One of Willetts Safaris’ Maasai Guides has his home in the traditional village of Labentera, near Ngoswani about half way between between Narok and the Maasai Mara Reserve, on the edge of the Loita Hills and the Siana Plains. For most people the village is something they might see in the distance as they race through on their way to the Mara from Nairobi but most barely notice they are passing through a vast and unspoilt landscape where the local people happily co-exist with the region’s abundant wildlife. 

We regularly camp in this area when taking people on walking safaris and it always proves very popular despite, or perhaps because of, the lack of any facilities. The village has allowed us to set up an exclusive campsite, called Ilparakuo (nomads) on the hilly slopes close by and there are stunning views over the surrounding plains that are home to a rich and diverse range of wildlife. From the campsite it is normally possible to watch giraffe, wildebeest, zebra and a variety of antelopes grazing past. The surrounding area is also home to a healthy elephant and buffalo population although these animals tend to prefer the thicker bush surrounding the distant river. At night leopard and hyena can often be heard close to the camp and it is not unknown for lion to wander through.

Apart from sitting and admiring the views, there is a good variety of walks available from Ilparakuo Camp. A short walk of a few minutes to the top of the hill behind the camp takes you to the shaded lounge area we have set up to provide a bit of peace and tranquillity well away from it all. For people fancying something a bit more strenuous it is possible to go on walks through the hills and down towards the river where there is more wildlife around. Our Maasai guides will not only keep you safe but will also pass on some of their bush craft skills and explain about how so many of the plants are used for practical purposes or herbal medicine.

Once a week the nearby town of Ngoswani holds one of the most important cattle markets in Maasailand. If your stay coincides with this, it is well worth the walk into town to experience it all. Men drive their herds for days through the bush from as far away as Tanzania to get there and the day is full of noise and colour with the men discussing business and the women visiting the market to buy and sell their wares.

In the evening we can normally arrange to visit the village and be welcomed by the women performing traditional songs and dances which you will be encouraged to join in with. This is followed by a tour of the village and the houses, built entirely from local materials by the women. At this time of day the cattle, sheep and goat herds are brought in to keep them safe from nocturnal predators such as hyena, lion and leopard. Those who fancy it will be able to try their hand at milking a goat, something that few people manage successfully at their first attempt, much to the amusement of the locals.

Sometimes we buy a sheep and as dusk is falling the men will slaughter and barbecue it in honour of their guests and there will be more singing and dancing. It is also the perfect occasion to talk to the women and children of the village and learn more about their ancient way of life.

Whether you are planning on doing some walking or whether you just need somewhere to relax on the way to the Mara, Labentera is an idyllic place in which to do it.