DISPATCHES FROM EXOTIC LANDS
Maasai, Samburu, Singing Wells and more! Kenya’s Top Six Cultural Highlights Revealed
While Kenya’s greatest drawcard is its spectacular wildlife, there’s an equally enthralling list of rare and wonderful experiences to be enjoyed on the human side of the fence.
Thanks to waves of migration over the centuries, Kenya is one of the most diverse African countries culturally and linguistically. In fact, along with the Big Five, Kenya is home to over 70 different tribes; each rich in unique culture.
In these sun-soaked lands, ancient tribes such as the Maasai and Samburu retain their traditional customs, living in relative harmony with the natural world. And it’s due to this closeness with country that visitors to Kenya get to soak up both worlds on specially curated journeys to hidden safari gems.
To whet your appetite we’ve rounded up the top 6 cultural highlights not to be missed on any trip to Kenya:
1. NAIROBI WILDLIFE, CULTURE AND CRAFT
Kenya’s capital and largest city, Nairobi, is legendary for its colourful colonial history as well as for being the birthplace of the Kenyan tourism and conservation movement. It was once the capital of British East Africa, enticing settlers who came here to stake their fortune in the coffee and tea industries. Today, tourists can explore the city’s famous historic sites as well as some excellent wildlife-related attractions.
Along with experiencing the workings of a big, bustling and modern African city, a guided view of Nairobi should take in the Daphne Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage, the Giraffe Centre and the Utamaduni Craft Centre. Another popular attraction is the Karen Blixen Museum, the residence of the renowned Danish author of “Out of Africa”.
2. MAASAI MARA COMMUNITIES
While the primary focus of a visit to the Maasai Mara National Reserve is on game, and lots of it, a subtler highlight is interacting with local custodians, the Maasai tribe. Easily recognisable in their bright red traditional garb, the Maasai community are an intrinsic part of the landscape, seen in and around camp, or herding their cattle nearby. Visits to Maasai villages and markets are always a highlight. On our Kenya’s Classic Safari – Out of Africa journey, our private tour takes in the very special Offbeat Mara Camp for 3 nights of classic African safari lodgings. Located within the Mara North Conservancy, this is Maasai land, so guests are able to gain special insight into how the community and ecosystem co-exist and benefit from tourism in the region.
3. SAMBURU COMMUNITY LIFE
While the Masai might wear the crown as Kenya’s most recognised people, the lesser-known Samburu of North-Central Kenya are just as intriguing. During a stay at luxury tented Sarara Camp, overlooking the Mathews Range, guests get a unique dose of local culture with visits to thriving Samburu villages & markets. At Sarara Camp, travellers also witness how the community run the lodge and welcome guests into their lives, whilst learning about the significant conservation achievements the Samburu have made. Game watching with the highly trained Samburu guides is especially thrilling as each outing offers insight into age-old Samburu customs and natural wisdoms.
4. SARARA SINGING WELLS
A top attraction in Samburu National Reserve is the Sarara Singing Wells, local watering holes where Samburu warriors sing traditional songs while hauling water for their cattle to drink. The sights and sounds alone are mesmerising, but even more special is the fact that this experience cannot be had anywhere else in Kenya. Described as creating a near-biblical scene of light, people, livestock, dust, and water, this is one of the most genuine and ancient of Samburu traditions. It’s satisfying to know that there no cameras are allowed – it’s just one of those sorts of experiences, pure magic.
5. OL MALO HOUSE
Located in the heartland of the Samburu tribe, Ol Malo House is the birthplace of the Samburu Trust and continues to support the Trust’s projects. Specially selected as the third lodge on our Kenya’s Classic Safari – Out of Africa journey, Ol Malo blends pure Safari luxury with authentic cultural experiences. During a stay here it’s well worth spending the time to meet the Samburu people in their traditional compounds, or manyatta, to partake in a Samburu beading workshop with ladies from the Samburu Trust, and to hopefully get involved in some of their working projects. School visits are also on the cards, and for a truly fun – and boisterous activity, join the kids on their walk to school!
6. SAMBURU SAFARI GUIDES
Guests at Ol Malo House get to experience the surrounded wildlife from the viewpoint of local Samburu guides, all raised in the bush and more than equipped to share their knowledge and uncover hidden sights. For visitors to Kenya wanting some exercise, why not go for a run with a Samburu warrior.
Words never do Kenya justice, so why not experience a legendary African safari first hand?