Updated: Tourists stranded as floods destroy 12 tented camps, lodges in Maasai Mara

Camp marooned by floods in Maasai Mara Game Reserve, Narok County. [Courtesy]

Floods have destroyed at least 12 lodges and tented camps in the Maasai Mara Game Reserve, Narok County.

Property worth billions of shillings, including tents, beds, utensils, documents and personal effects were swept away after Talek River broke its banks.

A tour driver, Felix Migoya, who is also the East Africa tour guide and drivers' association chairman, told The Standard on the phone that some of the affected camps include Mara Leisure, Mara Sweet Acacia, Fig Tree Camp, Oloshaiki, Ilkiliyani, intrepid, Base Camp, Pride Inn-Azure Lodge, River Side and Crocodile camp.

Migoya said some of the tourists who were on a two-day tour were stranded and might miss flights back to their countries as the route through the flooded Talek gate is impassable, and only choppers can evacuate them.

“Many of the visitors and workers were forced to climb trees last night after the camp was marooned in water after the river burst its banks, many facilities have been destroyed, others swept away, dining halls were waterlogged, and the water level kept rising,” he said.

The river burst its banks on Tuesday afternoon following heavy rains upstream, forcing the evacuation of workers and tourists as water started gushing into lodges, tents and camps.

Talek River broke its banks. [Courtesy]

Hoteliers say the damage was estimated to be in billions of shillings after many tents, and rooms were swept away.

Narok County Commissioner Kipkoech Lotiati, who was at the park on Wednesday to monitor the situation, said a number of tourists were to be evacuated from the camps and lodges as several investments were submerged.

Lotiatia, who led the county security team on a rescue and recovery operation, said they were using two emergency helicopters provided by Governor Patrick Ole Ntutu and the Kenya Wildlife Service to evacuate the tourists and workers trapped in the facilities.

The County Commissioner regretted that tourists were stranded as they couldn’t cross the river using the Talek and Simba bridges that were completely submerged.

The Talek gate is also marooned in water and the county government has been forced to evacuate rangers from their houses adjacent to the gate.

“We have also sent chiefs and their assistants to villages neighbouring the river to evacuate residents immediately to safer grounds since the river is surging towards villages and Talek town," said Lotiatia.

There is also fear that many wild animals might have been swept away by the swollen Talek River and the Mara River, which connect at the smelly crossing inside the Mara.

A number of tourists were evacuated from camps and lodges. [Courtesy]

“Both rivers have broken their banks before the meeting point, and it's worse downstream towards the Serengeti-Tanzania border, and we fear many wildlife must have been swept away, but we are still collecting data on the effect,“ said Maasai Mara chief park warden Stephen Minis.

Governor Ntutu said his administration has mobilized resources, responded promptly to the distress calls, and ensured the safety of the residents.

"We have deployed two helicopters to evacuate people from affected areas upon receiving the distress calls. It is essential for individuals and communities to relocate to safer areas where needed and ensure access to emergency supplies," Ntutu said in a statement following the floods. 

A spot-check by The Standard indicates that some hotels, lodges and camps either turned away guests, transferred them or evacuated those present as a precaution.

Hotel Managers in the Mara, known for its wildebeest migration, and tour drivers led by Daniel Karino Lenjirr said visitors could not go for game drives as heavy rains in the reserve render roads impassable.

 EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated to correct the fact that Mara Sopa Lodge was not among the establishments that were affected by floods in Maasai Mara Game Reserve. We wish to clarify that Mara Sopa is still open for business and accommodates visitors from all over the world. The error is regretted.