One of the most insightful experiences of my travels so far has been my short visit to The Africa Amini Maasai Lodge.

In between safari’s we had one night to spare in Arusha, Tanzania. In my research, I came across The Africa Amini Lodge, soon to realize it was no ordinary hotel…

The price per night listed included room and board, as well as activities with the Maasai tribal people.  After doing some research, I realized staying here would be a truly unique cultural experience, not to mention a once in a lifetime opportunity. What intrigued me the most was the lodge is solely run by the Maasai people and all profits go back into helping the tribe’s community.

Built on a small hill overlooking the savannah between Mount Meru and Mount Kilimanjaro, the lodge is 2 hours northeast of Arusha, in what seems like the middle of nowhere. Over half of the drive is spent off-roading, on a pretty bumpy dirt road, which makes the anticipation to get there that much more exciting! Transportation to/from Arusha or any of the airports can be set up for about $100 each way (per group).

When we pulled up to the entrance, all of the Maasai men came out to the car to welcome us with song and dance. And there it begins! From the moment you get there, it’s like walking into a different world. The Maasai language is Swahili, and even if you don’t know a word of it, if you saw Lion King growing up you will immediately recognize a few… like Hakuna Matata 🙂

Right away they pour a cup of what they called “goats blood” for us to drink before “entering the Maasai community,” explaining the significance it has in their culture. Without a second thought and not to offend, I chugged it,  luckily it tasted hibiscus juice or something fruity and not goats blood! Ha!

It doesn’t take long to slow down, and realize you’re here to live in the moment and soak it all in! You’re so far from city life and the distractions of the outside world, although there is wifi in the main lodge (if needed).

It’s easy to get lost in admiration; from the decor inside our hut to the magical infinity-edge pool where you can relax and take in the gorgeous untouched landscape. Every detail has an intention and pays tribute to the Maasai culture.

It’s hard to believe that WAY out here there’s this vast, stunning pool; it is one of the most picture-perfect pool settings I have ever witnessed and a blogger’s dream. Next to the pool is a sauna room and they even offer massages onsite.

Scattered about all over the surrounding hills are benches and chairs, thoughtfully positioned in the best vantage points to take in the seemingly endless view, perfect for sunrise and sunset too!

They’ve found some of the most ingenious uses for things, like a branch from a tree repurposed as a toilet paper holder. The table inside the hut made of a tree trunk. Then there’s the outdoor “bush toilet,” which I was so hesitant to use, thinking I’d be squatting in the middle of nature. So imagine my excitement when I found out it was a real working toilet with even a running sink! All privately hidden in an open roof fort made from the bush with a curtain door! Funnily enough, the bush toilet turned out to be the perfect place see the stars!

The creativity is evident in every square inch of the grounds. It’s all just so cute!

After settling in, we headed out for our spear throwing lesson at 5. The Maasai warriors start by giving the history of its importance, and then you get a throwing lesson. Looking at the lead Maasai teaching us, I couldn’t help but think how badass he seemed; like this guy has some stories to tell.

After spear throwing, it was time for sunset dancing, singing, and “jumping” a tradition among Maasai men. We loved that they offered wine and snacks while you watched the performance.

After the sunset dancing, all the guests gather around the fire pit for “Maasai tv” aka MTV as they call it, sharing stories with the other travelers and the Maasai warriors. I kept thinking to myself, “When else on earth would I ever get to experience this?!” It’s a little intimidating to try to come up with stories that compare to hunting down a lion…

After the storytelling, dinner was ready;  a three-course meal delivered with the most exceptional service. The Maasai chef even came out and talked to each table. All the food is locally sourced and supposed to be similar to what they would traditionally eat. Since blood of cattle is apart of Maasai culture, they joked that our entree had the blood of a lions heart on it. It was endearing to see them be lighthearted and joke around about the parts of their culture that outsiders may be thrown off by. Dinner was delicious; there’s even a bar with wine and beer to wash it all down!

If you have to use the restroom at any point after dark, the Maasai men wait outside the main lodge to walk you to the bush toilet and then also to escort you back to your hut after dinner. They do a sort of tuck-in service, where after showing you to your room they check under the bed for spiders, which was really sweet!

We arranged for a walk with the medicine man at 6:30 am, so they offered a wake-up call. Not knowing what to expect, at 6 am on the dot we got a knock on our hut door with coffee and cookies in hand! Just another incredible touch!

Walking with the medicine man gave us plenty of time to learn even more about the Maasai people and also hear first hand about the opportunities that lodge has given them and how the Africa Amini project has helped their community. It was moving to hear about how appreciative they are of it all. And how much it has impacted them positively, giving them opportunities they’ve never had before.

On the walk, we got to see the trees and plants that the Maasai use parts of for medicine. We learned about the roles that males and females have in their culture, we learned the enormous value of cattle in their culture,  from trading for food or even to get a wife. We saw zebras roaming about nearby and also spotted giraffes off in the distance.

Sure, are there plenty of different ways to encounter and visit with a Maasai tribe in this region? Absolutely! Are others closer to their everyday lifestyle? Sure. But here you get an experience that doesn’t feel forced, and you still get the amenities you would in the western world. (I will take both please!)

As we departed back to Arusha, the men say goodbye and sing “Hakuna Matata” alongside the car even as you pull away. That brought on all the feels! I felt like I was being ripped away from this newly discovered universe and leaving behind my new friends.

My time here was an otherworldly experience. For a brief time, you can disconnect from your everyday life (which seems so far away and trivial at this point) and immerse yourself into something that once seemed so foreign. The whole experience gives you so many opportunities to get to know these beautiful people and learn bits and pieces about their culture. When else would you ever get this opportunity in such an organic atmosphere? The absolute icing on the cake, you still get all the first-class amenities similar to staying at a luxury hotel.

I came away with not only an extraordinary peek into Maasai life as well as an opportunity to learn about how The African Amini project is helping in this particular area.

I highly recommend planning a visit to this lodge on your next trip to this region of Africa. The lodge cultivates a look into a culture that outwardly seems so far from our own, yet makes you realize that when it comes down to it, we are all still remarkably similar. So if your up for an adventure and a life-changing experience, here it is!

Learn more about The Africa Amini Project and the lodge here.

Jenny Habdas
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