Activity: Dancing with the Elders at a Maasai Village in the Rift Valley, Maasai Mara, Kenya


We made time on our stay at the Fairmont Mara Safari Club, to visit a local Maasai Village. This was probably one of the most interesting and special travel experiences that I’ve had the opportunity to do in my worldwide travels. Taking such a tour is a special and unique experience that isn’t readily available to most westerners. As such, if you find yourself in these parts of the world, make sure you take full opportunity to get in such a visit, if at all possible.

This post is one chapter on our trip to South Africa, a Safari in the Maasai Mara in Kenya and Mauritius. This trip was redeemed through Air Canada’s Aeroplan and through Starwood Preferred Guest (Marriott Bonvoy) and Hyatt Gold Passport. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

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Activity: Dancing with the Elders at a Maasai Village in the Rift Valley, Maasai Mara, Kenya

“A visit the a Maasai Village is one of the most unforgettable travel experiences you’ll have in a lifetime. The ability to dance with one of the most unique tribes in the world is a travel encounter that will never be forgotten.”

This post outlines our visit to a Maasai Village and dancing with it’s elders. For information related to our stay, please see the Review: Fairmont Mara Safari Club – Deluxe Tent for further information. For our general experience starting off on Game Drives in the Maasai Mara, please see this earlier review.

About the Maasai:

The Maasai are a Nilotic ethnic group inhabiting northern, central and southern Kenya and northern Tanzania. They are among the best known local populations internationally due to their residence near the many game parks of the African Great Lakes, and their distinctive customs and dress. Except for some elders living in rural areas, most Maasai people speak the official languages of Kenya and Tanzania, Swahili and Englis.

Visiting a Maasai Village:

The village we happened to visit had a relationship with the Fairmont Mara Safari Club. We booked a visit through the hotel, who then provides a donation to the village. I’m sometimes a little on the fence about these sorts of experiences but I am really happy to report that this was as authentic an experience as one could expect. It’s one I would easily repeat if I found myself in Kenya or Tanzania ever again.

After a short drive, we found ourselves at the Maasai Village where our adventure was already underway.

Dancing with the Maasai:

Dancing with the Maasai is a pretty terrific experience. It’s not every day that you get to experience springing up and down with an African Tribe.

First off, here’s a bit of knowledge and history about the Maasai to add a little context. Maasai music traditionally consists of rhythms provided by a chorus of vocalists singing harmonies while a song leader, or olaranyani, sings the melody. The olaranyani is usually the singer who can best sing that song, although several individuals may lead a song. The olaranyani begins by singing a line or title (namba) of a song. The group will respond with one unanimous call in acknowledgment, and the olaranyani will sing a verse over the group’s rhythmic throat singing. Lyrics follow a typical theme and are often repeated verbatim over time.

Both singing and dancing sometimes occur around manyattas, and involve flirting. Young men will form a line and chant rhythmically, “Oooooh-yah”, with a growl and staccato cough along with the thrust and withdrawal of their lower bodies. Girls stand in front of the men and make the same pelvis lunges while singing a high dying fall of “Oiiiyo..yo” in counterpoint to the men. Although bodies come in close proximity, they do not touch.

Eunoto, the coming of age ceremony of the warrior, can involve ten or more days of singing, dancing and ritual. The warriors of the Il-Oodokilani perform a kind of march-past as well as the adumu, or aigus, sometimes referred as “the jumping dance” by non-Maasai. (Both adumu and aigus are Maa verbs meaning “to jump” with adumu meaning “To jump up and down in a dance”) Warriors are well known for, and often photographed during, this competitive jumping. A circle is formed by the warriors, and one or two at a time will enter the center to begin jumping while maintaining a narrow posture, never letting their heels touch the ground. Members of the group may raise the pitch of their voices based on the height of the jump. This is arguably the most well known of the tribal dances around the world and is often photographed.

On our arrival to the Maasai Village, we started with an introduction into the local Maasai dance. The event was already underway or designed to start with our arrival. Our guide took our cameras from us and took dozens of photographs of us enjoying the experience.

Maasai Villagers getting ready for the adumu
Getting Ready for the Adumu
Maasai Traditional Cultural Dress
The Elders Watch

It wasn’t before long that we were in the middle the action, being taught the ways of the Maasai.

MrsWT73 in the thick of the action
Teachings of the Maasai

We also had an opportunity to experience the jumping dance up close, and even try it ourselves. Being surrounded by their families and young ones watching the elders demonstrate their culture was a special experience. It sounds immersive, but it was a terrific amount of fun.

Maasai Jumping Dance
Seven Feet Jumps
I managed a 7 foot jump with our host
Colorful Spectators

A Maasai Fire Starting Demonstration:

After the dancing ceremony, we enjoyed a traditional fire starting demonstration. While this technique isn’t exclusive to the Maasai Mara, it’s still pretty neat to watch if you haven’t seen it before. It involved the spinning of the wood cylinder against the combustable wood cylinder, gradually creating heat and fire.

Fire Starting Demonstration
Fire Starting
A Close Up – Fire Starting
Success: A Fire Started

Being Welcomed Inside a Maasai Home:

After the fire starting portion, we were welcomed inside a traditional Maasai Home. The structures are made with natural elements, including forms of manure to help bond the wall materials together. The homes appeared to be arranged in a circular format, likely to thwart off predators and provide some physical protection.

Maasai Village Structure Configurations

It’s pretty spartan inside as one would expect, but a great way to understand their lifestyle.

Maasai Bedroom
Maasai Elder
Maasai Children

After our tour, we had a few photographs with the elders. It was a great souvenir to reflect on our time and visit.

Summing up our visit to a Maasai Village settlement:

I have to say, if you’re passing through The Maasai Mara or Serengeti, make time and space in your schedule to visit a Maasai Village. While there are lots of things that you can do on a tourist circuit, with some that produce underwhelming results, our experience here was pretty special. The villagers took us in for the time that we were there and served to delight and entertain us, providing an all to short window into their world. It’s been a travel experience that I’ve looked back on with fond memories, which isn’t something that I can say about all of them.

My thoughts on our time on safari in The Maasai Mara:

Overall we quite enjoyed our Maasai Mara Safari experience. There were lots of animals here, you just needed to drive a bit further to find them. I’d recommend bringing along some Advil for your back and neck as the longer drives over rough terrain can be a bit jarring by the end of the day (there are no paved roads here like in parts of Kruger Park). It was also a much more remote experience than my South African Kruger experience with way fewer people, allowing you to enjoy the pristine nature of the park.

Kenya has lots of safari lodges like this all across the country. It is feasible to make a stop in Nairobi, taking Air Kenya or Safarilink to stay at many of the parks operated by Serena Lodges or similar. On a return trip, if we were not opting for a longer stay at the Ngorongoro Crater, we would probably visit another area for the experience.

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