Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that the best dental care I could ever get would come from the wildest of places in Kenya. It all began with an invitation by friends to come visit in Naikara, their rural home in the expansive Mara ecosystem, over the Christmas holidays.
They also co-own the Oldarpoi Mara Camp located not too far from the Sekenani gate of the Maasai Mara. It is while staying at Oldarpoi that we learnt of this amazing ultramodern dental facility at Sekenani.
Set up in 2010 by Dr. Raymond and Gail Damazo to address the growing dental problem among the local Maasai community, the Maasai Dental Clinic is tucked away in the heart of the Maasai Mara.
The clinic’s idea is to provide high quality dental services to locals residing within a 30 KM radius of the clinic at absolutely no charge and bill everyone else who comes beyond that distance!
But even then, the rates are so mind blowingly low, it does not matter – at least it did not to us. For instance, root canal therapy which would normally go for between KES 15,000 and KES 25,000 in a private clinic in Nairobi costs only KES 1,500 at the Maasai Dental Clinic! Did I mention the X-ray imaging is digital and the supplies are top-of-the-range?
The trip of course, was not of a medical nature originally but, for strategic reasons our safari was quickly remodelled into a medical tourism expedition as we savoured the top-notch dental care we would get at a fraction of the cost.
The beautifully designed facility built on an ornately manicured 1.25 acre compound, complete with an electric perimeter fence and its own source of power and water, houses a resident doctor, 2 medical assistants and a manager. The doctors at the facility offer their services pro bono and in turn get to enjoy free game drives at the world-famous Maasai Mara National Reserve.
The dentists are rotated every month and picked from a highly competitive list of some of the best practitioners in the world. “The selection process is so competitive that I just got picked recently after trying to get a slot to serve here for the last one year,” said Dr. Janet Dela Cruz, the outgoing resident dentist from the Philippines.
Dr. Cruz, who is also the wife of the Ambassador of the Philippines to the USA, has just completed her 1-month stint at the facility and we may have been among her last few patients before her departure. She had to close her private practice to come here!
The Clinic is operated by the World Health Dental Organisation in conjunction with the Loma Linda University School of Dentistry in the USA. Most of the equipment and cabinetry have been donated by the Rotary Club of East Jefferson County in Washington with assistance from the Auburn Rotary Club, the Sequim Sunrise Rotary Club and the Port Townsend Rotary Club.
From Narok town, one can hire a taxi which is about KES 5,000.00 to and fro. The clinic is near the Siana Springs Tented Camp and operates from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM on weekdays only.
Daniel, our taxi guy, proved a reliable, hospitable and entertaining guide throughout the 25 KM journey. How he managed to navigate through the treacherous terrain of the Maasai Mara in a Toyota Alex during the rainy season, is still something I cannot figure out though. He literally taught us the meaning of faith in the midst of the unthinkable. He can be reached on 0721640489.
As we left the clinic, we thought the Mara had surprised us enough until we stumbled upon a scene you rarely see here. Right in front of us was a lone lesser flamingo roaming about.
Flamingos are not indigenous to the Savannah and seeing one in the Mara was quite an anomaly no one in our group could easily explain. What a holiday it turned out to be!