Top 5 Travels of 2010, Visiting the Maasai at Shompole, Kenya
When visiting another country and booking a room, I always seek out local travel writers or outfitters who know every decent hotel in their country and have a basis for comparison. I’m not going to spend thousands of dollars, only to leave the important decision of where to stay to some stranger commenting on TripAdvisor. More than likely, it’s his first time in this country and it’s all bliss. But I know Africa too well and realize there are hotels that cater primarily to large tour companies from Asia and Europe, delivering the Disneyesque version of being on safari. So I asked Jane and Felix Pinto, owners of the Nairobi-based Micato Safaris, known for their boutique, small group outings, to find me the real thing, an authentic travel experience in the bush. They pointed the way to Shompole.
Less than an hour flight from Nairobi, you land in a grassy valley that feels like you’re in the middle of nowhere. Giraffes and warthogs greet you, along with Maasai villagers dressed in their colorful garb. You look around and find no signs of civilization except for rocky outcroppings that look like rooms nestled into the hillside. On closer inspection, these rooms, less than a dozen, are suites with their own private plunge pools. There are no walls. You’re simply immersed in nature, sleeping in king-sized bed under a mosquito net. You awake to the sounds of tropical birds and the sights of baboons walking across the valley floor.
During the day, Maasai villagers take you on nature walks to show you the natural remedies they use to cure their ailments. I’m sure pharmaceutical companies have sent teams to visit the Maasai to hopefully recreate these cures in pill form at a much more exorbitant price. We also were guests in their small homes and took bush drives to spot lions, Cape buffalo, and pink flamingoes that stand in the shallow waters of Lake Natron, the volcanic slopes of Tanzania seen in the distance. Unlike the Masai Mara, there are no other Jeeps taking people on drives, because there are no other travelers within a 50-mile radius! One night at twilight, the local villagers performed a dance with Mount Shompole looming in the background. Unlike hokey Hawaiian luau dancers that I’m used to seeing, this felt genuine. See for yourself.
Watch the video below, or if you do not see it view it on YouTube.