Feature

This week’s travel dream: Learning the ways of the Masai

At a camp in Kenya run by a Masai elder and his Italian girlfriend, you can practice Masai traditions.

Don’t test me, said Deborah Dunn in Condé Nast Traveler. Though I may not look like a Masai warrior, I have trained long enough beside others to now know how to handle a bow and arrow or turn a flat stone into a lethal weapon. True, I remain “hopeless at spear-throwing.” But I spent only four days at Bush Adventures, a small camp in central Kenya run by a Masai elder and his Italian girlfriend. That elder, Silas Koiyaren, is only 33, and it was he who came running toward our 12-seat plane as it touched down on a dirt runway in Lewa on the day I arrived. He was wearing “the Masai uniform”: rubber sandals and a red cloth called a shuka. Fastened to his belt was a 15-inch blade—right next to his cellphone.

On our drive to the camp, Silas and I manage to spot both a rare Grevy’s zebra and an “even rarer” black rhino. But I’ve come for human interaction, and I learn soon enough that the camp’s warrior training could be considered a sideshow too. “There is no schedule,” Silas’s girlfriend, Laura, tells me as we walk around the camp’s tidy riverside compound. I can receive weapons training, learn to forage for medicinal herbs, or, she says, “just sit in the shade and talk.” The stories that the Masai men tell prove to be so good that they “further the fantasy that I magically popped up in a children’s adventure book.”

I sleep in a simple tent, use a pit toilet, and take bucket showers. But at this camp, “the linens, like the meals, are deliciously Italian,” and every morning an attendant brings me an espresso. I learn how to light a fire using elephant dung and how to fashion a toothbrush from a tree branch, then play along as another elder helps me track a cook who’s pretending to be a goat thief. The goat is real, though, and is slaughtered and grilled for dinner while the camp staff, practicing Masai tradition, drink its blood. I enjoy the goat meat, but leave the blood “for the real warriors.”

At Bush Adventures (bush-adventures.com), the four-day Masai training program starts at $1,800.

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