As an avid beach lover, bush trips are not my thing but when the opportunity to travel to the stunning Maasai Mara presented itself, bags were semi-enthusiastically packed. We sat through the short flight which ended at Olkiombo Airstrip (aka the Heathrow of the Mara). There, we were met by Agnes Kilena, a Maasai lady guide who not only turned out to be a proficient driver but was also knowledgeable about the game reserve and its wildlife.
The short drive through Talek town led us to our accommodations, Basecamp Maasai Mara, which sits on acres of unspoilt bushland right next to the Maasai Mara Reserve. If you listen keenly at night, in between the soothing sound of the Talek River flowing close by, you can hear the sounds of hippos, hyenas and other wildlife joining in to create a nighttime symphony of sorts that lets you know that you’re miles away from city life.
Stunning as the property was, we were there for a different reason; the launch of the Enjoolata Centre. The occasion began with a three-course lunch curated by Chef Benson Ole Soit that featured welcome drinks, an extensive buffet and delicious bites. After the luncheon, the Maasai women from Basecamp Maasai Brand (BMB), a community-based handicraft business, led the group towards the new Enjoolata Centre where Svein Wilhelmsen, founder of Basecamp Explorer, and Jemimah, the BMB Project Manager, officially opened the centre to the public with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The Enjoolata Centre features several open rooms that serve different purposes. To the left are the exhibition rooms where cultural collections from the Maasai community and different educational pieces are set up to showcase the Maasai Culture and way of life, as well as provide information about the wildlife in Maasai Mara. To the right is a coworking space where researchers can come in and share their knowledge and findings of the Mara. As you walk in, however, the first thing you will see is the spot where the Basecamp Maasai Brand ladies sit and work their magic using beads, leather and metal to produce bracelets, necklaces, belts and a collection of other skilfully produced items that are displayed for purchase.
“Enjoolata is an awareness centre where the community can work,” explained Svein. “It will also open people’s eyes to see that there is more than just wildlife in the Mara. It’s more than an information centre, and hopefully, it will be a centre for awareness that will lead to more sustainable long term partnerships. We started with vocation training through the Koiyaki Guiding School, our wildlife and tourism school, and now the Enjoolata Centre a Mara research hub. All of these are part of one great vision for the Maasai Mara.”
“The centre is set up as an open space so that guests can have a closer interaction with the community,” added Jemimah. “The BMB ladies are talented and creative and together they have found ways to translate drawings into actual designs that have helped them appeal more to the international market. This has, in turn, helped empower them as they build brighter futures for themselves and their children.”
Beyond the speeches, the designers of the centre planted trees while the sky opened up and blessed the area with light showers that marked the end of a beautiful ceremony but the beginning of an unforgettable learning experience for guests who are looking to have a deeper understanding of the unique and fascinating Maasai culture. The vision for Enjoolata Centre and the community of Talek is bright and I cannot wait to see how it grows and contributes to the gem that is the Maasai Mara.