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Maji Moto Maasai - Kenya Travel Tips

Passport & Visa

  • Must have a signed passport valid for at least 6 months beyond the completion of the trip, with enough empty pages for new entry stamps to be added.

  • Tourist visas must be purchased online in advance of arrival to Nairobi through the government website: www.ecitizen.go.ke  Beware of fake sites that are offering visa services, as only this government website is authorized to issue visas. You will simply print the approval page to carry with you.

 

Staying Healthy

  • Check with your physician or the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) regarding any immunizations you need before traveling. (CDC: http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/kenya.aspx) Typical vaccinations include tetanus, typhoid, polio (childhood dose may have worn off), meningitis. Also, malaria drugs to take while you’re there, and it’s good to request a prescription for Cipro (general antibiotic) in case you catch a bad stomach bug (nice to have the added safety measure).

  • You should be adequately insured for any trip to cover health needs as well as considering coverage for cancellation, curtailment and loss of property. You can get ideas for where to look for insurance here:   https://www.forbes.com/advisor/travel-insurance/best-travel-insurance/

  • Bring basic first aid items for yourself for minor aggravations like headache, upset stomach, band aids, antiseptics etc.

  • Food and water will be safely handled at the camp. Beyond that, be cautious about food and drink on the street, water for tooth brushing etc. Purified water to refill your water bottle is readily available at the camp at no cost. If you prefer bottled water it can be purchased onsite.

 

What to Pack

  • Passport, visa, travel documents (itinerary, any vouchers provided for air, hotel, etc.), medical insurance, contacts for transportation and emergency contact back home

  • Travel locks for your luggage (TSA approved so they can inspect if needed)

  • Temps range from 70-80°F by day, to 40-50°F by night, so clothing layers are great—it can be tank top warm in the sunny afternoon, cotton shirt cool in morning and evening, and sweatshirt needed by campfire time, so it’s good to include:

    • Short and long sleeve shirts and one warm layer

    • Long trousers for bug/sun/brush hiking comfort, as well as shorts (culturally, longer length or capri are best)

    • Plenty of underwear to avoid needing to do laundry too often

    • Swimsuit/cover up that you may wish to use in the hot spring

    • A lightweight wind/rain jacket and maybe neck scarf/shawl—even if it’s not rainy season, it could rain unexpectedly

    • Comfortable walking/hiking shoes—closed-toe and “Teva” styles, or tennis shoes; also “flip flops” for showers and camp

    • Sun and bug protection—sun screen, lip balm, hat, sunglasses (polarized is best), deet bug lotion (see REI for suggestions)

    • Prescriptions and basic medical supplies, including malaria tablets, Antibiotic like Cipro (if you have it), and basic first aid items for yourself for minor aggravations like headache, upset stomach, Band-Aids, antiseptics, tissues, wet wipes, sanitizer gel etc.

    • Biodegradable or at least “natural” toiletries whenever possible.

    • If you wear contact lenses, bring along a pair of glasses in case your eyes get irritated by the dust.

    • Flashlight or headlamp for maneuvering at night if needed—sunrise is around 6:00 am, sunset is around 6:30 pm all year round

    • Binoculars, cameras with plenty of film/storage space and spare batteries (300mm lens is good). Electricity is available in our public areas for battery charging. Consider Ziploc bags or other protection from the dust if bringing sensitive equipment.

    • Tour and wildlife books to carry on safari.

Baggage

  • Check with your airline regarding limits on number and weight for baggage. You are usually allowed 2 bags at 22 kilos (50 pounds) each, though some carriers have reduced that to one or none free. If traveling on a regional flight within Kenya, you are usually allowed one bag (preferably soft-sided) at 20 kilos (44 pounds).

  • If you are not planning to check the number of bags you are allowed, please consider checking a duffle bag of school supplies or other donations as one or more of your allowed bags. This is completely optional of course, but let us know if you’d like to help out in this way.

