Enkare Narok, the spring of black aqua, as the Maasai semantics would have it.
Narok is essentially the largest metropolitan area on the fringes of the Maasai MaraNational Park, on a south-easterly direction from Nairobi. Although literally a Maasai town, if the town’s thriving urbane economic activity is anything to go by, Narok has polarities for all communities.
At coordinates 01’05” south, and 35’52” east, Narok straddles the climatic boundaries of the hot and wet equatorial regions towards Lake Victoria in the west, moderate weather of the savannah, and some influences of the chilly spell emanating from Kilimanjaro, on the other side of the regional border. Sitting at a thousand, eight hundred and twenty seven meters above sea level, the position of the town has enabled it to enjoy what accrues to a plain and a plateau.
The very cosmopolitan essence of the town of some 40000 residents, (this may have grown following the last census of 2009) Narok has always been a magnet for non-aboriginals. Perhaps it is due to the exotic appeal, or the riches that abound in the area, including the Maasai Mara. The latter brings in sh10 billion to the government, yearly.
Be it as it may, the economic dispensation of the town has been a prerogative of the Indian entrepreneur. With their dukawallahs and wholesale hardware establishments, alongside supermarkets, Indians have boosted the consumer niche of the town. Native Kenyan entrepreneurs from major business-oriented and agricultural communities have come to supplement the lush livestock industry that the sedentary Maasai locals has lorded it over for decades.
Narok is home to some famous educational centers, especially secondary schools in the country. The prominent ones in this urban center include:
Maasai Girls High School
Narok Boys High School
Ole Tipis Secondary School
Ole Sanakale Boarding School
St Mary’s Primary School
Higher Institutions of learning
Bisset Bible College
Narok University (from its previous status as a technical college for tutors
The Narok town authority has recently began to revamp its business dispensation by helping to modernize shopping outlets, changing the town-scape with impressive edifices, as well as, upgrading infrastructure, key among the last being the Narok-Maimahiu highway(a government project, nevertheless). In any case, the town still banks on its cultural appeal, that is quintessentially Maasai, to sell its image to tourists and financial institutions from Nairobi, 143km away.
What to see first: Wheat Farms
Before making a mistake of going to see animals down south-by-the-west, it is a recommendation to make a tryst with the lush wheat farms that supplement the commonplace livestock sightings. The wheat covers acres upon acres, thus lending panoramic views to the landscape that is already beautiful despite its shrubbery.
What to see next
Loita Naimina Enkiyo Forest: This is a hot pot of where land meets lore in local culture, which can be alluring to the collector of folk tales. Other than its traditional appeal, the forest is a culture shock, in the sense that it immaculately cuts across the open plains on the fringes of the town, including the Maasai Mara, thus creating a contrasting backdrop.
Finish with the two best, starting with: Suswa Caves
One of the magnificent landmarks in the Kenyan countryside, Suswa Caves is actually a series of extinct geological craters that rival those of Longonot, on a more northerly direction. They are visible partially on the Nairobi-Naivasha highway though one has to turn to the interior, bypassing Mai Mahiu and the satellite station into Narok to watch the obsidian formations, up-close-and-candid.
Bonus: Some visitors have often passed Suswa the overture as the most magnificent day journey from the capital of Kenya.
The Maasai Mara is Kenya’s premier tourism brand, a cradle of the poignant wildebeest crossing, which has estimates of 2.5 million animals making the crossing to the Serengeti across the majestic Mara River, each year. If this is not enough, it was time to get on with the cheetah population that often attracts crews with camera to hunt them down for showing the world the wonders of the Kenya plains. Other than this, the Serengeti is home to diverse fauna including the big cats, buffalo and elephant, all of which straddle between the two borderlines.
Bonus: If Maasai Mara‘s experience is not enough, then it is time to cross over to the Serengeti, and come face to face with Mt. Kilimanjaro.
Famous People: The late Julie Ward went alone into this park.
The nature of entertainment in Narok is that of other towns, in surrounding counties, including Kajiado, which showcases the appeal of the Maasai culture. There are cloth and bead markets that, in themselves, epitomize the entertainment scene, in a unique way.
Place Demographics: Nestling on the savannah 1/2km from the epicenter of Narok, on the Narok-Mara Road, Seasons Hotel is the one accommodation venue that places Narok on the booking spots of the world. If it is the scarlet cloth (in furnishings or bedding) of the quintessential Maasai culture, it is here. If, alternatively, it is architecture that ensembles that of the surrounding, it is here, too, courtesy of a combination of boma housing and modern blocks and lodges.
Amenties: there is a swimming pool, salon, television, and outstanding rooms for both adults and little ones. Courtesy of its tranquil location, Seasons Hotel has emerged as the leading tourist venue in the town, and has a booking platform on the web.
Bonus: At the center of a veldt, Seasons Hotel is thus within the fringes of the proper Maasai Mara, with the wildebeest crossing being only ninety minutes away.
What to Know: Keekolok Lodge is one of the oldest (est. 1962) hotels in Narok that is inside the Maasai Mara. It is on an 80-acre ground, on a place that is as legendary, due to its savannah and springs that are rarely evanescent, as it is a tourism spot.
Amenities: Accommodation that is world-class, excellent room service, safari tour to see the zebra and elephant and other large mammals.
Bonus: The Keekorok airstrip serves the hotel en-route from Wilson Airport in Nairobi. There are four-wheel vehicles to cater for surface transportation after touchdown.
Other major hotels with telephone booking include: Chambai Hotels, Kim’s Dishes Hotel Narok, Mada Holdings Limited.
The fact that Narok has a double-digit billion-shilling tourism industry in its behest has insured the urban center relative tranquility. Furthermore, the sedentary and possessive nature of the Maasai community ensures security is a matter-of-fact.
Well, wasn’t it time you took a rebound into the heart of tourism in Kenya?