A Kajiado village puts Kenya on global tourism map

Olergesaille Village is among 44 in the world from 32 countries named top cultural and heritage sites by the World Tourism Organisation

In Summary
  • The site is in a lake basin that existed about 100,000 to 200’000 years ago.
  • It has excellently preserved biological and cultural evidence about the evolution of man.
CS for Tourism and Wildlife Najib Balala hands over the UNWTO Best Tourism Village certificate to the Olergasiale community

Olergesaille, a village in Magadi, Kajiado county has been named among the top cultural and heritage destinations in the World.

The village was awarded by the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) for hosting one of Kenya’s rich prehistoric sites which are of global interest as it helps to piece together human history and development.

Located in Olergesaille conservancy, the village is famous for the hand axes unearthed here, many of which date back almost one million years and are some of the oldest ever found. 

Most of the axes are egg-shaped with razor-sharp edges for cutting and hewing - perfectly formed tools to fit a human hand. Because early humans camped here, there is an abundance of tools that are categorized as belonging to the Acheulean period.

The location also offers a unique insight into our early ancestors Homo Erectus, and into the evolution of other early human species, with evidence of continuous hominid activity from 1.2 million to 490 thousand years ago. 

Olergesaille was among 44 villages from 32 countries that were recognised by UNWTO during the 2021 general meeting in Madrid, Spain.

The villages were awarded for having met the criteria of standout natural and cultural resources as well as for their innovative and transformative actions and commitment to the development of tourism in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

Speaking when he handed the certificate to the village yesterday, Cabinet Secretary Tourism and Wildlife Najib Balala said the award has affirmed Kenya’s position as a rich cultural and heritage destination.

''Kenya’s cultural diversity and rich heritage have been a key tourist attraction and has been the main avenue for the destination to connect with the world through experiences offered and learning,'' Balala said. 

He added that with the variety of ethnicities across the different regions in the country and many UNESCO world heritage sites, Kenya is positioned as a key cultural and heritage tourism destination in Africa.  

Some of the key cultural attractions in the destination are the Maa culture, Costal region cultures and heritage sites such as Lake Turkana Park, Lamu old town and Fort Jesus among others.

He said that his ministry was working towards packaging the experiences with more people now traveling for cultural experiences into the destination.

“Kenya has over 40 ethnic groupings and with this comes a cultural richness that is loved, and that people from across the world want to experience,'' Balala said. 

He added that it is the government's goal to continue showcasing to the world that the country has so much more for them to enjoy while in the destination.

''I congratulate Olergesaile village for putting Kenya on the global map, and I encourage even more of this going forward,” said CS Balala

KTB CEO  Betty Radier said sustainability is key for Kenya’s tourism industry and therefore the work that has been undertaken on the prehistoric site, which is under Unesco's tentative list of 2010, is of utmost significance.

''This also proves that Kenya is truly the cradle of mankind with the kind of pre-historic artifacts unearthed here and in Turkana,'' Radier said. 

Founder of the Maa village Olergesaille, Charles Leshore said they are humbled to receive the UNWTO best tourism village recognition which is a testament to the work that has been undertaken by the community.

''Our model is adopted to combine the community, conservation and tourism business. encourage other community projects in Kenya to leverage on global platforms to showcase the contribution they make in enriching visitor experience in Kenya,'' Leshore said.

Some of the key attractions and activities in the village are a Prehistoric Stone Tools Factory, the Maa Museum, Mt. Olergesaille, Mt. Oletepesi, the Donkey Phenomenon, breathtaking landscapes, and the Maasai Culture.

Others are mountain climbing and hiking, and bird watching.

The prominence and accumulation of human tools represent actual camping places of early men and evidence that the human species had a tropical origin.

The site is in a lake basin that existed about 100,000 to 200’000 years ago.

Researchers, Dr. and Mrs. Leakey, started investigations on the site in 1942 where they found important evidence that concerns the habits and activities of early prehistoric peoples of the Acheuleus or “Handaxe” culture.

Olorgesailie has excellently preserved biological and cultural evidence about the evolution of man.

According to the National Museums of Kenya, this was made possible by heavy falls of alkaline volcanic ash from the nearby Mt. Suswa and Mt. Longonot, which might have contributed much to the accumulated ash in the lake basin.

There is evidence of a humid climate during part of the middle Pleistocene that is given by temporary lakes and swamps that exist in the area today.