When you set out to the great Maasai Mara on a maiden trip, your imagination is alive with scenes of vast grasslands, endless savannah stretching for kilometres as far as the eye can see. Wavy hills, the occasional sprout of an acacia, the slow march of elephants, the trot of wild dogs, and the rowdy gallop of wildebeests. You envisage lions on the prowl seeking the next zebra to devour. Overhear their roar. And you foresee the cheetah’s lightning-speed sprint. It all plays out in your mind as you travel to The Mara. And then you arrive at the Enjoolata Information Centre.
Set within Base Camp, Maasai Mara, which lies in the hems of the National Reserve, Enjoolata Information Centre is like gold in the midst of an ocean. Encountering the place comes with a feeling of awe and satisfaction, not only because it wasn’t part of your expectations but also because the serene setting is the perfect place to host a haven of information. Enjoolata, which, in Maasai, translates to knowing or finding a hidden thing, feels just like a discovery. The architecture itself is unique with open, spacious rooms that invite some soothing birdsong, the serene ambiance of the place, and convene at a quadrangle for a night-time bone fire and an outdoor cinema. Each of the eleven sections holds equal weight in the quest to empower and garner information. There’s an addictive library, its shelves rich in literature ranging from Charles Dickens’s David Copperfield to National Geographic picture books, and walls dotted with expressive art pieces that leave you smiling. Two exhibition centres showcase pictures and facts about the local wildlife. There is a space set aside for an upcoming community radio station that will no doubt impact the people living around the area.
Enjoolata Information Centre was founded in 2019 by the Basecamp Explorer Foundation, a non-governmental organization immersed in fighting wildlife extinction in conjunction with local communities. Although still in its infancy, the centre boasts a lively human presence, rife with the excitement of the opportunity to be here, to find this treasure trove of information and knowledge in the middle of The Mara. Such was the enthusiasm seen on the faces of six employees of the Maasai Mara Wildlife Conservancies Association (MMWCA) when they attended a three-day USAID-sponsored photography training by Versatile School of Photography at Enjoolata Information Centre’s Edit room. A few steps away at room five is a BMB workshop where local Maasai women have been provided with a space to do their beadwork beside a shop where they sell their craft. One cannot help but see the zeal of these women who are finally empowered.
At the centre of Enjoolata’s core values are conservation and the need to involve the local community in these efforts. The founder seeks to answer two pressing questions in the Maasai Mara. How is climate change affecting the preservation of flora and fauna? And how is it affecting the livelihood of the Maasai People? “It is a call to action,” says Mr. Francis Sopia, the Basecamp Explorer Foundation’s Chief Project Manager. “How can we as a community contribute to curbing climate change and reduce the effects in the conservation arena and also in our livelihoods?” He poses. The information about climate change provided by the centre goes a long way in creating the public awareness needed to fight climate change which has gravely affected the world. It is no wonder that three of Basecamp Explorer’s five major projects are on conservation. The first, reforestation, encourages the locals to participate in reviving and restoration of lost vegetation cover. Second, a water project provides accessibility of clean water to the Maasai community. The foundation also runs a waste management plan that involves collecting plastics from lodges and areas around and sending them hundreds of kilometres to the capital, Nairobi, to be recycled.
The centre is a pot stewing with Maasai values. “This is where you will find the culture of the Maasai. Talk about the artifacts. Talk about everything that concerns or pertains to the Maasai culture.” Says Emmanuel Kisemei, a communication officer at MMWCA. Enjoolata Information Centre is also the hub of research done in the Maasai Mara. In seeing the need to keep the Maasai cultural info and the data of certain species intact, Basecamp Explorer Foundation also offers material on how Maasai culture and conservation come together. Today, the foundation has provided an opportunity to safeguard both the culture and the breath-taking experience of the Maasai Mara. Enjoolata Information Centre has two rooms for professors who wish to come to the Mara to do their research. “In order not to lose the information, we’d like it to remain with us here at the centre. If the stakeholders, landowners, or community need the info, they can find it here at Enjoolata.” Concludes Mr. Francis Sopia.
WRITTEN AND EDITED BY: Tim Njugi, Writer, Blogger, and Photographer
STORY COURTESY: David Macharia, CEO and Founder, Versatile Photographers