One of the negative aspects of Kenya’s tourism sector is the simplification of African cultures. The much you would encounter in most Maasai Mara lodges and camps is a little Maasai dance – just colour, men jumping, mostly singing about nothing. You might also stop by a manyatta – where poor school drop outs and their families would dance for you, for a pittance.
The big attraction here is wildlife – a resource that has been protected by a culture of tolerance that borders on deep spirituality. But tourism and conservation does not want to share that credit with local cultures.
So, over the years I have experienced African cultures being over simplified for the tourist – a story here, a dance here, a false tale to impress.
Last week, after a day long hike to hike to Kileleoni Hill, the highest point in the Mara ecosystem, I found myself at Naserian Mara Camp – a new luxury facility in the north of the game reserve.
I met the proprietor, Mark ole Karbolo – an interesting fellow, with intense views on things life. Over a bonfire, we chatted over the state of wildlife, tourism and culture.
Mark is still putting final touches on the facility in readiness for flood of tourists in the coming weeks. He is among the very few locals who own such a facility in the Mara.
“I will give you nature, culture and luxury,” Mark told me. It is an assertion from the heart – you can feel it in his breathe and spark in his eyes.
We had a long chat about his dream for an exceptional facility – a place where both wildlife and Maa culture will truly be celebrated in equal footing. A place that not only give five start hotel service but also educate the tourists.
As an experienced traveler and critic of Kenya’s tourism industry, it is impossible to doubt that Naserian Camp has joined the elite luxury facilities in the Mara. The rooms have been meticulously done, spacious and cozy. The wildlife is a stone throw away and lions actually had a huge brawl though out the night.
What will set this camp apart from the others is its possibility to deliver authentic Maasai culture to its clients. That is where everyone has failed or just not interested.
Mark is convinced that he has no business running just another tourist facility if it offers what he believes has been the failure of others.
Only time will tell and I will surely return in the near future to see it for myself.