The trip to and from the Maasai Dental Clinic is an interesting and exciting part of the whole volunteer experience! The dental clinic is located in southwest Kenya close to the border of Tanzania, and 15 kilometers from the Maasai Mara Game Reserve.
When planning their trip, many dentists choose to spend an extra day or two in Nairobi before they are due to work at the clinic. Nairobi is a wonderful city with many cultural and natural attractions that most newcomers find fascinating. In addition, you should consider that there is a 11 hour time difference (Pacific Standard Time) between Kenya and the USA. A few days spent acclimating and sightseeing may be a pleasant segue into your trip.
The flights from Europe (i.e. British Airways from London) often arrive in the evening. Dr. Ray Damazo highly recommends the Southern Sun Mayfair Hotel just outside of Nairobi.
It is a lovely, serene, secure hotel. The stay there includes a breakfast buffet, Wi-Fi, and excellent quiet rooms. Dr. Damazo has been staying at this hotel for the past 20 years and has established a special guest rate for those associated with the Maasai Dental Clinic. A cab or driver should be arranged for in advance, for transportation to the hotel. The hotel is happy to make arrangements to pick up guests at the airport. It is a 12 mile trip and will cost approximately $20. Just email your arrival information and the hotel taxi will be there upon your arrival!
There are also drivers available for hire to tour our volunteers around the city. Harrison has been closely associated with the clinic and all of the dentists for over 10 years and makes an excellent tour guide. A day or two spent seeing Nairobi and the surrounding suburbs will be a memorable experience.
The trip to the Maasai Dental Clinic traditionally begins in Nairobi.
For approximately $150, a driver (Harrison) can be hired to take your group from the hotel to Narok. This is a 3 hour, 200 mile drive through the famous Rift Valley. It is very scenic and a good introduction to the Kenyan culture and bush country. William, our clinic manager, will meet you in Narok with our clinic safari vehicle.
The town is small, but there is a large grocery store and an ATM machine available there. Last chance! The final leg of the journey is only 87 kilometers, but the roads are rough. It will take about 3 hours to get to the clinic from Narok. It is an exciting trip in every way - the wild life starts to appear!!
Another option is to fly from Nairobi with a local airline and arrive at the Siana Springs Safari Lodge. The dirt airstrip is a 5 minute drive from the clinic.
The two airlines that fly into the clinic bush area are Air Kenya and Safari Link. The aerial view of the Rift Valley is well worth considering. The average price per person is about $200, but note that there is a luggage weight limit of 25 lbs. per person. If you are over the weight limit it can be quite expensive. One of the drawbacks to this form of transportation is that you will be unable to bring supplies (groceries, water, wine, and personal items) from Nairobi or Narok. Although meals are provided for the dentists and companions, it is often nice to have a few groceries and supplies to stock the kitchen during your stay. Many have actually preferred to cook some of their meals themselves.
We recommend doing the majority of shopping for staples in Nairobi.
and picking up refrigerated and frozen items in Narok. Driving is your only option under those circumstances. There is extremely limited grocery shopping available around the clinic or at the Mara Game Reserve.
Once you arrive at the clinic you will be well taken care of! The spacious 1200 sq. ft. doctor’s apartment above the clinic has a fully equipped kitchen.
There is a range, oven, refrigerator, slow cooker, and popcorn maker! There is also a water filtration system. The water does need to be processed for drinking and cooking.
The doctor’s apartment has a large living space with a sleeper sofa (sleeps 2), chairs, desk and computer, and a dining table that seats 8. There are games of all sorts available and are enjoyed by all.
The master bedroom has a king size 4 poster bed with an overhead fan, dresser, and closet space. The view of the sunrise from this bedroom is truly spectacular! The master bath is a large room just off the bedroom and has an excellent shower with plenty of hot water and double sink vanity - very convenient and comfortable.
The screened in porch that extends the full width of the upper level, is an oasis of peace and quiet from where the wild life and the local Maasai and their livestock can be viewed as they venture past. Very lovely!
The safari tent is also available for the more adventurous. There is a full en suite bathroom within the tent facility, but no cooking facilities. The attraction here is that one is actually sleeping outside and exposed to the nocturnal sounds of the bush. The animals can be quite noisy, but sleeping in the tent can be a very special experience!
Two other functional bedrooms are also available on the first floor of the clinic across from the manager’s apartment. Each is equipped with two twin beds and a bathroom with shower. These rooms are nice, but are used primarily to offer accommodations to people working and supporting the function and maintenance of the clinic. They can be made available as needed.
For those volunteers ready to make the journey to the Maasai Dental Clinic much more detailed information is available. We will provide our volunteers with all the help they need to get their trip thoroughly planned and organized. Phone numbers, email addresses, websites etc. are all available. There are many, many ways to have an exciting and rewarding experience in Kenya and at the clinic!
Please contact Pam Libby at:
Once you have established the time period you will be volunteering, we recommend that you review our information packet we will be sending you. It will include forms and handouts relating to:
- Kenya Dental License Application
- Visa application
- Vaccination recommendations
- Detailed hotel and transportation options
- Sightseeing suggestions in Nairobi, Karen and The Rift Valley
- Activities associated with the Mara Game Reserve
What to bring with you
- Suggested shopping lists for food and supplies in Nairobi & Narok
- Suggestions on type of clothing, dental supplies, camera equipment and general packing tips for Kenya
We also have a travel agent who will be more than happy to facilitate some of the arrangements for you. Feel free to contact her once you have established your dates!
