Discover The Unexpected

What You Need to Know When Visiting the Maasai Tribe in Kenya

You’ve probably come across those amazing photos of the Maasai tribe in Kenya decked out in their brilliant red, purple, and blue patterns of their shukas, standing tall and proud with their spears. Perhaps you’ve also seen the pictures of their fierce women bejeweled with bright beaded earrings and scarves against a backdrop of the arid African savannah. As their name suggests, this fascinating tribe resides in the areas surrounding the Masai Mara National Park in Kenya and parts of northern Tanzania.

ABOUT THE MASAI TRIBE

The Masai tribe is one of the oldest inhabitants of East Africa with a history dating as far back as the 15th century. They live relatively uninfluenced by modern-day civilization and still retain many of their traditions. For instance, the Masai tribe diet typically consists of milk, meat, and blood, since they have pretty much been a pastoralist tribe. A visit to the Masai village to get a glimpse into their unique way of life is one of the highlights of any safari vacation in Kenya, especially if you are exploring the Masai Mara park. It promises to be an educational experience – in one way or another, so if you’ve included this visit in your itinerary, here’s what you need to know:

THE WELCOME SHOW

The majority of Masai tribes still practice their customary way of life as pastoralists with their livestock at the center of their culture and social life. They proudly welcome visitors to their villages, often with song and dance, which you might even be able to join in! You will be greeted with smiling faces and lively music as the Masai men dress the males in your group in traditional sarongs and the women put necklaces and wraps around the ladies.

As part of the show, they’ll usually perform the adumu, a “jumping dance” that sees several dancers jumping several feet high in the air. They’ll then form a circle with the jumper-dancer in the center levitating higher and higher to the rhythms of the singers. The higher the jump, the higher the singers will raise the pitch of their voices. You will usually be invited into the circle to try jumping with them too, which adds to the fun of your visit.

BIZARRE VILLAGE HUTS

The traditional Masai village is called a Manyatta, consists of several small huts (boma) made of mud, ash, and cow dung. These huts are then covered with thatched roofs and constructed in a wide circle so that their livestock can stay in the middle protected from predators like lions and cheetahs. The villagers also erect thick thorny fences around the huts as an added protection.

Interestingly, it is the Masai women who build these sturdy dwellings, whereas the men supply them with the necessary materials. Dimensions of the huts vary, but the average size of each boma is around 3 x 5 meters and only around 1.5 meters tall. It is certainly a very different lifestyle as an entire family will cook, eat, sleep and socialize within this modest structure.

COME WITH SOME CASH IN HAND

One of the first things you’ll notice as you enter the village is the many vivid colors of the Masai garments. Towards the end of your visit, you will be ushered to their local marketplace where you can buy these garments as well as brightly beaded necklaces, bracelets, and amulets worn mostly by the women who use such beaded jewelry to express their identity and social status. This explosion of colors makes for a photogenic scene as these bright shukas and trinkets contrast strongly with the browns and greens of the landscape. You can purchase some to help support the local economy of the village as well as bring home an authentic, handcrafted souvenir from your travels.

Visiting the Masai tribe in Kenya is a unique part of the safari experience, especially when you consider that an entire region was named after them. That’s why even on many Masai Mara safari tours, it is common to come across a Masai warrior tending his livestock on the savannah alongside elephants, giraffes, zebra. These rolling plains are also home to some of Africa’s most dangerous predators. Notwithstanding, the Masai tribe has lived peacefully alongside these wild animals for hundreds of years and even have a strong aversion to eating game.

IT’S EASY TO INCLUDE A MASAI VILLAGE VISIT IN YOUR TRAVEL ITINERARY

Masai land boasts the finest nature and wildlife areas in East Africa, so it does seem somewhat weird to go bouncing around on someone’s ancestral land without at least sparing an hour or two to meet the people and learn about their ancient traditions. Simply talk to your tour provider to include this visit in your safari adventure itinerary for a truly educational experience.

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