Voice of our Guides: Evalyn Mayetu
Evalyn is a guide at Naboisho Camp in the Greater Masai Mara. From a young age she had a thirst for knowledge, resulting in her running away from home at just nine years old because she wanted to attend school. Today, she is training to achieve Gold Level guiding certification with the Kenya Professional Safari Guides Association, and is an ambassador for girls’ education in Maasai communities.
Evalyn in her happy place, out in the Naboisho wilderness.
Evalyn grew up in a remote area of northern Kenya, where her parents led a traditional nomadic lifestyle moving every couple of months depending on the rains and the availability of food for both them and their livestock. From as young as she can remember, the wilderness was her home and wildlife a part of her everyday experience. Her parents – three mum’s and a dad – didn’t go to school and did not understand the benefits that education could bring. They encouraged her to continue their traditional nomadic lifestyle, but Evalyn was eager to learn and eventually chose to leave her family to pursue an education. An impossibly difficult decision for a nine-year-old to make. For the next few years, she relied on other people for assistance, living with an aunt until she passed away, and then being forced into an orphanage. Her thirst for knowledge made her a stand-out student, which was fortunately recognised, and earned her a full scholarship for a high school in Meru.
“I wanted to have a say in my future.”
As soon as Evalyn had completed her high schooling, she began to focus on becoming a guide. She studied at the Koiyaki Guiding School, now the Wildlife Tourism College of Maasai Mara, where she earned the Bronze Level guiding qualification. She secured a junior position with a Mara based safari camp and settled into the pleasure of performing and developing her passion for guiding on a daily basis.
The photographic vehicle at Naboisho features drop-down sides for low angle photographs.
“Guiding came naturally to me. I wanted to do something that only men do. In my community, women do not work, and no woman had ever worked as a guide. I wanted to do something different, and I had an instinct that I would be good at guiding as I grew up in the wilderness surrounded by animals. I’m still studying. Learning to guide came naturally to me because I am passionate about wildlife. I already had a lot of knowledge and I added to that. When you really want to learn, it comes easily.”
A couple of years later, Evalyn was transferring guests to Naboisho Camp where she met Helen, the camp manager at the time. Female safari guides were still a rarity in the industry in 2014, and Helen immediately recognised that there was something special in Evalyn. They exchanged contacts and it wasn’t long before an interview was arranged. Despite missing the interview due to writing her Silver Level guiding exam – which she passed to become Kenya’s first female Silver Level rated safari guide – she was offered a guiding position with Asilia and started at Naboisho Camp in 2015.
Evalyn is currently working towards achieving her Gold Level guiding qualification in Kenya.
For Evalyn, guiding is so much more than simply her profession. When asked what it is about guiding that she enjoyed, she replied, “It is something that I am passionate about. If you have passion for what you are doing, you will always enjoy what you are doing. It’s something that I really love.” Her relationship to the wilderness and its wildlife runs deep, something she feels resides inside her, connected, and important to be acknowledged. She refers to the Mara Naboisho Conservancy as a “small paradise” where every corner is full of wildlife, and full of life. In conversation, she demonstrates a different approach to the meaning behind “Naboisho”. While the name means “coming together” in Maa, representing the landowners’ decision to pool their land parcels into the creation of the conservancy, Evalyn adds that it is also the people and the wildlife coming together and making room for each other to coexist. The way it should be.
Growing up with wildlife, and with too many animals to choose from in the Mara Naboisho Conservancy, Evalyn struggles to pick a single animal as her favourite. As a child, warthog and giraffe were definitely her favourites, but now it is impossible to pick just one animal as all wildlife provides her with excitement for different reasons at different time.
A cub and a lioness enjoying a game of "catch" in the Mara Naboisho Conservancy.
“There is always something to see throughout the day and there will always be special moments. However, mornings are my favourite time as the wildlife seem to be energised and grateful for the new day.”
Despite how far she has come, Evalyn is still learning and aiming higher. She is currently in the process of completing her degree in Conservation Resources, and intends to take the Gold Level guiding exam later in 2023. Gold Level is the highest guiding standard attainable through the Kenya Professional Safari Guides Association, and the qualification will put Evalyn amongst a handful of elite safari guides. More than this, her dream is to one day open a girl’s school in her village. Having had to make so many sacrifices to obtain her education, she now wants to ensure that young girls have access to education and the empowerment that it brings.
“The best thing you can do is give someone an education.”
Evalyn has become a role model for young girls in the surrounding communities.
Today, Evalyn’s parents are incredibly proud of what she has accomplished. They didn’t initially understand her ambition as a child, but now they, and her whole village, are so proud of her. “When I go back, women stop me and ask for advice for their daughters, and girls come to talk to me to find out what I did and what their options are.” Evalyn’s story is a testimony to the human spirit, a lesson in the importance of education, and a demonstration of how a single person can be the inspiration for a future generation.
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