I wish someone had told me about the incredible Maasai people

“I wish someone had told me” is a series of posts that feed into our inquisitive nature at CN&CO. Each week we hear from someone in our network about something interesting or surprising that’s recently happened or occurred to them – or lessons they learnt. These blogs are a way to pay it forward and form part of CN&CO’s belief that the world can be a better place – and we all have a responsibility to make it so. This week’s post is by Josie Dougall.

Having a husband in the insurance game certainly has its perks! And last week, a dream of mine came true. The kids and I were able to tag along with Si on a trip to Kenya to see some underwriters and visit one of his flagship clients, Angama Mara. The camp is situated in the rift valley, high up on a hill overlooking the Mara Triangle. Angama in Maasai means “suspended in mid-air”, and that is exactly how it feels. Husband and wife duo, Steve and Nicky Fitzgerald, who have made it their life’s work to bring exceptional safari experiences to the world, built Angama together. The site is famous for being the place where Karen Blixen’s film “Out of Africa” was shot many years ago.

Whilst being suspended in mid-air, overlooking the rolling plains of the Mara was everything I dreamt it would be and more. What really made the trip special to us and the kids were the local people of the Mara, the Maasai people. They have an unfathomable serenity and happiness about them that just infects your soul and makes you intrigued to know more about them.

The resident Maasai naturalist at the camp, Lishaan, engaged with my kids on such a real level. He took us on a nature walk around the area, picking plants and explaining the medicinal uses of each plant, he taught the kids to shoot a bow and arrow and made Harry is own bow and arrow that is now his most prized possession.

I sat with the Maasai ladies in the beading studio for hours where they taught me to bead intricate bracelets and the experience was so therapeutic. I literally didn’t want to leave for the game drive and could have sat there for days, listening to them chat amongst themselves as I threaded beads onto twine. I felt completely at peace with the world. Life is slow, and simple. There were no watches, cars, yoga classes to rush to. Time seemed to stand still.

Having three young kids at a 6-star luxury lodge would normally put me on edge, but they didn’t mind the games of hide and seek and tag around the dining room tables, they didn’t mind the crying when Harry snatched from Frankie or Grace. They smiled, they understood. Kids are kids. It’s not a performance.

We were treated to a traditional Maasai ceremony the one evening. The whole local tribe came and performed their jumping ceremony for us. The ululating and dancing had my children’s eyes on stalks. And although initially they hid behind us, quite afraid of this unknown experience, within minutes Harry was joining in, and Simon and I both immediately understood what an incredibly important experience this was for them. To see how another culture lives, how they move, how they dance, how they engage. That there is a whole world that exists out there, outside of our daily lives and routines in South Africa.

It left me feeling in awe of a culture so rich with unity and tradition and simplicity. It made me feel like my own culture is just so dull, complicated and, in a way, fragmented. To belong to something so powerful in its togetherness, they were like a group of people who intrinsically moved as one unit, each knowing their place and their role in the whole. An absolute absence of ego.

Covid 19, and the subsequent escalation in cost of living, has made travel difficult, out of reach and scary for many. I have severe travel anxiety after a trip to Mauritius during the pandemic, which made the usual simplicity of moving between countries so much more difficult. But this trip to an African neighbour made me want to explore the world again. Because besides the different sights, tastes and experiences, there is so much we can learn from each other. My mission is to put my fears aside, save where possible and take more trips. Even a four-day trip can feel like a complete reset.

Thank you to Nicky and Kate and Steve for the incredible experience, being suspended in mid-air with your amazing staff was just what the Dougall family needed.

Josie has a brilliant marketing brain, an infectious laugh and a heart of gold. Strong problem-solving skills, diplomacy and getting things done are among her many talents. She is also a brilliant mum to three gorgeous children.