Here is her contact info.
cell 509- 466-9152
12303 W. Lincoln Ln
Spokane, WA 99224
One of the outstanding perks of working at the Maasai Dental Clinic is the weekend Safari drives provided by our clinic manager, William! Every Saturday and Sunday William will drive the volunteer and family, and/or companions, the 15 kilometers to the Sekenani Gate of the Mara Game Reserve.
Our dental clinic has an official pass from the Kenyan government to allow our vehicle and all its occupants free access to the reserve.
The 1510 square kilometer Maasai Mara Game Reserve is Kenya’s most celebrated wildlife reserve. The name Mara is derived from the Maasai word meaning spotted, as the countryside is dominated by open grassland interspersed with rocky hills, acacia woodlands, and riparian forests. The Mara is famous for the legendary wildebeest migration ...
which streams across the Mara River from the Serengeti Plains in Tanzania. The migration is marked by wildebeest, as well as a high density of lion, cheetah, spotted hyena, Maasai giraffe, and a small number of rhino.
William is an extremely experienced Safari guide. He takes great pride and pleasure in showing our volunteers the majesty of the Mara Game Reserve. Speaking 4 African languages in addition to English, he is well equipped to communicate with the other safari guides as well as the park officials. He is well known throughout the area for his work at the clinic and his skills as a driver and a guide. William will do his very best to ensure that our volunteers have the richest safari experience possible. It is not uncommon for our volunteers to spot all the “Big 5” animals....
but there is so much more to been seen and experienced. William can make that happen!
The Mara Game Reserve closes at 6:00 p.m. and all vehicles have to leave and be accounted for by then. The evening drive back to the clinic can be eventful as many of the animals relocate for the night or mobilize for their nocturnal activities! The perfect ending to a safari day is often a beautiful sunset.
For more pictures of the Maasai Mara wildlife, please visit the Gallery.
What we see and treat in the clinic…
The clinic typically sees 12 -15 patients a day. Of those patients, about two thirds will be treated with extractions, and the remaining one third will receive preventative, restorative and cosmetic dentistry. To date, the eighty plus volunteer dentists have provided the full range of dentistry at the Maasai Dental Clinic – everything from impacted molars and root canal treatments to amalgams, cosmetic composite veneers, Ribbond bridges and limited orthodontics. All dentists are requested to treat the problem that brought the patient into the clinic, but they are also free to treat patients to the best of their ability and expertise as time and the patient allows. Most dentists do basic restorative dentistry and oral surgery. Everyone’s talents and contributions are gratefully accepted and highly valued!
The most common presenting complaint is pain.
- Dental abscesses
- Impacted third molars / pericornitis
- Fractured teeth – traumatic and/or decay
- Dental anomalies – lesions, tumors and malocclusion
- Traumatic injuries to the mouth and face
The second most common complaint / request is preventative and cosmetic dentistry. The Maasai people are an elegant, attractive and proud people. They are very aware of the positive influence a beautiful smile will have on their lives.
Crowded teeth and prominent maxillary canines are considered bad luck and reflect poorly not only on the individual but on their entire family. Marriage opportunities and employment can be limited for those with a poor dentition or missing teeth. Fluorosis is a significant esthetic problem and varies in the population from village to village depending on the water source. Cosmetic procedures and requests are left up to the discretion of the providing dentist and may include:
- Fractured, chipped or worn teeth
- Extractions for crowded teeth
- Sequential extraction in children for crowding: There is not much opportunity for traditional, full orthodontics, although some limited procedures may be provided.
- Composite veneering for fluorosis marred teeth
- Ribbond bridges or flippers to replace missing teeth.
At the moment there is no easy access to laboratory facilities for processed restorative and removable prostheses. We expect to improve that situation in the near future!
- Composite and amalgam fillings
- Prophy’s and SRP’s: there is a dedicated hygiene chair. Feel free to bring your hygienist – their work is truly appreciated!
- Composite splinting for missing and or mobile teeth
The clinic is equipped with state-of-the-art Adec dental chairs and delivery system, high and low speed compressor-driven handpieces, suction, air/water syringe, hand-held digital x-ray units, Cavitron, composite curing lights, apex locator, and supplies of every kind.
- If you have special instruments and /or materials that you feel more comfortable with – feel free to bring those items with you for your personal use.
- There is a dedicated hygiene chair, but it can also be used for restorative dentistry and emergency treatment.
- It is not uncommon for a dentist to bring staff members. There are two well trained dental assistants available at the clinic to assist and translate at all times. William, the clinic manager, is also able to translate and answer all your dental questions about protocol, available equipment, and appropriate treatments and support services. Hygienists are most welcome! Many of the patients now show up just to get a check up and get their teeth cleaned.
If you are seriously considering becoming a volunteer at the clinic, we will be happy to provide you with a number of dentists you can contact to answer questions and give you a more personal idea of what to expect from a trip to the Mara and our clinic. We want our volunteers to feel comfortable and confident with their decision to come and be a part of our Maasai Dental Clinic family.
A good resource that talks about the Maasai culture and their customs as they relate to dentistry, is the book authored by Dr. Raymond Damazo detailing his experiences with his mobile dental unit.
Safari Dentist, Diary of a Bush Dentist - published in 2007 by English Press Ltd -
is available online at
Amazon. It is well worth reading before arriving at the dental clinic.