Why Climb Kilimanjaro with Team Maasai?
Team Maasai’s remit is therefore to connect budget-conscious climbers with a diligent team of guides, cooks and porters who are used to making a little go as far as possible, and who enjoy the high-integrity leadership and company ethos that prides itself in getting as many of its clients to Kilimanjaro’s summit as is safely possible.
Team Maasai is a hard-working team of Maasai porters who have been hand-drawn and selected by our traditional leaders and elders from the Ngorongoro Crater area and from Lake Natron, beside Oldoinyo Lengai, in response to an invitation from our sponsor. Our Arusha-based sponsor is a well known climb operator of British nationality who has accepted a commitment to work with the Nanapai foundation to promote the development of our people without compromise to our traditional culture. As such, we maintain our families and bomas in Ngorongoro and Natron, with frequent visits there between our climb schedules, and while in Arusha we undertake not to establish permanent residences, but only to enjoy the on-site hospitality of our sponsors.
The following video is an interview with chairman, Lazaro Saitoti, one of the Maasai leaders with whom we work closely. Lazaro is responsible for recommending candidates for selection. Lemra Kingi (also featured in the video), as well as maintaining responsibility at Lake Natron for coordinating guides to climb Oldoinyo Lengai (an active volcano and sacred mountain of the Maasai people) is one of our cooks:
Growing up in a warrior culture, when it is time to be circumcised and thereafter to be accepted as men and warriors in our villages, the Maasai approach their fathers when they believe that they are ready. If fathers do not believe or agree that their sons are ready they will try to dissuade or discourage them. If the young Maasai is insistent however, the father may devise a test which if performed uncomplainingly and with courage, will prove readiness for circumcision. Such a task may for example, require the candidate to deliver a big, stubborn bull some 25 kilometres, and require considerable patience, suffering and perseverance. Once such a testing task is completed, the Maasai will be accepted as ready to begin his initiation. Accepting the call to leave their families at short notice and to embrace the challenge of working in a high altitude environment is viewed with similar hope, determination and esprit de corps.
Maasai men are not naturally suited to working as porters in cold weather but are generally lightly-built and not required to carry loads in their ordinary village occupations. They therefore understand acutely well the challenges undertaken by western people when preparing for a Kilimanjaro climb, as they themselves have had to train their shoulders to accept uncomfortable burdens without complaint and to endure a degree of cold that they are not used to on the Tanzanian savannah. That said, after the first difficult couple of training climbs, they enjoy their work on Kilimanjaro immensely. Indeed, if they did not enjoy their mountain work they would simply return to their bomas where they have lands, heifers, cows, bulls, sheep and goats and an extensive support structure and civic unity that ensures that no Maasai that remains in his village ever goes without his or her essential needs.
In this last respect then, Team Maasai are truly unique. Our brothers in other tribes, such as Chagga (the predominant tribe in Kilimanjaro), Haya, Wa’Arusha, Meru, and even Iraqw, are virtually all urbanised and are required to do the work of a porter in order to subsist, as their lives in town require an income to rent their houses, buy their foods, and educate and clothe their children. Our situation is very different: we climb because we enjoy it.