BY GEORGE SAYIGIE
The annual wildebeest migration in Maasai Mara is always a global phenomenon that attracts tourists in droves from across the world. This year’s migration promises not to be an exception.
The animals have already embarked on the spectacular journey that will see them cross Mara River in their thousands. This sight to behold makes Mara the choice destination for thousands of visitors this time of the year.
And the exhilarating show has just started for nature lovers. The animals crossed the Sand River Gate crossing point from July, 20 — a spectacle witnessed by tourists from the UK, US, Australia, India and Russia.
Bearing in mind that tourism has remained in the doldrums for a while due to insecurity, which has led to travel advisories slapped on some parts of Kenya by major markets, this wonder of the world is particularly a boon to players in the hospitality sector who have been on a bumpy ride for years.
Lodges and camps in the Mara are receiving impressive bookings as international visitors flock in to witness the migration.
It is also worth noting that hotels reaped big for hosting delegates attending the Global Entrepreneurship Summit co-hosted by Kenya and the US three weeks ago. Some of the visitors, who attended the GES, have extended their stay in order to watch the breathtaking migration.
Hoteliers in the Mara said virtually all lodges and camps would be fully booked in the three weeks when about 1.8 million wildebeest leap across a crocodile-infested Mara River.
Mr Steve Nzuki, the manager of Mara Intrepid and Mara Explorer tented camps, said lifting of travel advisories by the UK and the visit by US President Barack Obama for the entrepreneurship summit has immensely boosted the ailing tourism business.
Fairmont Mara Safari Club general manager Munene Ngotho said the sector is already on its feet after they received visitors from the UK and US, who attended the entrepreneurship summit in Nairobi
Mr Ngotho said all lodges and exclusive tented camps are recording above 95 per cent bookings, adding that occupancy could hit 100 per cent between August mid-September.
“We only have one tent remaining out of the 52 capacity we have here,” said Mr Ngotho.
Narok County commissioner Arthur Osiya said security has been tightened at all lodges and camps in the reserve with 100 General Service Unit officers deployed to secure all entry points to Maasai Mara. The officers also conduct round-the-clock patrols at the centre.
And how does this migration unfold?
Sarova Mara camp tour driver-cum-guide, Mr Daniel ole Soit said the wildebeest migrate southwards to the Mara to graze and mate every year. He said the animals are “on an endless journey, chasing the rains in a race for their lives”.
“The action (migration) takes place across 150,000 square miles of woodlands, hills and open plains, a wilderness across the two reserves,” he said.
Mr Soit, who has been in the industry for 15 years, said the yearly cycle begins in the south of Serengeti, where half a million calves are born between January and March. But when the rains end in May, the animals are forced to seek refuge in the Maasai Mara.
With the beginning of the short rains in late October, the animals make their way back into the Serengeti. In December, having emerged from the northern woodlands of the Maasai Mara, the herds return to their calving grounds and the cycle is complete.
Mr Soit said the wildebeests are accompanied by zebras and gazelles, offering an opportunity for easy pickings by lions, cheetahs and other carnivores.
Aside from the Mara spectacle, there have been a series of good news for the tourism sector which has faced tough challenges for several years.
Hoteliers say the coming of US President was good news to the country and tourism sector, which is now ushering in the peak season.
Narok County leading online newspaper.
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