The very next morning, Rose inquired if we would like to join a group for a hike to the nearby mountains. Laura, feeling excited about a short walk after breakfast, eagerly agreed. Assuming the hike wouldn’t be too long as also children were joining, we didn’t bring any water or sun protection. Well… That decision turned out to be a mistake, as we were 3 hours on the road. Jens ended up getting quite sunburned by the time we returned.
On the hike, we were accompanied by two Maasai guides – Anne and Koila. Anne, being young and well-educated, spoke excellent English, teaching us about local flora and fauna, e.g. aloe, a sage-like tree used as a deodorant, and the toothbrush tree. Maasai people chew its branches until they become fibrous, using them as a natural toothbrush. Koila, on the other hand, is a traditional Maasai warrior. He speaks no English but Susan shared that hiring people like him is essential for them to give chance for a better life to a broader spectrum of village people. Warriors’ job is to ensure that the camp is safe (Salaton’s love for his land and nature means there are no fences on his property, allowing the animals to roam freely, even if it occasionally results in property damage caused by elephants). One does not have to speak English for that. This is only one way how Maji Moto Maasai Cultural Camp is living sustainable tourism.
During the hike, we were joined by a lovely American family and a Dutch woman who were travelling together. The Americans, Rob and Danielle, turned out to be anthropologists who had lived in Kenya for several years, studying the local cultures and nature. As we conversed, we gained valuable insights into Kenya from their experiences.
The most significant take-away from our conversation was that there is no point in seeking a “real” or “authentic” cultural experience. Cultures and people have to adapt and evolve over time to survive. It is entirely natural for Maasai people to own cell phones for practical reasons, like checking the local goat prices at the market, or teenagers to embrace contemporary fashion, like jeans and hoodies, to express their identity. But there are also many people who stay true to Maasai traditions, such as Salaton, who continues to wear the traditional clothing, even when traveling. This is what makes Maji Moto Maasai Cultural Camp truly authentic – real Maasai people, just as they are.