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Travel Notes – January, 2012

SusanKaribu (welcome) to thoughts and images from cultural expeditions with Susan Deslaurier Travel.

What’s it like to be on safari in Africa? Well, of course it’s wildlife—a recent traveler recently said “it’s like Animal Planet to the fifth power”. We’d been watching storks and vultures vie for position and power over a wildebeest carcass presenting them with a feast, beating huge wings at each other to get to the choice morsels. Another felt “so lucky to see a migration crossing where they all make it safely to shore!” after watching a ribbon of wildebeest and zebra that extended from horizon to horizon. In the river in middle of the line, the animals were crashing across with what seemed like impossible hope that their skinny legs and panicked swimming would carry them ashore. But it’s not just wildlife. One woman said “I never imagined myself dancing with a group of Maasai women!”, reveling in the warmth of a joyous welcome into Salaton’s home village. The dance continued later, haggling with sellers at the market used by local Maasai (not a tourist market), to buy a traditional woven string bag that the mamas use to carry their goods home from market.

Our Maasai guides provide the language and culture translations and introductions to their friends. The common thread in experiencing Africa with us is getting a real sense of the people and place, not just a pass-through to check off the tourist destinations. Nobody can really tell you what it’s like to be on safari in Africa, because Africa will deliver the best it has to offer the moment you are there to receive it. Your safari will certainly include wildlife, culture, and adventure…but you’ll have to come see for yourself what unique gifts it holds just for you.

From Boys to Warriors

Enkipaata, Maasai boy's ceremonyWe never know what might happen during our tours, because we are among people living traditionally and authentically. This year, we were fortunate to see the start of a boy’s initiation ceremony called Enkipaata (pre-circumcision ceremony), which marks the beginning of a new age set. Fathers and elders applied red ocher to their sons and young men of the community. They were preparing them, blessing them, honoring and celebrating them with prayer and song as they made this first step toward warriorhood. Delegations of boys from every village, aged around 14 to 16 years, traveled across the land accompanied by elders, announcing the formation of their new age set. A special site was chosen for these hundreds of boys to unite and be initiated, and to have the chief chosen for their age set. This tradition is as old as the Maasai culture, rarely seen by outsiders, but as guests in Salaton’s village of Maji Moto we were invited to join in this send-off. For more on Maasai ceremony.

Leaving a Bit of Good Behind

Nurses in the clinic, exam roomAs amazing as the safari experience is for our travelers, it can be even better for the people who benefit from the 5% donation made from every tour. This year, we helped send kids to school through Asante Africa Foundation and kept families healthy at the Maji Moto village clinic. Books, uniforms, baby scales and antibiotics are quiet reminders of the time our travelers spent amongst the people of Kenya this year. Done without fanfare or seeking credit, our travelers are simply doing good while living well.

Salaton Visit in Feb 2012

Community BenefitSalaton Ole Ntutu is coming to the San Francisco Bay Area in February to forge a link between his tribal community in Kenya and ours in the US by sharing his wisdom and life stories. He is a Maasai chief, shaman, community change leader, and my Kenyan business partner. His mission is to generate awareness and support for health, education and conservation projects that preserve culture and nature while developing a self-sustaining community in changing times. This mission is at the heart of our shared purpose in leading cultural expeditions into his community.

Salaton Ole NtutuFrom his experiences as a 14 year old warrior, surviving among wild animals in the harsh and challenging African bush for seven years, with little more than a blanket and a spear, to his role today as a leader on social, economic and environmental issues for his tribe, Salaton has many stories, lessons and experiences to share. Salaton will present entertaining, inspiring and thought provoking sessions at house parties, business leadership groups, schools, and museums. Come and hear his stories of traditional Maasai life as a child cow herder and then warrior, encountering with wild animals, and his work today as a visionary leader,bridging world cultures to navigate a future for his people and the natural environment they live in.

Community BenefitFor more information on Salaton, his community and conservation efforts and tourism work, visit his community website, and my website.

Public events are listed online. To schedule an event or personal healing and blessing session, contact Susan Deslaurier, at or 925-518-3686.

Travel with a purpose… understand other cultures, experience the world’s natural beauty, and support local communities.

New Places to Go with Us in 2012

Tanzania Northern Region 10 Day Safari
Arusha, Tarangire, MtoWaMbu, Lake Manyara, Serengeti, Olduvai Gorge, Ngorongoro Crater, and Longido

Tanzania Northern Region 10 Day SafariJoin us for an up close and personal visit to Tanzania, with amazing wildlife experiences through walking and driving safari, along with visits to native cultures of the Chaga, Maasai and other tribes. Our guide is Dennis Lyamuya, my personal friend from the first days of Asante Africa Foundation, where he is still active as a Tanzania board member. Born on the slopes of the highest volcanic mountain in Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro, Dennis has ascended Mt. Kilimanjaro more than 200 times and developed tours to connect with local cultures. He is a graduate of the College of African Wildlife Management, where he was President of the Student Council, representing 29 nationalities within the student population. While there, he deepened his knowledge of environment and natural resources protection, wildlife management, and the impact of humans on the environment, which he shares with us on this journey through his land. Contact us for date availability.

India Northern Region Culture, Spirit and Nature

India Northern Region Tour - See photosExperience the cultural richness of Northern India, including yoga, meditation, ashrams, pranic class and ayurvedic consultation. Explore the national parks for wildlife viewing, visit a traditional Gujjar tribal community, and walk amid the natural environment. Experience history, nature, healing, and ancient tradition as we travel from Delhi to Rishikesh, following the Holy Ganga River and on to the home of His Holiness Dalai Lama in Dharamshala. Contact us for date availability.  See photos.

Featured Tour

Volunteering and Learning Journey
2012 Modern and Indigenous Medicine Tour

April 2–May 2, 2012

Modern and Indigenous Medicine TourFrom a westernized surgical suite near Nairobi serving surrounding villages, to shamanic and herbal healing in a Maasai camp, to a tourist gate clinic providing acupuncture to locals, we’ll be covering a lot of ground as we experience the modern and indigenous medicine of Kenya. We will be on a journey to discover how health care is delivered and received in Kenya where there are more than 10,000 people per physician. Along the way we will volunteer alongside medical practitioners for first hand and hands on experiences. There’s still time to join us on this exceptional opportunity for medical students and practitioners. Get more information and contact me if you’d like to come along.

Experience World Wonder on a 10 Day Great Migration Safari in Kenya

The Great Migration Safari, KenyaJuly 24–August 2,
August 13–23, and
September 3–13, 2012

or contact us to customize an itinerary

Maasai Mara holds unparalleled wildlife views. See lion, elephant, hippo, rhino, leopard, rare birds and much more across stunning savanna vistas. Lodging in a luxury tented camp.

Lake Nakuru National Park offers stunning bright pink flamingos against a brilliant blue lake. See black and white rhino, lion, buffalo, countless water birds and other animals. Lodging in a luxury tented camp.

Maji Moto Cultural Camp engages you in Maasai life. Walk the Loita hills and plains with Maasai warriors, experience warrior training and traditional blessings. Learn about medicinal and holy plants, village life, and education and health projects. Lodging in Maasai “manyatta” style cottages.

Nairobi visits to the David Sheldrick elephant orphanage and giraffe center, with options for additional wildlife centers, the National Museum or Karen Blixen House museum. Lodging in a garden setting hotel.

Safari njema (safe travels),