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Tourists flock Maasai Mara to witness wildebeest migration

30 July 2015, 16:52 Geoffrey Kimagut

Narok - Tourists have started streaming to the world famous Maasai Mara game reserve to witness the annual wildebeest migration.

Hoteliers and other tourism beneficiaries in and around the Mara have something to smile about as the number of visitors to the park have risen tremendously.

This follows the lifting of travel advisories by the UK, which had a huge negative impact on tourism leading to loss of jobs in the multi-billion sector.

A survey conducted by News24 revealed that almost all airstrips are now becoming busy as planes ferry visitors from Serengeti National Park in Tanzania to Maasai Mara.

Charles Mwangi, Ilkeliani camp manager said that many of the tourists are forced to pay more than they had planned to spend in order to watch the spectacular migration because of delays.

“They have no otherwise but wait for the historical migration since they don’t want to leave before experiencing the spectacular eighth wonder of the world,” said Mwangi.

Daniel ole Kiptunen, CEO of Seasons Hotels, said that nearly half of the tourists lodging at the hotel and those in transit to and fro the Maasai Mara Game Reserve were locals.

Read Also: KQ annual pretax loss widens to KES 29.71 bln

“Kenyans have really learnt the value of domestic tourism,” said Kiptunen, who is the owner of Mara Sun lodge.

He asked the government to improve access roads to the tourist attractions in the country to boost tourism.

Sammy Nkoitoi, chairman of Siana wildlife conservation said that tourists’ arrivals can only be boosted by positive factors like aggressive advertisement of the Park.

“Let's market our country as the preferred tourist destination,” he said.

One month ago, Deputy President William Ruto said the government would spend more than KES 3 billion in tarmacking Narok-Sekenani Road which leads to the Park.

He said the construction works would start soon, and the 85-kilometre road would make it easy for tourists to access the Park.

“We want to improve all roads leading to the Maasai Mara because tourism is an economic pillar leading to Vision 2030,” he said.

Narok County Executive Member in charge of Tourism, Nelson Keshei said security has been bolstered at the reserve following the deployment of more police officers and Kenya Wildlife Service rangers.

"We have intensified patrols in the Park as a way of ensuring the safety of our tourists. We want to assure all Mara visitors that the place is safe,” remarked Keshi.

He added that the county government would deploy an additional 120 County government rangers to strengthen security in the Park.

“We have also asked the national government to increase the tourist police because we do not want to leave anything to chance," he said.

Recently, Narok governor Samuel Tunai said his County government is planning to form a County tourist marketing board that will help to widen its marketing scope.

Tunai said that the board will develop and grow the market of the Maasai Mara game reserve by utilizing their skills that will market it within the country and abroad.

He noted that the move will give the County a competitive edge and optimize its marketing investments for higher value outcomes.

The County boss said his government will also be keen in reviving tourist attractions as a way of creating employment to the many jobless youths in the County.

“Maasai Mara is dubbed as one of the wonders in the world. We should take advantage of this by improving the infrastructure leading there as well as marketing it both locally and internationally," said Tunai.

More than 1.2 million tourists have been visiting Kenya annually. Out of the total number, 700 000 tourists have been visiting Maasai Mara.

The mass of over 2 million animals cover the savannah and grasslands as far as the eye can see. Between October and  November when the short rains begin in the south and east Serengeti, the herds start to leave the Maasai Mara throught the Mara River.

The annual migration of one million wildebeest (Gnu) from Serengeti National park to Maasai Mara has placed Mara on the world map as the seventh wonder of the world since 2006.

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