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Many travelers dream about one day watching majestic elephants, playful lion cubs and graceful cheetah on the plains of the African savannah. But while the wildlife is what draws travelers from around the world to Africa, it’s often the cultural encounters that become the most prized memories of an African safari.

Seeing and learning about the unique cultures across Africa is an amazing opportunity to expand your world view and come away from your safari with much more than just photographs.

We ensure that our clients steer clear of canned and forced cultural encounters that are easy to come upon in certain areas around Africa, instead experiencing intimate, meaningful moments that benefit everyone involved.

Here are our three favorite cultural experiences in Kenya.

Walking with Turkana in Northern Kenya

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Walking safaris are a great opportunity to touch and feel the African bush. While exploring Africa on foot you have a much better opportunity to view animal tracks, listen to the noises around you and learn to admire the smaller flora and fauna all around.

Our walking safaris in Northern Kenya  are led by some of Kenya’s best professional safari guides and supported by a team of local Turkana as well.

On these walking safaris, you have the opportunity to visit a local school library in the town where your Samburu and Turkana guides live. Here, travelers have the opportunity to host a presentation to local children and members of the community on a topic they know well. Past topics have included health, carpentry, bicycle repair, solar, sewing, conservation or business skills.

These presentations go a long way to help young people in this rural area go on to find employment and experience a better, more fulfilling life.  By sharing your knowledge with the community, you’re giving back and connecting much more deeply than you might expect.

Visiting a School in the Masai Mara

We love supporting private conservancies in East Africa. The Mara North Conservancy is a great example of how these work to preserve important swaths of the Masai Mara eco-system. The Masai landlords are rewarded fairly and equally for protecting their land and the wildlife on it.

In addition to fantastic wildlife, here you’ll also have a unique opportunity to interact with the local Masai who call this land home. At Mara Offbeat, one of our preferred camps, over 90% of the camp staff are local Masai, many of whom helped build the camp in 2005.

Here you can visit the Aitong Primary School, which educates over 950 children between the ages of 6 and 15. Thanks to the camp’s close connection to the local community, our guests are able to visit and simply say hello, or get involved in more meaningful ways, like guest teaching a lesson or donating school materials from home.

Buying Beads from a Women’s Group in Nairobi

One of our favorite, and easiest, ways to interact with locals in Kenya is to visit Kazuri Beads. This bead factory and pottery center produces brightly colored handmade ceramic jewelry. This organization supports literally hundreds of disadvantaged Kenyan women by providing employment and health care for them and their families.

While one could spend hours in the main showroom, we love bringing guests to the workshop for a real, behind the scenes look into the operations.  Here the women will show you how the clay for the beads is gathered, formed, kilned, painted and fired. Admire the finished beads strung throughout the workshop, before they are made into beautiful necklaces and other jewelry.

These are just a few of the meaningful cultural encounters our guests experience while on safari with us in Kenya. We love custom-crafting experiences like this, and look forward to helping you build personal cultural experiences into your African safari! Please contact us today to get started planning.

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photo credits (courtesy of Creative Commons) Kenyan women by European Commission DG ECHO; Kazuri beads by Scott Chacon