There is nothing quite like climbing up the beautiful eerily quiet Virunga mountain range. The forest is dense and likely to get your heart racing, this is however reduces due to the fact we were accompanied by armed rangers and guides who helped scale these majestic mountains. Our reason for waking up at 5:30 am and driving to Kinigi to be on time for the 7:00 AM briefing, was to see the endangered Mountain gorillas native to the mountain range. As we were among the youngest and fittest participants for the day we were assigned the farthest gorilla family to visit (the Virunga Massif has 604 of the world's 1000 remaining Mountain Gorillas with 12 families).
The hike up took over 3 hours with breaks to rest and have a snack, the guides were friendly and considerate of all participants varying fitness levels. Once we reached our troop of Gorillas we were stunned to view these majestic animals who did not mind our intrusion into their Kingdom.
Join us as we explore some of Africa's hidden treasures. Experience the cultures and way of life of the Masai People directly from them, who are considered one of Kenya's most significant cultural groups!
We are glad that we finally got to visit Maji Moto Maasai Cultural Camp, despite having had an open invitation for the past 2 years. Salaton the owner of this great hideout—gave us a warm welcome when we arrived there.
My journey started at Ngong SGR train station and was accompanied by my 16year old daughter and Mercy from my office, we boarded the train destined for suswa.
On arrival at the Ngong Train station, we were a little confused and surprised because the station looked deserted and there was no other sign of life except for the security checkpoint. We wondered if we had made a mistake and if indeed this train actually operates. We went through the security check and we enquired from the security agents if the train actually operates. Amused by a question they probably hear every day; they assured us that the train operates and that it is always on time.
Our next stop was an empty ticketing office where we took 30 mins waiting for the ticketing clerk to arrive and serve us. It was 9am for a train that departs at 9.30 am. at precisely 9.20 am we heard the familiar train hoot announcing its arrival. The journey by train to Suswa is breathtaking with hills, mountains and the Maasai herders tending to their cows and goats.
Suswa is located along the Great Rift Valley hence the scenic terrain during this train ride in the middle of nowhere.
At exactly 10.30 , one and half hours after departing Ngong we arrived Suswa with just a 4mins stop over at Mai Mahiu station.
Our driver was already at the station having left Nairobi at 6 am. Within no time we were well on our way to the loita hills in Maasai Mara. We had a short break at Narok Mall for snacks and coffee at Red Chilli Café which has the best coffee and fries in town.
To reach the camp we drove on the freshly tarmacked Narok Sekenani [ how refreshing !!] road but branched to the left after 1 hr drive to a dirt road that leads to the camp [ During the rainy seasons, a 4x4 is a must on this road ]
Located on the slopes of Loita Hills and covering 200 acres, Maji Moto Maasai Cultural camp offers you all the space and wilderness that comes with being in a game reserve. The camp is run by Selaton and Susan both very passionate about the Maasai culture and with this in their vision, they have created a truly unique experience.
We were welcomed at the camp with a Maasai dance which we joined in and tried to jump like the Maasai warriors who were jumping effortlessly. After the welcome dance, we were led to our manyatta [maasai traditional hut ] which was our bedroom for the next 2 nights at the camp. The manyatta is a rounded hut made from sticks, grass and cow dung. Apparently, the building of houses amongst the Maasai is a women’s job. The hut is comfortable with a bed, mosquito net, towels and a small wardrobe for your clothes. The walls and the ceiling are decorated using the Maasai shuka. However, the bathrooms are 60 meters away to give you a truly local experience.
After being taken through a short tour of the camp we were joined by Salaton for a bush lunch within the campgrounds . The food was delicious and great freshly prepared by the camp chef. After lunch and a nice chilled glass of chardonnay, we were ready to hear more about this camp.
Our tour started with the hot springs which are about 300 meters from the camp . The camp derives its name from these hot springs, which translates to “ Maji Moto “ in Kiswahili. Salaton explained to us that all the water used at the camp is pumped from this spring hot and ready for use for showers and cooking. The camp doesn’t have any heating expenses because Mother Nature has taken care of that in the form of the hot springs. When later I took a shower, the temperatures are perfect and one doesn’t need to cool the water for a great shower.
