US and UK government warnings on essential travel only to Kenya and recent terrorist attacks haven’t done much for the country’s tourism industry. Yet there are still many beautiful areas that are perfectly safe for foreign travellers. One of those is the remote land where the majestic Maasai people walk freely among natural hot springs, ancient caves, leopards roaming about at night. Here, one of my favourite travel bloggers, Jessica le Roux, lets you into the secret of Walking with Maasai, and Olkoroi, a small, bespoke eco lodge nestling in the tribe’s heartland. It’s well worth making the trek to visit. MS
By Jessica le Roux*
There are many interesting people in our world, but only a few very interesting people. One of them is Andre Brink, and you can find him living deep in Kenya amongst the people of the Maasai tribe.
Andre’s home is a small, lovingly outfitted tent overlooking kilometres of wild, utterly free Kenyan land. (I’m sure it has a real estate value that would make you sick).
He is one of those quietly magic people practising his own brand of equally quiet, but enchanting magic. Now well into his 30s, he has been living in the community since he was a fresh-faced, 19 year old South African kid (that’s a whole story in itself), and has become so integrated that neither the community nor he himself regards his presence as particularly noteworthy. He just lives there.
Walking with Maasai is a non-profit, community organisation that Andre started, which combines environmental conservation with community upliftment. What he has built is inspiring and humbling in equal measure.
But now we get to the really good bit: As part of his project, he has started Olkoroi, a small, bespoke eco lodge deeply imbedded in the heart of Maasai land.
Here comes the magic: perched on top of a green valley, it is unspoilt, completely off the beaten track and somehow integrates a fully facilitated tented camp into the Kenyan wild. It is the epitome of an organic experience.
I’m talking natural hot springs, ancient caves, leopards roaming about at night … not to mention the hippo “pond” nearby or a chance to meet the wizened Maasai elders who like to pop in from time to time. I’m also talking a pizza oven made out of an anthill, an organic herb garden and indigenous tree sanctuary.
The stories that Andre tells around the campfire are the kind of stories that should come out of Harrison Ford’s mouth on a movie set. It is ridiculously pure, unadulterated African magic.
In terms of creature comforts, the camp provides private safari tents, each individually outfitted and nestled into it’s own scenic corner of the camp. Watch out for the real elephant jawbone as you rest your delicate derrière on one of the “ensuite” eco-toilets – each tent is accompanied by luxuriously hot open air showers of course.
Food lovers will be happy to hear that they will be more than catered for – delicious, thoughtfully prepared meals, seasoned with herbs from the garden are cooked over an open fire. Think warm chapatti, freshly baked bread, and traditionally cooked dishes. I would also highly recommend requesting their wickedly good fire-cooked lasagne. (That is worth the trip all on its own). Oh, and mornings are started with fresh Kenyan harvested filter coffee. All is as it should be.
What adds to all this experiential appeal are the principles that the camp is built on. Not only are the laws of nature sensitively adhered to with solar electricity, and careful conservation of resources, but the whole staff is made up of Maasai people themselves. Their community receives all the proceeds made by the lodge, and once you have visited with the kindly local people, and seen the simple means they live by, that gives you a good feeling. These people are genuine, friendly and caring – and definitely not afraid of a laugh.
They are also profoundly knowledgeable about their environment.
Amos, an ex-Maasai warrior (yes, those are still around) took us on Livingstone-worthy game walk through a belt of indigenous forest. Dressed in his traditional red garments and beaded jewellery, he identified all kinds of medicinal plants, and guided us through close encounters with raucous Colobus monkeys, wild zebra, and two grumpy hippos. Probably one of my more bizarre life moments was holding a traditionally dressed warrior’s spear for him so that he could capture a National Geographic moment on his pink Nikon camera.
You get the picture; it is unique, authentic and unarguably good for the soul. A real find for real travellers.
- If you are interested in exploring Kenya and experiencing Maasai magic yourself, check out the Walking with the Maasai website or contact Andre directly [email protected]
- Olkoroi camp arranges transfers from Nairobi International Airport (it’s 4×4 access only) and provides for groups of up to eight people. Self-catering groups can pitch their tents at the ‘campsite’ not far from the main camp, and will be given access to ablution facilities.
*This blog is republished with permission from Jessica Le Roux’s New Edition Health website, which she describes as “an encyclopaedia of the human body, mind and spirit”.