, the Maasai tribe is used as a selling point for many travel agencies. However, other tribes and peoples in Kenya have piggy-backed off the Maasai name to make a living. When venturing into the Maasai Market in Nairobi, you will come across an array of Maasai designs that are not authentic.
The same can be said for various Maasai villages that tour companies go to. Many of these villages are not real and are only set up for the sole purpose of tourism. Also, many of the tribespeople acting in these villages are not authentically Maasai.
Ecotourism Initiatives for the Maasai Tribe
There have been multiple initiatives created by local communities and NGOs that are working towards sustainable tourism for the Maasai community. Here are a couple of examples:
Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust
The Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust is a local organization that has partnered with Campi ya Kanzi, an ecotourism lodge that employs over 95% of its staff from the Maasai community. Here, you will be able to have an authentic experience with the Maasai tribe, while enjoying beautiful views of Mount Kilimanjaro.
Campi ya Kanzi has many sustainability projects that it is always working on. The conservation fee from staying at the lodge goes completely towards the eco initiatives that are being led by the Maasai community. The camp itself has a zero carbon footprint and works hard to protect the animals and surrounding environment.
This is a great option if you want to be able to have an authentic Maasai experience all while contributing to local conservation efforts.
Maasai Environmental Resource Coalition
The Maasai Environmental Resource Coalition (MERC) is a local organization founded in 1987 by the Maasai people. They are consistently working not only on ecotourism and environmental issues but also on protecting Maasai indigenous land rights.
MERC has partnered with Prescott College and with the Mara Guides Association, a local Maasai workers association that promotes Maasai people in the tourism sector. They have created a certification program through Prescott College for those in the Maasai community who would like to become official tour guides. Booking a tour led by an individual with this certification ensures that you will be supporting local Maasai people who wish to give you an authentic experience of their culture and life.
Book an Authentic and Sustainable Tour with the Maasai Tribe
If you want to be sure that you are getting an authentic experience, all while supporting the local ecosystem and environment, we recommend booking a tour with agencies tied to organizations that work towards sustainable ecotourism for the Maasai people. This way you can be sure that you are respecting the local people and doing your part to keep the environment safe.
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