Tourists troop to Maasai Mara as the annual wildebeest migration kicks off

Wildebeests after crossing Mara River during migration into the Maasai Mara National Reserve on Saturday. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Business is booming as tourists flock to Masai Mara National Reserve to witness the annual wildebeest migration that started late last month.

Each year, over two million animals migrate from the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania to the greener pastures of the Masai Mara, between July and October.

The animals have to cross the Mara River where crocodiles prey on them. This forms one of the highlights of the migration as the animals fight to cross the river in one piece.

The annual spectacle, which started late last month, delayed this year as pasture was plenty in Serengeti following recent heavy rains.

The management of Masai Mara National Reserve said they were expecting over 100,000 tourists to witness the migration this year.

The administrator, Christine Daabash, on Monday said the number of tourists had increased tremendously in the past few weeks.

Migration delayed

“The number of tourists has been increasing between April and this month. In April we had 9,000 tourists. This shot to 11,000 in May and 26,535 in June. We expect the number to go up to 100,000 by the end of this month,” said Ndaabash.

She said although the migration delayed, it was likely that the animals would stay longer in Kenya due to plenty of pasture.

“This year, over three million gnus, accompanied by hundreds of thousands of zebras, are in the process of crossing from Serengeti into Masai Mara,” said Ndaabash.

Cornell Tampers, a tourists from the United States who had suspended his booking twice after the migration delayed, said he has always been fascinated by the movement of the animals and could not miss this year’s.

“It is something that has made Masai Mara a unique destination. The spectacle is just amazing. I will come back next year,” he said.

Tourism Executive Joseph Koila said: “Roads leading to the reserve are busy. Airstrips too are busy. As the season peaks, hotels and lodges have recorded full bookings. For the past three months, we have received over 54,000 tourists.” 

Reserve’s chief warden Moses ole Kuyioni said the number of tourists has been increasing since the wildebeests started crossing over.

“We are receiving over 700 tourists coming in on a daily basis,” said Kuyioni.

Hoteliers, too, are making a killing with the raising numbers of tourists.

Duncan Mwangi, Sarova Mara Lodge manager, said they were forced to refer some clients to hotels outside the reserve.

“Most of the boarding facilities within the reserve cannot accommodate more tourists. Business is good,” said Mwangi.