Unusual Wildebeest Migration: Guestless Maasai Mara

Wildebeest Migrating Across Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya: Photo Courtesy

Maasai Mara, Kenya: The popular seasonal wildebeest migration have started, but this time around in unusual circumstances posed by COVID-19. Once again, the impact of COVID-19 is depicted in the wild after foreign tourists are barred from viewing the annual wildebeest migration.

Usually, huge crowds of foreign tourists are attracted to the Maasai Mara National Reserve throughout August with the hope of seeing lions hunting during the annual wildebeest migration. However, the locals will have a complete view by themselves as COVID-19 dictates.

The absence of foreign tourists means good news to the local tourists because they do not have to scramble for the view space. However, it is a big blow to the conservationists who depend heavily on the fund to manage the ranges and prevent poaching.

The tourist sector of Kenya had already lost nearly 80 billion Kenya shillings by the end of June. This is about half of the annual revenue generation by the tourist sector.

Thousands of Kenyans have started visiting the Maasai Mara National Reserve to witness the wildebeest migration. Few foreigners were also seen vising the parks over the weekends – Kenya had shut international flights in March 2020; hence, the few foreigners are believed to have been unable to flee the country due to the international travel ban, which resumed on 1st this month.

While it could be the time for local tourists to flex, most visitors to the parks regret the lost opportunities of early experience regarding wild-human interaction. “Once I came here, my thought and my view about everything has changed. I am embarrassed that I have not come here the 29 years I have been alive,” said Mrs. Mumo, a local tourist.

President Uhuru Kenyatta has recently urged foreign tourists to consider revisiting the country and the parks to be specific, assuring them that suitable measures have been put in place to contain the spread of COVID-19.

The virus has claimed the lives of about 420 Kenyans from the over 26,000 confirmed infections, as documented by the ministry of health.

With the focus turning to the local tourists, the ministry of health has requested that tourists resort to observe social distancing and hygiene measures strictly.  

 “We are trying to revive the sector through the national tourism strategy. And that is why we ask Kenyans … to support tourism,” said Tourism and Wildlife Cabinet Secretary, Najib Balala.

 Further efforts to push domestic tourists have seen the use of celebrities such as Eliud Kipchoge, the world marathoner by the government, to attract more people into the Mara. 

While on the Mara, the world marathon holder Kipchoge said, “What has impressed me is the terrain, the environment, the good air, the presence of animals,”

One thing is for sure; there is at least one thing to catch the eye in the Mara.

What do you think?

Written by Barrack Ongwe

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