Some years ago James Ole Lesaloi, a young Maasai man from the Sekanani area, got fed up with the lack of development and opportunities for the Maasai living around the reserve and set up Semadep(Sekanani Maasai Development Project), with the aim to change the lives of the local Maasai. Fast forward a few years and the project, with little publicity or outside help, has been remarkably successful and includes a school, clinic, water projects, orphan projects and a media centre on its list of credits. But for tourists, what is perhaps most interesting is the opportunity it offers to stay in a genuine Maasai manyatta and get a real understanding of Maasai life and culture – and the issues they face.
One such place, run by James himself, is Ewangan a traditional Maasai manyatta 2km north of Sekenani Gate, offering a homestay with the Maasai. During your stay, you’ll help with daily chores such as milking the cows and goats, learn skills such as jewellery making and enjoy nature walks with a Maasai guide. At least 25% of your money goes to help support local community projects. Accommodation is very basic, but it’s all very cosy and the food is excellent. It’s a particularly fun experience for children (we’ve stayed there with a four-year-old and an 18-month-old and they much preferred this to the fancy lodges and wildlife drives). For the few people who’ve stayed so far, almost all come away saying it was the highlight of their Kenyan travels.