The Maasai Olympics: Warriors Compete, Conservation Wins

The Maasai people have rich cultural traditions, some of which they must carefully safeguard in the face of globalization, others which are better in song and memory than in practice. The pastoral Maasai have been always been amazing conservationists. The areas where they live are rich in wildlife and often had an excess of lions that young warriors hunted and killed as a traditional rite of passage into manhood. Today however, there are simply too few of these precious big cats to continue this practice.

The Maasai people still keep their culture and traditions alive today. ©Maasai Olympics
The Maasai people still keep their culture and traditions alive today. ©Maasai Olympics


In 2012, Maasai elders from the Amboseli/Chyulu/Tsavo region pioneered the Maasai Olympics—a special biennial event to redirect the lion-hunting-tradition toward serious wildlife and habitat conservation. It was a resounding success and now, men and women gather on the plains in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro for competitive events showcasing athletic endurance, skill, and strategy. It has become an important event on the Kenya social calendar, greatly appreciated by anyone lucky enough to be able to be there. Colorful decoration, dancing and general festivity make this a showcase for Maasai culture in transition.

The Maasai Olympics have taken place of the ancestral tradition of lion hunting. ©Maasai Olympics / Jeremy Goss
The Maasai Olympics have taken place of the ancestral tradition of lion hunting. ©Maasai Olympics / Jeremy Goss


Maasai warriors are trained in Olympic sports events, including track, spear-throwing, rungu-throwing (a symbolic wooden club), and traditional Maasai high jump (the most recognizable ritual, "the jumping dance," of this culture). Once the teams are ready to compete, six regional competitions are held, July through October, culminating in the Olympics Day final in December. Each of these teams represent a different manyatta (village) and compete in front of their friends and family, international media, celebrities, government officials, and a select group of travelers.

The competitors are trained in a variety of sporting events, including rungu-throwing. ©Maasai Olympics
The competitors are trained in a variety of sporting events, including rungu-throwing. ©Maasai Olympics


The girls are brought on board as well. As girls are often the motivators behind warriors wanting to hunt lion, they are also potential conservation advocates. Girls are included in the conservation education activities that occur year-round and there are two competitions for girls on Olympics Day.

Girls play an important role in the conservation efforts behind the Olympics, and are invited to compete as well. ©Maasai Olympics / Beverly Joubert
Girls play an important role in the conservation efforts behind the Olympics, and are invited to compete as well. ©Maasai Olympics / Beverly Joubert


Warriors can earn educational scholarships, a stud bull, and other honors and awards. Surveys show that the Olympics are working at least on the conservation level. As of 2016, up to 93% of Maasai warriors reported they were less interested in lion killing and more interested in conservation because of the Maasai Olympics.

The Olympics symbolize tradition in transition for the Maasai people. ©Maasai Olympics / Jeremy Goss
The Olympics symbolize tradition in transition for the Maasai people. ©Maasai Olympics / Jeremy Goss

Watch the Olympics Live

Extraordinary Journeys in partnership with Great Plains Conservation is proud to offer our clients an exclusive opportunity to experience and support this unique event firsthand. Spend 3 or 4 nights at the stunning ol Donyo Lodge between December 13 to 17, 2018 with a full day spent experiencing the Maasai Olympics on December 15.

From $2,930.00 Per Person

Includes:

  • Accommodation at Great Plains Ol Donyo Lodge
  • Scheduled Game Activities
  • Exclusive Maasai Olympics Activities on December 15th
  • Meals & Drinks (Excluding Champagne)
  • Laundry
  • Roundtrip Light Aircraft Transfers From Nairobi
  • Tax deductible $500.00 per person donation to the Maasai Olympics

Space is extremely limited. For more information call (212) 226-7331 or email info@ejafrica.com.

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