Meet your hosts: the Maasai people

These are ancient lands with a long history of habitation.

The Serengeti area is home to various local people, the most famous of them being the Maasai. The Maasai mostly live in harmony, sometimes in conflict, with nature. You are bound to visit your hosts when visting the area on your Serengeti safari.

People of the Serengeti

The Serengeti-Mara ecosystem is home to several indigenous tribes. From within Kenya, along the border of the national park in Tanzania all the way south to Mugumu live the Kuria people. Further south, the Ikoma tribe replaces the Kuria, they live alongside the Western Corridor boundary and west of Lake Victoria. In a line that runs through Ndabaka at the tip of the Western Corridor, the Ikoma give way to the Sukuma people, a very large community living on lands southwards along the southwest boundary of Serengeti National Park. These peoples are agro-pastoralists with small holdings and livestock. The most famous of all local groups are the Maasai.


North of the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya lie the Loita Hills that are the historic lands of the Kenya Maasai people, now pursuing ranching and mechanized agriculture. Traditional pastoralist Maasai inhabit the eastern side of the ecosystem from the Narok district in Kenya south through the Loliondo area, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area to the southern edge of the Serengeti plains where they meet the Sukuma. Towards the southeast, the Maasai pastoralists extend into the Simanjiro plains across the Rift valley, up to Dodoma. Many Maasai people are abandoning their traditional pastoralist culture in favour of developing limited small scale agricultural settlements.

Much of the area now protected within Serengeti National Park was formerly populated by the Maasai, who grazed their cattle on the eastern plains, but had a more sporadic presence in the west because of the seasonal profusion of tsetse flies, which carry a parasite responsible for a disease that can be fatal to cows. The Maasai are relatively recent arrivals to the region, having migrated there from the north in the 17th century, when they forcefully displaced their Datoga predecessors. The name Serengeti derives from the Maa word 'serenget’, meaning 'Endless Plain, and it most properly refers to the short-grass plains of the southeast rather than the whole park.

Further reading