After this visit, we went on a nature walk led by Salaton who explained the local use of almost every plant and tree that we came across. From treating toothache. Insomnia, stomach aches, the Maasai traditionally had treatment for all ailments that affect the community. Salatons mum was a medical woman and he inherited a wealth of information and knowledge from her. As we ascended the small hill near the camp we were pleasantly surprised to find a beautiful sundowner set up with snacks and tea in the middle of the bush. Using stones as our seats we sat there enjoying our tea as we watched the sundowner. The Maji Moto Maasai Cultural sundowner is nothing I have experienced before and seating there listening to the chirping of birds and the ringing of the cow bells announcing their return from grazing was nothing but magical and unforgettable.
After a great bush dinner, we joined a group of overlanders for a campfire. Stories of their journey were exchanged with everyone giving their experience and Salaton entertaining the group with Maasai myths and beliefs. He also treated everyone to the local Maasai brew called Enaisho. This is a local wine made of pure honey, Aloe Vera juice and other local herbs. It is great for digestion and is a must-drink after a meal for the guests at this camp. I think this the Jaggermaster of the Maasai…..
At 11pm after a great laugh we retired to our manyatta for the night. The night was uneventful save for the usual wild night noises from the hyenas and the crickets.
I was shocked to find out that I had actually overslept and only woke up at 7.40 am. Never mind breakfast was supposed to be at 7.30 am. The reason for oversleeping was because the manyatta is dark and doesn’t let in any light and also because the camp is so peaceful and the rain that pounded throughout the night didn’t help either.
After a hearty breakfast and a nice hot spring water shower we departed for the school that is run by local Maasai leaders, and supported by Salaton's camp . “ The purple Cow School “ or in maa language “ Enkiteng Lepa School “ whose motto is “ Don’t exchange Girls for Cows give them Education “
The school is a unique school that serves as a school and a refuge for young girls aged 9-16yrs who have been rescued from early marriages to old men of the community. This is a very prevalent practice amongst the Maasai who marry off their girls at an early age in exchange for cows. They stay in school and don’t go home for holidays for fear of getting married off by their families. Listening to these young beautiful intelligent girls give their experience in form of poems is both heartwarming and heartbreaking. What a noble and sensible project.
Afterward we were able to visit women only manyatta located within the camp. The village is comprised of widows and their children. In the maasai community once a women gets widowed she can never remarry and usually the widows start a manyatta of their own where they live and raise their children together.
These 2 projects are very close to Salaton's heart. He and the Maji Moto Maasai Cultural Camp have been at the forefront of raising funds to support these projects. I am happy to be associated with MMMCC because I know whatever I do here has a direct contribution to the welfare of these projects.
Our next activity was an 8km natures walk through the maji moto property which lead us to one of the activities that take place during the stay at this camp. We arrived at a hidden camping site where we got to experience the maasai slaughtering a goat, drinking its blood and having a beautiful barbeque under the open star studded Africa skies. Here we witnessed all the rituals that come with slaughtering a goat amongst the maasai .We were meant to sleep under the open sky but sensing a downpour that night after a sumptuous dinner and blessings of the Maasai elder who joined us for the barbeque with many glasses of the local brew “ Enaisho” [very surreal moment] we left for the camp and believe me you as soon as we arrived at the camp at 10pm the rain came in torrents and I could only marvel at Salaton’s ability to read the skies. Upon asking him he informed me that human beings ,before they became exposed to technology were able to deal with the weather elements using their senses and for the maasai who don’t rely on technology these senses and abilities are still alive and in use.
The next day after a sumptuous breakfast with Salaton we reluctantly left for our journey back to Nairobi with a drop off at Suswa SGR to connect with our train back to Nairobi. What a refreshing experience!
Ashe oleng, (many thanks in Maasai language)