By Allan Olingo
Whenever you mention Narok in the tourism circles, Masai Mara comes to mind. The tourism sector contributes the largest part to Narok County’s economy since the region is frequented by tourists on their way to the world famous Maasai Mara National Reserve.
Connected through the Nairobi-Mai Mahiu- Narok highway, the Masai Mara National Reserve is Kenya’s single largest income earner. The Mara, which is famously known as the seventh wonder of the world for its wildebeest migration, is arguably the regions foremost tourist attraction site.
Narok is also known for its large number of curio vendors who offer their wares to the tourists who frequent the area.
The Masai Mara is regarded as the jewel of Kenya’s wildlife viewing areas, with the annual wildebeests migration that involves over 1.5 million animals arriving in July and departing in November, described as the seventh wonder of the world.
The Mara boasts of mammals, amphibians and reptiles and over 400 birds species. It is claimed that there is nowhere in Africa where wildlife is more abundant, and it is for this reason a visitor hardly misses to see the big five; that is the buffalo, elephant, leopard, lion and rhino. Other game includes the hippopotamus, cheetah, Grant’s gazelle, impala, topi, giraffe, the roan antelope and the nocturnal bat-eared fox.
There are three airstrips that serve the Mara, which includes the Keekorok, Olkiombo, and Musiara all of them being all weather roads. Narok has a range of accommodation to suit all budgets, tastes and interests. Within the Mara, there are very basic campsites where you can pitch a tent and sleep under canvas in the wild; well appointed safari lodges, luxury tented camps with large, fully furnished tents, small private camps.
The most renowned hotel within Narok town is the Seasons Hotel that offers one of its best accommodation facilities. Within the Mara, there is the Sopa Lodge, the Serena Mara, Ol Seki, Little Governors’ Camp, Kichwa Tembo, Mpata Club, Olonana, Mara Siria and Kilima Camp among others. The charges fall within an average of Sh4,000 for a night within the town but in the Mara ecosystem its ranges from Sh6,500 within the tented camps to the extremes of Sh60,000 in the luxurious eco lodges.
The Masai Mara is not just about the lions and safaris, as a tourist you can engage bird watching, walking safaris, horse riding, game drives, hot air balloon rides amongst other activities.
Cultural visits within the Masai Mara are one of the most important of activities that almost all the tourists engage in. The Maasai are a proud people with a fascinating culture. They have a colourful lifestyle and have survived the increasing pressure to conform to modern society. As a tourist, you will get a chance to experience the Maasai way of life and understand their lifestyle and culture.