Airport Arrival Information

  • On arrival, proceed to the immigration desk for visa processing, and on to baggage claim. Once you gather your baggage, there’s only one exit to where we you will be greeted by our driver if you have arranged transportation with us, otherwise you’ll work with the agent booking your safari or hire a taxi onsite.

 

Time Zones

  • Kenya is in the East Africa Time Zone which is (GMT+3).
    For example, depending on daylight saving time in the US, this would be 10 or 11 hours ahead of Pacific Time. A good tool to calculate time zone is World Time Buddy: https://www.worldtimebuddy.com/

Money Matters

  • The currency used is the Kenya Shilling, which is preferred over USD for purchases, tips, etc. The exchange rate varies, around 100 Ksh per dollar. Go online for current rates and a printable wallet card to bring along. Or download the Oanda currency conversion app for your phone if you’ll have it with you.

  • There are easily accessible places to exchange US dollars or access an ATM at points along your trip. C

  • Credit cards are only taken at large hotels/shops (usually Visa and Mastercard only), smaller businesses and street vendors will only take Kenya Shillings or US Dollars.

  • it’s best to bring about half of your spending money in USD $100 bills, and half to get from an ATM, to have various options for exchanging money, which varies by location. The $100 bills you carry must be in very good, clean condition and dated year 2006 or later (older notes or notes in lower denominations may not be accepted by some banks or will be exchanged at a lower rate).

  • For payments on incidentals at the Camp, we accept cash in USD and Kenya Shillings, and the local “MPesa” phone transfer service. For lodging, safari, and other higher cost payments, we can also send a link to our online credit card payment page. We can also accept bank transfers to US or Kenya bank accounts

 

Language

  • The main languages in Kenya are Swahili and English, and at the camp the Maasai people speak Maa. Everyone who has been to school speaks English—which is mostly everyone working in the shops, lodging, drivers, etc. and we will have Salaton and other staff in Maji Moto to bridge any Maa language barriers.

 

Communications

  • If you have international capabilities on your phone, you will be able to use it wherever we go, as cell signals are good. Wifi is not usually available outside of Nairobi, and not available at the camp.

  • Our team can be reached by calling the following numbers:

    • Kenya booking office: .+254 748 835 320

    • Camp Manager: +254 728 978 509

    • Camp Owner, Salaton Ole Ntutu: + 254 721 778 424

(Note dialing from outside Kenya uses “+254 7……,  dialing from inside Kenya uses 07……)

Electrical Service

  • There is electrical power in the public areas at the Camp for charging phones, cameras etc, but only solar lighting (no charging) in the cottage or tent areas.

  • You will need a “UK” or East Africa adapter to use chargers from other countries.

Photography

  • In Maji Moto village and our private 200 acres, you are there as family friends, so there are no restrictions to the photos you can take beyond common courtesy. In other community areas, people can be sensitive to having photos taken without permission, so always ask first.

Culture Notes

  • Modest clothing is best for women - wide strap tank tops are ok, shorts or skirts to the knees or even Capri length are good.

  • Maasai culture is steeped in respect, particularly for elders. The children are extremely engaging and respectful - you will greet them by touching the tops of their heads and saying 'Sopa' - a sign of respect from them to you.

 

Food and Drink

  • Maji Moto meals emphasize Kenyan food, such as sautéed greens, cabbage, goat meat (which can also be left on the side if veg only). Chapati (like a tortilla), fried dough, rice and potatoes. There will also be “Western” items like eggs, pasta etc.

  • Special request for food requirements can be met with advance notice.

Tipping

  • Decisions about tipping are entirely up to you. Some thoughts on what I’ve seen from other travelers that might help as guidelines include:

    • Camp staff is often tipped $3-5 USD per day per traveler, which we ask be put into a tip box onsite to be shared amongst the staff rather than tipping individuals.

    • Safari drivers and guides are usually tipped an additional $3-5 USD per day per traveler, depending on the amount of touring and of course your satisfaction with the experience.

