A new experience for the Maasai Mara

3 min
Ten men and women wearing the traditional dress of the Maasai tribe stand on a grassy verge next to a pop-up banner displaying the Canon logo. The man in the centre of the image jumps high into the air. © Peter Ndungu

A new Canon Experience Centre in the Maasai Mara isn’t just for safari lovers. The Maasai people are using it to advance their skills and careers.

To call the sprawling savannahs of the Maasai Mara ‘breath-taking’ would be an understatement. The Mara, as it’s sometimes known, is a world-famous destination for travellers who want to experience safari in an extraordinary setting. It offers incredible closeness to wildlife in a way that’s only made possible by the indigenous Maasai people.

Canon Miraisha x Ishara

One of the most sought-after locations in the Mara is Ishara, a luxury experience with conservation at its very heart. It follows a ‘leave no trace’ ethos that treats its surroundings with the utmost respect. Photography plays a big part in this and guests at Ishara, of course, are keen to document their time on safari.

So, it made complete sense for Ishara to partner with Canon to open an Experience Centre at the Maasai Mara National Reserve. It gives guests ‘touch and try’ access to a range of Canon cameras, lenses and binoculars, as well as access to a professional photography mentor, who can offer one-to-one tuition or accompany them on safari for live lessons.

A brown boardroom table has six Canon flags spaced across its length. It is in what looks to be a large white marquee-like construction. Around the table, three people test out Canon cameras, while a further two look on. © Usha Harish

The new Canon Experience Centre at Ishara will not only be a great attraction for guests, but it will host Maasai Guide training and mentorship for the local community. © Usha Harish

But it’s not just the tourists who benefit from the Centre. Many indigenous people of Maasai Mara are employed as tour guides and, as such, are on the front line of the conservation effort in The Mara. It’s their careful stewardship of the land that protects The Mara from poaching and other forms of environmental degradation. Raising awareness of the issues around this delicate ecosystem and the role of the Maasai people in it is essential.

Our vision is to create a space where each party, be it the guests, the local communities or even nature itself, can benefit in some way."

For this, education is key. Canon’s Miraisha Programme has been working with communities throughout Africa since 2014. It provides comprehensive skills training and supports photographers, videographers, filmmakers, and print business owners to enhance their skill sets. The new Canon Experience Centre at Ishara hosts training for Maasai guides and three-month mentorship programmes, teaching participants the fundamentals of photography as well as the technical training to use Canon kit and the impressive on-site editing and print studio.

Inspiring a world of change

The guides are then able to educate others, encouraging them to show life in the Maasai Mara through their unique perspective, supporting a deeper understanding of society and ecology in The Mara.

This is a particularly significant opportunity for women and girls of the community – who are now actively encouraged to come forward and train to be Maasai Tour Guides. 

One of them is Anna Tumpesia. “The Maasai girls are not really given a chance to pursue education,” she says. “I wanted something different for my life.”

Thanks to the programme, Anne has managed to do just that – challenging convention and creating new opportunities for herself and other women in her region. Having been working as a safari guide for seven years, she recently graduated from the Canon Miraisha x Ishara photography training programme – a step that she claims will bring her one step closer to her dreams of one day becoming a photojournalist.

“We are extremely proud of this partnership with Ishara Mara that is rooted in spreading awareness and education, as well as empowerment of the local communities,” says Somesh Adukia, Managing Director – Canon Central and North Africa. “It is the true embodiment of Canon’s core philosophy of Kyosei, which means living and working together for the common good.”

“I’m happy that I will also be able to train other girls and women in our community,” Anne says. “My story will get them to focus on what they want to do. It’s really possible for them to be who they want to be.”

Learn more about Canon’s Miraisha Programme and the Canon Experience Centre at Ishara Mara.