Maasai and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area
This area was originally inhabited by the Dorobo, hunters-gatherers who migrated down from the Lower Nile and were later subordinated to the Maasai.
More recently, 300 years ago or so, the Barbaig, one of the seven tribes of Datoga, came and settled here; they also moved down from the Lower Nile but, unlike the Dorobo, they practiced sheep farming.
Their lifestyle is still closely linked to age-old traditions that have remained intact and untouched by modern progress; they are skilful blacksmiths and they continue to barter their cattle with tips for their spears.
The Maasai came to this area 200 years ago and they have progressively chased the Barbaig who moved to the border of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, near the Lake Eyasi; in this way the Maasai remained the only ethnic group in this area.
When the Ngorongoro Conservation Area was founded in 1959, it was established that the land would be used as nature reserve and would have preserved the rights of the indigenous people and the development of tourism; this is the only place in Tanzania where men can inhabit a protected area.
The Maasai were then allowed to live in this area, build their own villages and lead their cattle to pasture and move freely all around.
The only restrictions concern the prohibition to build villages inside the Ngorongoro Crater, though transit in the Crater is admitted to allow the cattle to drink water and graze, and to cultivate the soil on a permanent basis, staple food crops are only allowed.
During the rainy season the Maasai move to the open plans, while in the dry season they move near wooded areas and on mountain slopes; as mentioned above, they can lead the cattle also in the Ngorongoro Crater, but there they are not allowed to cultivate any crops or build villages.
The name of the Ngorongoro Crater and the NCA is derived from the name that the Maasai have given to the area: El Nkoronkor meaning “gift of life”.
The Masai villages can be visited, especially the four Boma where visitors can learn more about the culture of these people.
Kiloki Senyati Cultural Boma
located along the main road heading to the Serengeti National Park, 7 km South-East of the Olduvai Gorge Information Centre.
Loonguku Cultural Boma
located along the main road heading to the Serengeti National Park, 10 km before the turn-off leading to the Olduvai Gorge.
Irkeepusi Cultural Boma
located along the main road leading to the Empakai Crater, 2 km North-East of the Lemala Gate.
Seneto Cultural Boma
located to the West of the Seneto Gate, in the Malanja Depression.