For most safari-seeking travelers, arriving amidst the chaos of Kenya’s urban metropolises can come as a shock.
Take Nairobi, Kenya’s capital. As East Africa’s most cosmopolitan city it certainly has a lot going for it, but there’s no doubt the sweltering air and congested roads are a world away from the serenity of the African savannah that many imagine the region is all about.
After living in Kenya for several months, it’s fair to say that I found the country’s rural regions to be particularly captivating. Getting out of the sprawling cities lets you really discover the country’s beauty and its diverse cultures.
Here, the culture is rich, the wildlife wild, and the landscapes simply breathtaking. For starters, you can travel to remote villages where locals are so welcoming your heart will be captured before you’ve had time to say “Jambo!”.
What else? Well, I’ll tell you exactly what Kenya’s rural regions have in store…
Kenya’s cultural immersion
Away from the cosmopolitanism of Nairobi, Kenyan tribal cultures become more distinct. Some of the largest tribes – Maasai, Kikuyu, Luo and Kalenjin – have fascinating ancient traditions that have been practiced and preserved for hundreds of years.
Head south from Nairobi and you’ll enter Maasai land and the world-famous Masai Mara National Reserve. Traditionally, Maasai people are semi-nomadic, moving their animals from pasture to pasture and living in the bush in mud and grass houses known as inkajijiks.
As a visitor, there is no better way to learn about ways of life here than to interact with hospitable locals such as these.
I recommend going on a local-led tour of a Maasai boma to better understand how traditional Maasai communities live, sleep, hunt, eat and dress. On my trip to Kenya last year, a Maasai community in Southern Kenya greeted me with a celebratory welcome song and dance, performed by men dressed in red and black checked shukas and women heavily laden with brightly-coloured, beaded jewellery.
Exposure to this kind of culture is unique to the rural regions of East Africa (check out the Samburu, Turkana and Swahili communities too) so it’s well worth travelling into the bush for an educational, unforgettable experience.
It’s worth noting that if you visit with Intrepid, a local elder will deliver a fascinating talk about the Maasai and their history and culture. You’ll also be shown around a traditional Maasai home and can see where the resident cattle are kept.