Shopping

  • The best place to buy Maasai beads of course is at Maji Moto, where you will meet the women making the jewelry, belts etc. for men and women. You may also visit a local markets, geared for locals rather than tourists, where you can buy the goods you’ll see being used by the community.

  • In Narok town, you can buy colorful cloths, drinks and snacks, cybercafé time; In Nairobi, there are gift shops at the animal sanctuaries we will visit, and the shopping you’d expect in any big city with gift shops for artwork, carvings etc.

  • Credit cards are rarely taken, except for some shops in Nairobi, so you’ll want to have local currency on hand for shopping.

  • Should you bargain? At one end of the scale someone will pay an exorbitant asking price without thinking, at the other, someone won't be happy unless he can get an antique hand carved six foot ebony giraffe for a dollar—then want to tell everyone about it! When deciding whether to bargain you can think, "Would I be happy paying $10 for those earrings back at home?" If the answer's yes - go ahead - or bargain until you think the price is reasonable for the work and effort involved in making them and the price respectful to the seller. When there’s respectful thinking, both parties are usually happy.

Airport Kenya Departure Information

  • There are no exit taxes or forms to complete on exit, simply check in at the airline desk 2-3 hours prior to your flight departure and proceed through passport control.

Clearing US Customs Upon Return Home

  • Forms will be provided for reentry to the US. Keep receipts for big ticket items purchased that you may need to declare in customs, otherwise small items do not need to be documented.

 

Books and Films about Kenya

Suggestions on reading and tour books, including maps, are available at www.longitudebooks.com. Additional recommendations to purchase or check out from your local library:

  • Masai: The Rain Warriors is the debut fictional film of Pascal Plisson, a devoted nature documentarian. It is the first film to be solely populated by real-life Masai and spoken entirely in their native tongue. It depicts a community's quest to bring rain to their land and ensure their survival. A band of very young Masai warriors sets out to kill a mystical lion to end a drought that is plaguing their village. Barely teenagers, the warriors are untested and unskilled, and they are unsure whether the lion actually exists. And, if it does exist, will bringing back its mane cure the drought. The Masai actors in this film are from the areas we visit, and are known to Salaton and our guides.

  • Out of Africa (book and movie) is set in the region we will be visiting and offers a glimpse of the colonial culture that so greatly influenced the years before Kenyan independence. The book is richer in its descriptions, but the movie has some beautiful scenery shots worth checking out.

  • Facing the Lion, Growing up Maasai on the African Savanna (National Geographic) is a quick read, written for young adults by Joseph Lemasolai Lekuton to tell his story about growing up Maasai. He provides aninteresting insight to Maasai life and culture, and his path to becoming a well-educated leader who strives to preserve his culture and support education. He is from northern Kenya, not the area we will visit, but Salaton knows and respects him.

  • Maasai Days, Cheryl Bentsen is an easy, enjoyable read that shares the experience of a journalist who lived in the Nairobi and Maasai Mara areas and engaged with the Maasai to understand their life and help them with education and livelihood challenges. It covers a lot of the customs, ceremonies and daily life of the Maasai, as she discovers them. It was written in 1989, but I found it was still largely pertinent for today’s Maasai community.

  • The Tree Where Man Was Born, Peter Matthiessen is a blend of nature and travel writing, published in 1972, sharing the author’s observations across several trips over the course of a dozen years. It details the history, beauty, and challenges of Africa.

  • Once Intrepid Warriors; Gender, Ethnicity and the Cultural Politics of Maasai Development, Dorothy L. Hodgson, is a much more academic exploration of the Maasai culture and story, published in 2001.

Guide Books

To check out in advance, and bring along on the trip:

  • Lonely Planet Kiswahili Phrase Book is a handy pocket size book with some culture notes and some phrases you can lay on the locals

  • Wildlife of East Africa, Martin B. Withers, David Hosking is a wildlife guide I like, but there are lots out there